Story highlights: Japan’s innovative wearable devices includes Archelis, a “standing” chair designed for surgeons. Tokyo’s first Wearable Expo debuted in 2015 and was the largest in the world. Japan’s wearable tech market is predicted to grow from 530,000 in 2013 to 13.1 million units in 2017.
CNN — Japan was once a world leader in tech innovation, with iconic products like the Discman, Tamagotchi, and Game Boy. However, in recent decades, Japan has produced fewer groundbreaking inventions compared to Silicon Valley and American tech giants like Google and Apple. But Professor Masahiko Tsukamoto of Kobe University’s Graduate School of Engineering believes this is about to change, thanks to a new generation of young entrepreneurs, increased international collaborations, and partnerships with university scientists. Instead of focusing on smartphones and gaming, Japan’s new tech innovations are centered around wearable chairs, smart glasses, and dog communication devices. The wearable tech market in Japan is expected to grow from 530,000 units sold in 2013 to 13.1 million units in 2017, according to Yano Research Institute. Tokyo’s first Wearable Expo took place in 2015 and featured 103 exhibitors, making it the largest wearable tech fair in the world at the time. The expo showcased a range of unique wearable devices, including electronic kimonos, cat communication devices, and electronic gloves for recording pianists’ finger movements. The next Wearable Expo, scheduled for January 18-20, 2017, is expecting over 200 exhibitors and 19,000 visitors. One notable innovation is Inupathy, a dog harness that allows pet owners to communicate with their dogs. The harness uses a heart monitor and noise-canceling technology to track the dog’s reactions to different stimuli. The harness changes color to inform the owner of the dog’s mood. Another standout device is Archelis, a wearable chair designed for surgeons. It allows surgeons to sit down and stand up simultaneously, providing rest for their legs during long operations. Archelis is made of 3D-printed panels that wrap around the legs and feet, providing support and minimizing pressure on joints. The innovation is in the design rather than any electrical components or batteries. Finally, BIRD is a small wearable thimble-like device that turns the fingertip into a control wand. With precise sensors and algorithms, BIRD can turn any surface into a smart screen and interact with other smart devices. Its developers anticipate that it will be popular in education and corporate sectors due to its collaborative presentation capabilities. Japan’s renewed focus on wearable tech and the anticipated growth in the market indicate a new era of innovation in the country.