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Sony begins patent application process for Smartwig

29 Nov 2013

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Sony has submitted a patent application in the U.S. for its Smartwig wearable computing device. The product is literally a wig with a sensor, processor and communications link to another processor underneath, with potential uses in navigation, medicine and consumer electronics.

The patent for the Smartwig was authored by Hiroaki Tobita in Paris and assigned to Sony. While it might seem that the SmartWig – electronics hidden in human or horsehair on top of the head – is such an obvious thing as to be unworthy of being patentable, the application makes great claims. For example, it is claimed that actuators in contact with the head under the wig could vibrate to provide warnings to the wearer, or to guide them to change direction in the specific case of the "NavigationWig." With the addition of a camera in the front of the wig to detect obstacles and traffic the vibrational prompts could be used to help blind people trying to cross the road, the patent filing claims.

Sony begins patent application process for Smartwig

Similarly, Tobita has thought about the case where a wearer might be unaware of what is behind him or her; and is about to receive a bang to the head. The deployment of ultrasound tranducers and sensors in the smartwig would allow rearwards awareness. A warning signal could then be sent to the smartwig wearer if they are reversing into a wall or about to be hit on the head, allowing them to take avoiding action.

The author is on a roll now and includes the idea that a laser diode could be included in the smartwig so that a presenter could point things out on slides during presentations simply by orienting his or her head. The use of strain gauges within the wig would allow the laser to be activated by raising the eyebrows or some other facial gesture.

A more thoughtful application is to load the smartwig with sensors for blood pressure, pulse and temperature and to use it for health and medical applications.

The one thing that the author has not explicitly included in the patent application – and a mistake in my opinion – is the idea of loading the smartwig with EEG sensors, which can be used as part of biofeedback systems for mental control of electronics. This has been done extensively over the last decade and may soon enter the mainstream.

In most other cases I would ask "why a wig?" Why not get a hat loaded with the same electronics?

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