Wearables for Performance Support and Learning

Wearables for Performance Support and Learning

Byron Havard (University of West Florida, Pensacola, USA) and Megan Podsiad (University of Florida, Gainesville, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJMDWTFE.2018070103
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Wearables include a variety of body-borne sensory, communication, and computational components that users wear on, under, over the body or within clothing. These mechanisms have potential benefits for: (a) human performance support; and (b) cognitive and psychomotor learning. This review of existing wearable research begins with a historical overview of wearables and then provides the reader with a current and future perspective of their use across a variety of educational environments.
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History Of Wearables

The first wearable computer is attributed to Thorp and Shannon in the 1960s with their roulette wheel predictor. The roulette wheel predictor was a cigarette-sized wearable computer that was intended to predict where the ball would land. It was not until Thorp published the work and findings in 1966 that the device earned the title of the first wearable computer (McCann & Bryson, 2009). The Bell Helicopter Company experimented with a head-mounted display (HMD) camera-based augmented-reality systems in 1967. Within the same year, Hubert Upton created a wearable computer with an eyeglass-mounted display to aid in lip reading (Popat & Sharma, 2013). By the late 1970s, C. C. Collins developed a wearable head-mounted camera for the blind, Hewlett Packard designed an algebraic calculator watch, and Eudaemonic Enterprises created a wearable shoe computer to predict roulette wheels (Popat & Sharma, 2013).

In the early 1980s, Mann experimented with a backpack-mounted computer with smart glasses and a one-handed keying input device (Mann, 1996). Mann’s photographically-mediated reality was an early attempt at augmented reality in a wearable device (Mann, 2013). By 1989, the smart glasses concept evolved into the commercially available Private Eye. Doug Platt introduced a hip-mounted computer incorporating the Private Eye and a palmtop keyboard in 1991 (Amft & Lukowitz, 2009; Rhodes, n.d.; Starner, 1994). Platt and Starner combined the functionality of the Private Eye and the Twiddler, a commercially available one-handed keyboard, into the first context-aware system in 1993. This design became the basis on which the Lizzy at the MIT Media Lab was established.

In 1991, students from Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering Design Research Center developed VuMan 1, a wearable computer to view blueprints (Bass et al., 1997). BBN Technologies produced the first wearable computer with GPS, the Pathfinder system, in the Fall of 1993 (Rhodes, n.d.). Steve Feiner, Blair MacIntyre, and Dorée Seligmann presented a prototype augmented reality system called KARMA (Knowledge-based Augmented Reality for Maintenance Assistance) (Feiner, Macintyre, & Seligmann, 1993). The system used an HMD to present and explain printer maintenance for the end-user. By the end of 1994, Mik Lamming and Mike Flynn developed “Forget-Me-Not,” a wearable device that records interactions with people, places, and devices (Lamming & Flynn, 1994); Edgar Matias and Mike Ruicci of the University of Toronto, built a wrist computer with a half-QWERTY keyboard (Matias, MacKenzie, & Buxton, 1994); and Mann went on to develop the Wearable Wireless Webcam, a camera he used to transmit live images to the Web (Mann, 1997). Since the initial robust innovation in wearables at the MIT Media Lab, iterations have continued. One current implementation of a wearable is a smart bracelet for detecting a struggle or assault on a person (Patel & Hasan, 2018). Patel and Hasan (2018) identified a need to design a wearable that would be able to detect physical assault and then immediately contact the police because of the delay a mobile phone or panic button pose to the victim. The wearable bracelet could also be used by the elderly to detect falls or unsafe movements (Patel & Hasan, 2018). While smartphones may currently offer many capabilities, they do not capture reality as it happens at the moment. Reducing the time between intention and action is a potential benefit of wearables.

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