What is a Wearable?

MIThril, a borglab production. Richard W. DeVaul, Jonathan Gips, Michael Sung, Sandy Pentland

A definition of context-aware wearable computing.

Wearable computing is smart clothing, but this definition is too vague. The conceptual definition of a wearable computer is that it is an always present, always working collection of personal applications. These applications are mobile, persistent, aware of the user's goals and context, and function even when the user is directing her attention elsewhere.


Where you go, it goes.

Like your shoes or your shirt, always with you and always doing its job.


Always on and always working.

Your wearable is a constantly functioning resource, and should function across a wide range of physical and social contexts.

Secondary or Tertiary task

Hands free, Eyes free, Brain free.

Your wearable minimizes the demands on your time and attention while facilitating your real-world tasks and interactions. You wearable should help you, not distract you.


Agent and Interrupt

Wearable applications are agents and can act semi-autonomously (e.g. shopping application that automatically does price comparisons). Wearable applications are capable of taking action to get the user's attention.

Context Aware

not deaf and blind

Conventional portables are deaf and blind; a wearable knows something about the context of the user and can change its behavior or take action on the user's behalf based on context.

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Introduction to Wearable Computing
Richard W. DeVaul
The second annual "I Wanna Be a Cyborg" event, a borglab production.