Sony files patent for health-sensing SmartWig

By Aditi Pai

SmartWigThis year, Sony filed a patent for what might seem to be a silly idea for a wearable device with built-in vital sign monitoring -- a "SmartWig".

The SmartWig is meant to cover "at least a part of a head of a user" and the patent offers use cases for the wig that span from general health tracker to a presentation aid.

Because the technology is on the head, Sony plans for it to monitor health factors such as brain waves, temperature, pulse, blood pressure, sweat. The company also wants the SmartWig to track environmental information like image, sound, humidity, temperature, and density of CO2. Sony specifies that the wig could also help blind people with navigating and understanding when there is an obstacle behind them.

A camera in the wig, Sony says, could be a way for users to communicate with each other and a laser pointer within the wig could help users present information before audiences.

Unlike other head-worn trackers that MobiHealthNews has covered in the past, Sony emphasizes the fact that the SmartWig's sensors will be hidden, making the device more appealing to users. Another advantage of the SmartWig, Sony says, is that "users instinctively protect their heads more than other body parts", which the company believes is "advantageous" because it reduces the risk of the device being damaged during use. Sony also plans to potentially integrate the wig with other computing devices, such as "computer glasses," by which Sony is probably referring to products like Google Glass.

Many mobile health device makers have tried to appeal to the potential user's fashion sense, and naturally, Sony's SmartWig would too:

"The wig itself may have a fancy or funny appearance, but may also have an inconspicuous appearance so that other people in the surrounding of the user may not even take notice of the wearable computing device," the patent says. "In contrast to wearable computing devices known from the art, the wearable computing device proposed in this disclosure thus has the potential to become very popular and commonly used. The proposed device could even be used as a kind of combined technically intelligent item and fashion item at the same time."

Maybe it goes without saying, but big companies, like Sony, are always filing patents for what seem to be weird product ideas and most never come to market.