TOKYO -- Human beings are irrational. We often make choices that we later regret, like binge drinking. Some of these choices cause no harm, while others can lead to damage over the long term. So who wouldn't want a pair of glasses that might make us less likely to make bad choices? JIN, a Japanese company that operates the Jins eyewear chain, aims to create wearable tech that will do just that.
The world has been awash with stylish fitness trackers ever since products like the Nike+ FuelBand and Fitbit opened up the market. The glasses, the Jins Meme, fall into the same category. There is an accelerometer and gyroscope sensors on the frame's temple tip to track body movements.
Most fitness trackers are worn on the wrist -- not the best place to monitor body movement. The wrist actually limits how detailed data collection can be. Because the Jins Meme is first and foremost a pair of glasses, and worn on the head, it can get a more precise reading of overall body movement, the company says.
Unique technology also sets the Jins Meme apart from other fitness trackers. The glasses have three-point electrooculography sensors on the nose pad. Human eyeballs have electrical potential. By measuring blinks and eye movements, the glasses' sensors can determine the wearer's level of concentration, fatigue and stress.
As the old Japanese adage goes, the eye is the window of the mind.
The data collected by the sensors is sent to the user's smartphone via Bluetooth. Using an app, the wearer's mental age, body age and posture are assessed -- information users can act on to improve their lifestyles.
JIN controls around a third of Japan's eyewear market in volume, which is worth roughly 400 billion yen ($3.3 billion) annually. "In order to grow further, we needed to come up with ways of using glasses other than correcting eyesight," said Kazutaka Inoue, head of the Jins Meme division. "But we only realized the full potential of the product well into its production."
Inoue hopes the Jins Meme will have applications in preventive medicine. Rather than treating symptoms, preventive care aims to keep medical problems from developing in the first place.
One condition Jins Meme glasses might help prevent is dementia. "We know as a rule of thumb that, even at an old age, if we keep our brains active we can reduce the chances of developing dementia," Inoue said. "By using Jins Meme glasses to measure how much we use our brains, in a similar way to measuring our weight, we might be able to nudge people into using their brains more."
Also, by using the glasses to track the body and eye movements of people who have already developed dementia or Parkinson's disease, the company hopes institutions around the world will develop a better understanding of these conditions. Keio University, the University of Torino and other institutions already use JIN's wearable tech for research into other medical problems. JIN has a software development kit that allows third-party developers to come up with their own apps.
JIN has eyewear stores in China and will soon open its first shop in Taiwan, but for the moment the company has no plans to release the wearable tech in Asia outside Japan.
Inoue, though, doesn't rule out the possibility. "Japan is way ahead of other countries in terms of aging," he said. "I think it is our duty to come up with ways of tackling various problems that arise from the phenomenon, whether it be a particular device or a set of systems, and to share them with other countries."