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Glasses: The Original Form of Wearable Technology

The latest trends in tech are leaning toward wearable gadgets that are built to enhance and augment your life. From the announcement of the Google Glass in 2012, to the upcoming hype surrounding the Apple Watch, slim, full-featured devices you can wear like a pair of eyeglasses or strap onto your wrist have become the must-have pieces of tech jewelry. The Google Glass is a tiny computer integrated into the frame of a pair of glasses. It uses a tiny screen to give you directions, allow you to take photos or video, or search online.

Other wearable tech like the Pebble Smartwatch and Apple’s upcoming Watch go around your wrist like a traditional watch and feature tons of interesting capabilities like checking email and texts, playing games, tracking fitness, and integrating with popular apps. Fitness trackers are also a big segment of the wearable tech industry. NikeGarminFitbit and a few others make light, durable, and feature-filled bands that give you a plethora of fitness metrics like heartbeat, steps taken, and calories burned. Clearly, the idea of strapping powerful tech to our wrists or slipping on a pair of “super glasses” is becoming more and more popular.

But, if you think about it, glasses were the first real piece of wearable tech. Watches came along later, in the 1400s, when advancements in spring technology allowed wall clocks to be shrunken down enough to put in a pocket or, eventually, strapped on your wrist for convenience and accessibility. Modern eyeglasses came about after 11th-century scholars noticedthat a convex piece of glass or crystal would magnify letters on a page. Those early observations led to affixing pieces of polished and shaped glass, or lenses, into two small frames—often with a rudimentary handle and rivet connecting them at the bridge—to allow someone with vision problems the ability to enhance their sight. The temple-less design persisted until around 1700 when an Englishman stuck upon the idea to add armatures to press against the temples to provide a better, more secure fit. Ultimately that initial design morphed into the modern eyeglasses style we think of today.

Glasses evolved from fragile, easily scratched, ingenious devices that were a symbol of intelligence and wisdom that only the elite could afford, to the ubiquitous and durable vision enhancers that those of us with poor eyesight now take for granted. Modern glasses are also achievements of technology, just like the newest advancements in wearable tech. The lenses are now able to correct for a multitude of vision problems—bifocals, trifocals, and progressive lenses are able to combine the ability to see near and far in one pair of glasses.

Current lenses are also extremely scratch resistant and can incorporate many different types of coatings and treatments that give the glasses enhanced features like instant darkening in bright sun and UV protection. Frames are now similarly high-tech with lightweight and durable plastic versions, along with metal frames that are corrosion resistant, flexible, and super comfortable.

The next time you are drooling over the newest in wearable tech, whether it’s the slick and stylish Apple Watch or the sleek and powerful Google Glass, take a moment to think about the humble eyeglasses. They were our first foray into wearable tech, and they still improve and enhance the lives of millions of people around the globe. From the first observations that curved glass could magnify objects, to the personalized lenses we have today, it’s obvious that glasses are a part of modern life, regardless of how many new and trendy wearable gadgets tempt us.

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