From Google Glass to Bluetooth watches, the world of wearable technology is booming. So what happens when you add a bit of Kiwi ingenuity? Science reporter Jamie Morton looks at 10 examples.

1 Impactwear: Not just for the tech-hip

Wearable inventions don't have to be only for the young and tech-savvy - as one Kiwi firm's creation is showing.

Impactwear uses advanced fabric technology to provide impact protection to help prevent hip fractures.

At the moment of impact, the material reacts and its molecules bind together to form a protective shell to absorb and deflect the blow.


The garments are designed to be worn by anyone at risk of a fall-related hip fracture, either due to age or an underlying medical condition such as osteoporosis.

While protective garments have been around for years, they hadn't been widely used because the products were ugly and uncomfortable.

"When I started looking at the global healthcare space I could see a number of trends on the horizon: a growing ageing population; a focus in healthcare and insurance on prevention; and the consumerisation of healthcare, with people managing their own health to keep active and stay well for longer," chief executive Natasha Williams said.


"We launched in New Zealand and Australia last year and have been selling in the US since mid-2014 - and with an online site we can sell anywhere in the world."

Hip protectors are the company's first offering, but it has a number of ideas for future products.

2 StretchSense: The advent of smart fabric

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We have smartphones, but how many Kiwis also know we have our own homegrown smart fabric?

StretchSense has developed soft sensor technology which might be described as rubber bands with Bluetooth.


It has a huge range of applications, and can record real-time information about ourselves as we do things like jump or play video games.

The University of Auckland spin-out has released a new sensor product for the sports and fitness market, consisting of a low-energy Bluetooth circuit made of fabric so it can easily be sewn into sports garments.

As an athlete moves, the sensor stretches, providing realtime accurate information about his or her movements - something which has implications on the way wearable technology can change how coaches train athletes.

"There are currently systems on the market that give accurate measurements for hard objects but not for soft, complex and elastic objects like the human body," said Dr Ben O'Brien, who co-founded the company with Dr Todd Gisby and Associate Professor Iain Anderson.

"That's the gap that stretch sensors fulfil."

The company has grown rapidly since, selling sensors into the sport, healthcare and motion capture industries in 16 countries.

3 MeMINI: Small innovation with big potential

It's tiny and weighs next to nothing.
It's tiny and weighs next to nothing.

It's tiny and weighs next to nothing - yet a Kiwi-built wearable camera can capture looped footage in 1080-pixel definition and share it straight online.

The meMINI camera, created by Sam Lee of Wanaka and Aucklander Ben Bodley, is the world's first wearable camera with Recall technology, which allows the wearer to save and store looped video of up to five minutes long and share it online.

On your smart-phone, you can trim any unwanted footage, add a title, browse your videos and share them on Facebook or YouTube, or invite friends and family to check them out on a personal meMINI network.

The looped footage is also adjustable from five seconds to five minutes, and the camera has three-and-a-half hours' battery life on one charge, along with 8GB of memory, a built-in, high-quality speaker and a high-sensitivity microphone.

Since launching the concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas early last year, meMINI's developers delayed bringing it to retail to fine-tune the technology and were this year accepted into the renowned incubator programme, Wearable World Labs.

A successful Kickstarter campaign raised tens of thousands of dollars and attracted more than 500 financial backers.

The device, which can be worn on the wrist or attached to a lanyard, is now available for pre-order through its website for around $260.

4 IMeasureU: The tiny little running coach

A tiny running coach comes to your aid.
A tiny running coach comes to your aid.

What does a Kiwi invention have to do with West Point?

The prestigious United States Military Academy, a nursery for top American generals, is piloting a mobile coaching and monitoring tool that helps runners make the transition to fore-foot running, widely considered as the correct way.

The technology is one of the latest evolutions of IMeasureU, a company that had its birth at the University of Auckland's Bioengineering Institute.

It's all about a sensor, a small unobtrusive measurement unit, that can be developed in-house with accompanying firmware tailored to each specific sporting application.

The next step is to develop physiologically based computational models to interpret the data streamed to a "host device", such as a smartphone or watch.

If that sounds complicated, then just think about how the company's first consumer product, a running solution, works.

You strap the sensor to your ankle, the sensor talks to your smartphone, and you get real-time feedback about how you might alter your running style to reduce risk of injury.

"I had been working with inertial sensors for my entire career, and when smart phones were introduced there was a boom in integrated circuits and the underlying technology became much more reliable, cheaper, and miniaturised," company founder Mark Finch said.

The company's first large contract was with Athletics Australia, focusing on injury reduction through workload monitoring.

It has since set up a number of strategic alliances with groups around the world, including Harvard University's Spaulding National Running Clinic and the West Point pilot, being conducted by the US Military-Baylor group.

5 Thought-Wired: How to talk with your mind

Thought-Wired's brain-sensing headband.
Thought-Wired's brain-sensing headband.

Can you interact with people using only your thoughts?

This is the remarkable capability Kiwi company Thought-Wired want to bring to the market, with its NOUS system.

The technology is designed to assist people unable to move or talk, first by training a person how to control their thoughts to follow specific patterns, and then by translating those thought patterns into commands like clicking a button on a computer screen.

Sensors placed on the surface of the scalp gather electrical brain activity, allowing those with disabilities to control and operate electronic devices and other technologies.

"For individuals who use the solution to communicate and interact, it means the ability to use language, pursue education and other opportunities, and overall improved health, wellness and quality of life," said Thought-Wired founder and chief executive Dmitry Selitskiy.

For caregivers, it meant more meaningful relationships with those who they support, and for society, it meant better social equity and a potential reduction of care costs.

Following time at the Los Angeles-based Launchpad accelerator, the company is now actively testing two new approaches to reliably translate thoughts into commands without needing sophisticated equipment.

6 Performance Lab: Telling you how to train

Performance Lab's ARDA Coaching Engine can use devices like smartphones for a range of acions.
Performance Lab's ARDA Coaching Engine can use devices like smartphones for a range of acions.

Fitness wearable tech can do many things, from counting how many steps we take to measuring our heartbeats as we jog.

The beauty of Performance Lab's ARDA Coaching Engine, however, is it brings all of it together in an easy-to-use way.

The Kiwi company that developed ARDA, which can be applied to a range of mobile gadgets, had a head start in the race.

In the coming year, we'll see ARDA-enabled products in a range of forms, including wrist-based, smartphone, eyewear and fitness equipment.

Its founders have been working with athletes - from beginners to world champions - for more than 20 years.

"Those athletes were always hooked up to the most high-tech gadgets available," chief executive Waynne Dartnall said. "So while others think of wearables as new, we've got two decades of data."

That data powers the patented ARDA coaching algorithms that have now been licensed to some of the leading global brands in health and fitness.

7 Footfalls & Heartbeats: Smart fabric for bandages

This is a versatile fabric where the textile acts as a sensor.
This is a versatile fabric where the textile acts as a sensor.

While there are several examples of "smart fabric" floating about the world of wearable tech, the innovation behind one Kiwi product is unique.

New Zealand start-up Footfalls & Heartbeats has combined nano-scale interactions and textile structure to create a versatile fabric where the textile itself acts as a sensor.

This means the product can function without the need for wires or miniature electronics within the textile itself.

The company, founded by chemistry researcher Simon McMaster, has its first product in a compression bandage that targets a large and growing market for effective wound care.

Bandages were often wrapped too tightly or not tightly enough and the compression technology would allow a standard measure of bandaging pressure bands.

Bandaging venous ulcers has become one of the most common issues affecting the ageing population globally, and a European study showed just 27 per cent of these were bandaged correctly by the wound-care nurses surveyed.

Mr McMaster spent 10 years developing the product, knitting conductive silver fibres into fabric to create a textile capable of measuring compressive force in bandaging and material.

This year the company announced an ongoing licensing deal with Germany-based Medi GmbH & Co KG, one of the world's largest medical compression therapy firms.

8 Tacit Language: Shining a light

The device is able to sense movement through the use of an accelerometer and features 24 LED lights
The device is able to sense movement through the use of an accelerometer and features 24 LED lights

When it comes to how wearable tech might help the hearing impaired, Hannah Faesenkloet is happy to offer a bright idea - and quite literally so.

The Victoria University graduate developed a project called Tacit Language, which aims to help people with hearing impairments communicate in dark or low-light situations.

The device is able to sense movement through the use of an accelerometer and features 24 LED lights, with each finger having two small lights and the wrist having four.

The device is worn on only one hand because the lights are bright enough to reflect on to the other hand and the user's face - something very important because sign language relies on the use of both hands and facial expressions.

"I see the device being used in other potential situations, too, cyclists to clarify hand signals at night or for police to direct traffic when roads are closed or lights are out," Ms Faesenkloet said.

"I continue to think and tinker away with ideas in my spare time to make the device more useable, compact and attractive for users to wear."

While the project has been put on the backburner while she works on a start-up company, she said her passion was still to push it forward.

9 Researcher's brainchild: Restoring speech

Hamid Sharifzadeh is on on the cusp of being able to restore the power of voice.
Hamid Sharifzadeh is on on the cusp of being able to restore the power of voice.

Using data and technology to restore the power of voice is the kind of problem-solving Hamid Sharifzadeh enjoys.

And after six years' work he is on the cusp of completing a project that will do just that.

The computing lecturer and researcher at Auckland's Unitec has developed technology that will help those who have had their larynx removed speak with full voice again.

Dr Sharifzadeh has created an algorithm capable of reconstructing the natural sound of speech from whispers.

He and his team of researchers are close to finishing a device that can be used by laryngectomees - those who have endured a laryngectomy - giving them the ability to communicate with a natural voice after their operation.

When complete, users will be able to speak into a small microphone and their words will be transmitted through a speaker that can be worn on the shoulder or hip.

When spoken through, the tool will take whispers and transform them to full speech, and could replace the existing electro larynx which sounds monotonous and robotic.

"Your voice is a normal thing that everybody has, but even if you have to rest your voice for just a short time you become aware of how important it is," Dr Sharifzadeh said.

"With laryngectomees the larynx is removed, but they keep everything else - the lung, the mouth, the vocal tract, nose and lips.

"The only thing missing is the vocal folds, so they don't have the 'buzzer' that makes the sound of their voice. Our device will take their whispers and make them audible again."

10 Empathear - The scarf that gives empathy

A scarf designed by Sarah Mokhtar helps provide the general public with a more in-depth understanding of their own reaction to a common symptom of mental illness - hearing voices.
A scarf designed by Sarah Mokhtar helps provide the general public with a more in-depth understanding of their own reaction to a common symptom of mental illness - hearing voices.

Sarah Mokhtar says the aim of her wearable technology is to provide the general public with a more in-depth understanding of their own reaction to a common symptom of mental illness - hearing voices.

"The beauty of Empathear is that it interacts with the user and the environment to deliver a multi-dimensional insight into what it's like for people with mental illness who hear voices," she said.

"By using the app, you can experience a real taste of how your personality can be affected by this adversity," Ms Mokhtar said.

Empathear was essentially a simulation of auditory hallucinations, or "voices".

It provided loved ones of voice hearers an opportunity to experience their own reaction to hearing voices, so they could ultimately increase their empathy and understanding of what it's like to live with voices.

"The app works best in social situations to help people to understand how challenging even the smallest social interaction can become when contending with voices," she said.

"Through the Empathear wearable technology scarf you can choose what personality and gender your voices have.

"The microphones in the scarf gauge your surroundings, the louder your environment, the louder and more distressing the voices appear."

Via the internet, Empathear also provided the option to provide feedback on the experience.