What Is A Wearable Computer? Definition And How They’re Used

Are you tired of juggling multiple devices and wires, feeling tied down to your desk, or missing out on life’s precious moments? Then the wearable computers should be your way to go!

The wearable computer is your gateway to a dynamic and liberating experience, offering a perfect blend of style and substance. Gone are the days of bulky gadgets and cumbersome accessories. Today, wearable computers have emerged as the epitome of technological elegance, effortlessly elevating your lifestyle.

Picture yourself sporting a sleek smartwatch that not only tells time but acts as your personal assistant, delivering notifications, tracking your fitness, and even enabling quick payments on the go. Feels awesome, right?

Wearable computers
Fitness trackers, a popular category of wearable computers, were first introduced in the early 2000s, with the Fitbit being one of the pioneering brands (Image Credit)

What is a wearable computer?

In today’s rapidly advancing technological landscape, the concept of wearable computers has become increasingly prominent. A wearable computer is a revolutionary gadget that seamlessly integrates into our daily lives, offering a host of functionalities while being compact enough to wear comfortably on our bodies.

From smartwatches to wristbands and smart glasses, wearable computers are redefining the way we interact with technology.

The concept of wearable computers may seem like a product of the modern digital age, but its roots can be traced back several decades. The evolution of wearable computers has been a fascinating journey, marked by technological breakthroughs and visionary ideas.

Let’s take a brief trip through time to explore the key milestones in the history of wearable computers.

1960s – Early visionaries

The seeds of wearable computers were sown in the 1960s when visionaries like Ivan Sutherland and Douglas Engelbart conceptualized early versions of wearable devices.

Sutherland’s “Sword of Damocles” was an influential head-mounted display, while Engelbart’s “Augmentation Research Center” showcased the idea of using computers to augment human intelligence and improve collaboration.

Wearable computers
The concept of wearable computers dates back to the 1960s (Image Credit)

1970s – Portable computers

The 1970s saw the emergence of portable computers that laid the groundwork for wearable technology. Devices like the Xerox PARC ALTO, considered one of the first personal computers, showcased the potential for miniaturization and mobility.

Although not wearable in the modern sense, these early portable computers set the stage for future innovations.

1980s – Wearable cameras

In the 1980s, Steve Mann, often referred to as the “father of wearable computing,” began developing wearable cameras that allowed users to capture their perspective in real-time.

These early experiments in lifelogging and first-person perspectives laid the foundation for future wearable technologies focused on capturing and processing data in real-time.

1990s – Wearable assistants

The 1990s witnessed significant advancements in wearable technology, with devices like the MIT Media Lab’s “Personal Information Environments” (PIE) and the IBM “WristPad” showcasing wearable computing concepts.

Exploring the dynamic fusion of AI and the IoT

These devices functioned as personal assistants, providing calendar updates, reminders, and communication capabilities.

2000s – Fitness trackers and smartwatches

The early 2000s marked a turning point for wearable computers, with the introduction of fitness trackers and early smartwatches. Devices like the Fitbit, launched in 2007, revolutionized the fitness industry by offering simple yet effective health monitoring capabilities.

Meanwhile, companies like Pebble started experimenting with smartwatches, bridging the gap between fashion and technology.

Wearable computers
Apple’s entry into the wearable market with the Apple Watch in 2015 revolutionized the industry (Image Credit)

2010s – Mainstream adoption

The 2010s were a watershed moment for wearable computers as they started gaining mainstream acceptance. The launch of products like the Apple Watch in 2015 catapulted wearable technology into the spotlight, offering advanced features like heart rate monitoring, app integrations, and cellular connectivity.

How do wearable computers work?

Wearable computers may appear sleek and unassuming on the outside, but beneath their stylish exteriors lies a complex integration of hardware, software, and communication technologies.

These devices are designed to be compact, energy-efficient, and user-friendly, enabling seamless interaction with the user while offering a range of functionalities.

Hardware components

At the heart of every wearable computer is a collection of essential hardware components.

These typically include:

  • Processor (CPU): The central processing unit is the brain of the wearable computer. It executes instructions, performs calculations, and manages data processing tasks
  • Memory (RAM): Random Access Memory serves as temporary storage for data and program instructions that the CPU needs to access quickly
  • Storage (Flash Memory): Flash memory is used for long-term data storage, including operating system files, applications, and user data
  • Sensors: Wearable computers often incorporate various sensors, such as accelerometers, gyroscope, heart rate monitors, GPS, and ambient light sensors. These sensors collect data from the user’s surroundings and body to provide personalized services and track various health and fitness metrics
  • Display: Wearable computers typically feature a small, high-resolution display that can be easily viewed on the user’s wrist, glasses, or other wearable form factors
  • Battery: Due to their compact size, wearable computers rely on efficient and long-lasting batteries. Battery life is a crucial consideration to ensure uninterrupted usage throughout the day

Software and operating system

Wearable computers run on specialized operating systems (OS) optimized for their small form factors and specific functionalities. These OSs are designed to be resource-efficient and support seamless communication with other devices, such as smartphones or computers.

Popular wearable OSs include Wear OS (formerly Android Wear), watchOS for Apple Watch, and Tizen for Samsung smartwatches.

Wearable computers
The wearable technology market is continually expanding, with estimates suggesting that it will reach over 700 million units shipped annually by 2024 (Image Credit)

The OS enables the user to navigate through the device’s interface, access applications, and control various settings.

It also manages the communication between the hardware components and interprets the data collected by the sensors.

User interface and interaction

Wearable computers provide a user interface that is intuitive and easy to navigate despite the limited screen size.

Interaction with the device can occur through various methods:

  • Touchscreen: Many wearables, like smartwatches, utilize touchscreens for user input, similar to smartphones
  • Voice commands: Voice recognition technology enables users to interact with their wearable devices by giving spoken commands
  • Gestures: Some wearable computers allow users to perform gestures, such as swiping, tapping, or shaking, to trigger specific actions
  • Buttons or rotating crowns: Physical buttons or rotating crowns may be present on the device, providing additional control options

Data synchronization and communication

Wearable computers rely on data synchronization to ensure a seamless experience across multiple devices. For example, a smartwatch may synchronize health data, notifications, or application data with a paired smartphone or cloud storage.

Wearable devices communicate with other devices to send and receive data, enabling features like call notifications, text messaging, and app notifications.


Wearable computers often connect to other devices, such as smartphones or computers, to extend their capabilities. This connectivity can be achieved through:

  • Bluetooth: The most common method for establishing a wireless connection between the wearable and a smartphone or computer
  • Wi-Fi: Some wearables support Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing direct access to the internet without relying on a paired smartphone
Wearable computers
The future of wearable computers is likely to feature more advanced health monitoring, improved AI-driven personalization, and seamless integration with other smart devices and technologies (Image Credit)

Applications and ecosystem

Wearable computers support a wide range of applications designed to cater to various needs, such as fitness tracking, communication, navigation, and productivity.

App developers create applications specifically optimized for wearable devices, offering users a diverse ecosystem of tools to enhance their wearable experience.

We’re not really strangers to it

We find ourselves embracing a realm of technology that seamlessly intertwines with our lives, becoming an integral part of our daily experiences. Wearable computers, with their sleek designs and cutting-edge capabilities, are no longer a novelty but a familiar companion that effortlessly bridges the gap between the digital and physical world.

From the smartwatches adorning our wrists, keeping us connected and informed, to the augmented reality glasses that open doors to enchanting virtual dimensions, wearable computers have become an extension of ourselves, effortlessly enhancing our productivity, enriching our social interactions, and empowering us to live healthier, more fulfilled lives.


The smartwatch has emerged as a ubiquitous wearable device that sits comfortably on the wrist. Apart from displaying the time, smartwatches offer a plethora of features, including notifications for calls, messages, and emails.

They can monitor heart rate, track fitness activities, and even act as a digital wallet for contactless payments. With touchscreens and voice commands, smartwatches are incredibly user-friendly and have become a fashion statement in their own right.

Activity trackers

Activity trackers, also known as fitness bands, are dedicated wearable devices aimed at monitoring physical activity and health metrics. They can count steps, measure distance, and estimate calorie expenditure.

These trackers help users maintain an active lifestyle and encourage them to set and achieve fitness goals. By syncing data to smartphones or computers, users can keep track of their progress and make informed decisions to improve their overall well-being.

Head-up Display (HUD)

HUD is a groundbreaking wearable technology that brings vital information directly into a user’s field of view. Initially developed for aviation, HUDs are now being used in various sectors, including automotive and sports.

By projecting data, such as speed, navigation instructions, and alerts, onto a transparent screen or directly onto glasses, HUDs enhance situational awareness without obstructing the user’s vision.

Smart glasses

Smart glasses are wearable computers cleverly disguised as regular eyeglasses. They come equipped with displays, cameras, and speakers, allowing users to access information and interact with the digital world through augmented reality.

From displaying maps and restaurant reviews to providing real-time language translations, smart glasses have numerous practical applications that can enhance daily life.

Body sensors

Body sensors encompass a broad category of wearable devices that attach to the body to monitor specific physiological parameters. These devices can track heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and more.

They are commonly used in healthcare settings, helping doctors and patients monitor chronic conditions and make informed medical decisions. Moreover, athletes and fitness enthusiasts use body sensors to optimize their training and performance.


Wristbands, often used interchangeably with smartwatches, focus primarily on health and fitness tracking. These minimalist wearables offer an unobtrusive way to monitor various metrics, such as sleep patterns, heart rate, and daily activity levels.

Some wristbands are designed specifically for children or the elderly, promoting a healthier lifestyle across different age groups.

Wearable computers
The Internet of Things (IoT) has facilitated the integration of wearable computers into smart home ecosystems, allowing users to control various devices through their wearables (Image Credit)

What is next for wearable computers?

The future of wearable computers holds exciting and transformative possibilities. As technology continues to advance, we can expect wearable devices to evolve in various ways, offering even more seamless integration into our lives and unlocking new capabilities.

Enhanced health monitoring

Health and fitness tracking have been significant features of wearable computers, but we can anticipate even more sophisticated health monitoring capabilities. Wearable devices could incorporate advanced sensors for continuous monitoring of vital signs, blood glucose levels, hydration levels, and even early detection of potential health issues. These advancements may lead to wearable devices playing a more active role in preventive healthcare and remote patient monitoring.

Augmented reality experiences

Smart glasses and other augmented reality wearables are expected to become more immersive and capable of providing a seamless blend of digital and physical worlds. As augmented reality technology improves, wearable computers could enhance our experiences with real-time information overlays, interactive elements, and virtual object manipulation, revolutionizing fields such as education, training, entertainment, and productivity.

AI-driven personalization

Artificial intelligence will play a significant role in the future of wearable computers. AI algorithms can analyze user data, preferences, and behavior patterns to offer highly personalized experiences.

Wearables might anticipate our needs, make intelligent recommendations, and adapt their functionality based on context, making them even more indispensable and user-friendly.

Flexible and wearable displays

Advancements in flexible display technology will allow for more comfortable and versatile form factors. Wearable computers may adopt flexible or even rollable displays, enabling unique designs that can adapt to different parts of the body or seamlessly integrate into clothing and accessories. This flexibility could lead to wearable computers that are almost indistinguishable from regular attire.

Long-lasting batteries and energy harvesting

Battery life has been a crucial consideration for wearables. In the future, wearable computers are likely to feature more efficient power management systems, longer-lasting batteries, and even energy harvesting capabilities. This could allow wearables to operate for extended periods without frequent charging or even draw energy from the environment to power themselves.

Contextual awareness and predictive actions

Future wearable computers may become more contextually aware, using sensor data, user patterns, and environmental cues to anticipate user needs and proactively provide relevant information or perform tasks.

For example, wearables could automatically adjust settings based on the user’s location, time of day, or activity, offering a seamless and intuitive experience.

Expanded connectivity and integration

As wearables become more integrated into our lives and gather increasingly sensitive data, privacy and security measures will become paramount. Wearable manufacturers will focus on robust encryption, secure data transmission, and user-friendly privacy controls to protect user information effectively.

From their humble beginnings as visionary concepts to their present state as sleek, user-friendly companions, wearable computers have evolved into a technological marvel that enriches and empowers our lives.

With every tap on a touchscreen, every spoken command, and every glance at the display, wearable computers seamlessly integrate into our daily routines, becoming an extension of ourselves.

Featured image credit: rawpixel.com on Freepik.