SmartWig Wearable Technology: Sony Patents Odd Hairpiece That Could Give GPS Directions Or Take Your Temperature

By Josh Lieberman on November 27, 2013 5:55 PM EST

SmartWig
Sony has patented the SmartWig, wearable technology that could one day give you GPS directions or take your temperature. Above, some boring old regular wigs. (Photo: Reuters)

Sony has filed a patent for the "SmartWig," a hairpiece that could be used for everything from GPS navigation to monitoring blood pressure. By placing sensors under the "hair," the wig would give the user tactile feedback as they go about their day. Imagine walking down the street in an unfamiliar town in search of coffee, and when you start to get close to a cafe, your wig buzzes to alert you.    

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"The usage of a wig has several advantages that, compared to known wearable computing devices, include significantly increased user comfort and an improved handling of the wearable computing device," Sony said in the patent filing. The company said that SmartWig could be both a "technically intelligent item and fashion item at the same time."

In their patent, Sony mentioned a variety of ways in which the SmartWig could potentially be used (without getting too specific). If the SmartWig ever came to market, Sony said it could be used by "the gaming industry or any type of virtual reality appliance," to give one example. In one of the more interesting proposed uses, Sony said the SmartWig could be used to advance slides in a PowerPoint presentation "by simply pushing the sideburns" (because that wouldn't look insane or anything).

While the whole SmartWig concept does seem sort of odd, it's not surprising that Sony is attempting to get into the wearable technology market (meaning devices like Google Glass or, if you want to go old school, the calculator watch).

"Wearable gadgets are definitely going to be one of the big areas of growth over the next two years," said Andrew Milroy, an analyst with the British consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. "And Sony--which is trying to regain some of the sheen it has lost in recent years--clearly understands that and wants to play a major role in the sector."

Who knows what that sector will look like if and when the SmartWig debuts, but as it stands now, a lot of people aren't terribly interested in wearable technology; a new survey finds that 73 percent of Americans aren't interested in it. And when it comes to something as odd as the SmartWig, Sony could face an even tougher sell.  

"It's an interesting idea but I think it would be very difficult for Sony to commercialize," said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at the Japanese firm Ichiyoshi Asset Management. "Who will want to use this wig will become a problem."

If all this talk of SmartWigs makes you want to check out more odd wearable technology, may we suggest the WiFi-detecting hat, or a jacket that "hugs" you every time you receive a Facebook "like" or a head-mounted camera that reads your brainwaves and automatically records video when you glimpse something interesting? It's a weird wearable world out there.

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