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Google’s Wearables Go All the Way Down to Your Feet with New Smart Insoles



Google’s Wearables Go All the Way Down to Your Feet with New Smart Insoles

Over time, our world has become smarter with technology. Entire homes are becoming smart with smart locks, smart TVs, smart lights, smart security systems, and where it all started, the smartphone. A simple voice command, gesture, or tap can control the technology in your home so that you have more time getting the things you want done. Smart devices are all around us, but soon, they might just be a part of us. Wearable technology has gotten better and smarter at tracking your body movements from your heartbeat all the way down to your feet and the proof is in the Jacquard sensor by Google.

The Jacquard Sensor

In 2015, the Jacquard sensor was an experimental Google project announced at a developer’s conference. Then it was implemented into a Levi’s jean jacket in 2017 and could learn up to three touch gestures on the jacket’s sleeve that could be customized on a smartphone. This technology, called the Tag, was designed for bike or scooter commuters who wouldn’t be able to pull out their phone while in traffic. Then last year, Jacquard 2.0, smaller than its predecessor, became a reality and went into more Levi’s jackets of different styles and price points as well as an Yves Saint Laurent backpack.

A Smart Shoe Insole

In a collaboration with Adidas and EA, Google’s Tag can be inserted into the insole designed by Adidas and automatically identify a series of physical movements. The insole aptly named GMR (pronounced “gamer”) cost $40 and tracks typical movements associated with soccer playing. The Tag remotely tracks and collects the data then sends it to the FIFA Mobile app for users to win in-game rewards.

Purchasing GMR gives you two insoles, a Tag to put in your preferred shoe, and a dummy tag to put in the other for balance. The Tag knows not to track your walk to the pitch and does most of the computing while you’re in play. The Tag’s sensors measure acceleration and angular rotations and its microcontroller runs neural networks that are recognized by algorithms as patterns.

Google had to build a whole suite of machine-learning algorithms that are usually gigabytes in size, but the ATAP team was able to export the code into a few kilobytes to fit into the Tag. Users don’t need to have their smartphones on them while wearing the Tag because it runs remotely. The way that the Tag works is through ambient computing, to which Google has been slowly making its way towards.

The Future of Ambient Computing

Ambient computing involves the seamless blending of technology into parts of everyday life. This technology works with its surroundings for a purpose whether it’s a handwave over a smartphone to check the time or detect a change in your heartbeat. Google is working towards stitching such technology inconspicuously to make its use and purpose more natural.

The Google new shoe insole is only one of many results of ambient computing projects. And the company is looking for ways to expand the technology to do more and more of the background work for us.