Japan Takes Wearable Tech To The Ears
March 8, 2014

Japan Takes Wearable Tech To The Ears

Wearable techology is somehow the thing of the moment without any example of it actually having properly taken off to the point of becoming a ‘what, you don’t have one yet?’ product, and without enough enthusiasm for upcoming products to suggest that they will.

There is a theory that Google Glass has the problem that people feel a little vulnerable when their eyes are partially obstructed. This would not be the case with a new invention to come out of Japan: wearable tech for the ears. The ‘Ear Switch’ contains GPS, gyro sensors, a compass, a microphone and a speaker.

Kazuhiro Taniguchi, a lecturer at Hiroshima City University, announced that he has developed the ear-mounted device that can give directions, give tourist information or update wearers on traffic situations. This can all be done using infrared sensors, which can detect movement and respond accordingly. Therefore, biting down could activate advice about where you might encounter a traffic jam, while simply turning your head towards a tourist attraction could let the device know that you would like information about it.

A video from Taniguchi’s staff page shows a girl wandering around Hiroshima, being helped by the Ear Switch. She talks to the device, asking it for help. At one point she can be heard saying ‘doko?’ which means ‘where?’ She wants to find an okonomiyaki restaurant (okonomiyaki are delicious savory pancakes with bacon and cabbage) but instead finds herself lost near a random fire escape and some smelly bins. The Ear Switch helps her to find her okonomiyaki.

The Ear Switch is very much in the early stages, but if it becomes widespread then another hope for it (almost as important as okonomiyaki) is healthcare assistance. We recently heard about the potential smart contact lenses have to help monitor blood sugar levels in order to assist people who have diabetes. The ear-based smart wear could have similar benefits, according to its developer, although at this stage no specifics were given.

Sounds like a pretty good idea to me; let’s hope it can make it into the world without any of the hostility that Google Glass is apparently getting. Glass Rage (I just made up that term, I think) is coming from people who think that Google Glass can be intrusive, deceitful and be used to engage in illegal activity more discreetly.

Examples of this are the theory that photos and video of people can be sneakily taken, and by the same token movies can be more sneakily recorded in the movie theater for pirating. There have also been cases of drivers being pulled over for wearing Google Glass on the assumption that they must not be concentrating on the road.

These are, I suppose, all viable claims of why Google Glass is wearable evil, but are also a little like saying upon hearing of the invention of the motor car that it is a stupid idea because it will make escaping from bank robberies and other crime scenes much more quick and efficient. Some people will always want to behave unethically, whatever tech they use to help them, but most will just find perfectly tolerable benefits.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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John is a freelance writer from the UK, currently living in Japan and thoroughly enjoying their food and whiskey. His first novel, Three Little Boys, and his travel book, Following Football, are currently available on Amazon.com.

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