Behind the Future of Super Human Athletes: Wearable Tech

Photo  (cc) by V egasjon  and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Photo (cc) by Vegasjon and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Today is a day for Americans to witness super human capabilities. The professional athletes of competing teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots, will be pushed to their physical limits in order to win the season's championship game. The Superbowl is projected to set a new viewership record, surpassing last year's 111.5 million viewers, according to International Business Times.  Many viewers cheering on the athletes, in fact possess their own extension of super human potential. You'll find it wrapped around their wrists, their ears, or tucked inside their clothes. It's wearable technology, or wearables

While I'm still trying to adopt the name into my vocabulary without conjuring a vision of my middle school Giga Pet, companies are actually innovating tech products that mold to our lives beyond feeding a virtual hamster. The second highest growing market for wearables is the fitness segment, behind healthcare and medicine. We see this with products like the Jawbone or Fitbit, which monitors your physical activity. But most people lead inactive lifestyles today, spending most of our waking and therefore working hours, behind a screen. For professional athletes, wearables are changing the game. 

Let's take football and head injuries. 

The NFL no longer denies the supporting research that long term brain damage is part of the game for many football players specifically one-third, though many argue that statisitcs are higher. But what does that do for the athletes and for the millions of fans? A feeling of slight guilt may ensue, but otherwise players stay on the field and fans keep cheering them on. 

Could wearables provide a solution? Retired Seattle Seahawks linebacker, Isaiah Kacyvenski, believes so. Kacyvenski sits on the athletics advisory board for MC10, a Cambridge-based wearable tech company, which recently partnered with Reebok to develop a head impact indicator known as the Checklight cap. Kacyvenski, a Harvard University and Harvard Business School graduate, is spending his retirement to further the field of wearables in sports. 

"When you can put electronics on and forget they’re even on, it lets you gather data over long periods of time, and you can really change behavior. I want the data to tell a story — whether it’s an old lady in a nursing home or an elite athlete in the field," he said to BetaBoston

While the Checklight cap is a small step it's in the right direction in a growing industry. It only monitors impact and indicates by way of yellow or red light that a player should be checked by a doctor or coach. But the consumer market for wearables is growing nearly 40% per year and projected to be worth $18 billion in just three years

With companies like MC10 innnovating the wearables market, the game may soon include wearable technology to be as important as a helmet.