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If the technology fits, wear it

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By Austin American-statesman
Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

The digital domain is creeping off our desktops and onto our bodies, from music players that match your tunes to your heart beat to mood sweaters that change color depending on your emotional state.

There are even fitness bracelets, anklets and necklaces to track your calorie burning.

At Chaotic Moon Studios, an Austin, Texas, mobile software firm, developers and engineers are working on a competitive product to Google's upcoming Google Glass — eyewear that can log onto the Internet. And they're designing other wearable projects for several other customers, from applications to full-blown products.

Chaotic Moon co-founder William “Whurley” Hurley said wearable technology will have as much of an impact as the smartphone revolution did a few years ago.

“I think we're about to enter a whole new phase in the next 12 months ... 16 months probably on the outside,” Hurley said. “There's going to be a whole new phase. It's just like when the iPhone came out and there was this mad gold rush. It's gonna be the same thing.”

Another Austin mobile developer, Mutual Mobile, is working on Google Glass applications for a variety of clients. They include doctors who might use the glasses to pull up patient information, and warehouse employees who could use them to look at real-time inventory or scan bar codes.

“People are starting to get into it,” said Sam Gaddis, the company's chief marketing officer.

Gaddis says connected devices of all types are the future — because sensors that can measure a variety of data are becoming so cheap.

Mutual Mobile has hosted “hackathons” to encourage its developers to see what they can invent.

Adding sensors to everyday objects “is just adding this new layer of data that didn't exist before,” Gaddis said.

Experts say that wearables are the next big thing in tech.

“Everyone agrees the race is just beginning, and I think we're going to see some very, very big leaps in just the next year,” tech entrepreneur Manish Chandra said at a wearable technology conference and fashion show in San Francisco that was buzzing with hundreds of developers, engineers and designers.

Wearable technologies have long been a sideshow to mainstream laptop and smartphones, but this year Google's glasses and rumors of Apple's iWatch are popularizing the field. Analysts forecast swift growth. Last year the market for wearable technology — encompassing everything from hearing aids to wristband pedometers — totaled almost $9 billion. That should climb to $30 billion by 2018, said analyst Shane Walker at IHS Global Insights.

Other areas like gaming will also be affected, thanks to products like the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that enables 3-D gaming.

At Austin's recent Captivate tech conference, Robin Arnott described devices like Google's glasses, which overlay the Internet on top of the real world, as “augmented reality.”

Wearables “extend your abilities as a human, just as your phone does,” he said.

“I really feel like this is an extra organ,” he said, grabbing his smartphone.

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