17 must-watch TED Talks on wearable tech and the connected self

The best TED videos from designers, developers, scientists and CEOs
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

There are plenty of TED Talks about wearable tech, the future of health and fitness and all realities, virtual, augmented or mixed. Some are from a few years ago but the ideas they cover are so forward-thinking that they are still seriously relevant in 2017.

We've saved you the trouble of browsing the site with our edit of fourteen must-watch talks for wearable tech fans. Click on the videos below to hear and see the future of tech from VR to exoskeletons to human augmentation - there's enough to fill your commute home or even keep you occupied when you're supposed to be working...

Think we've missed an iconic talk? Let us know in the comments section below.

Veena Misra on wearables powering - and powered by - our own wellness, June 2016 (16 mins)

Still not convinced that wearables are the future of healthcare? Let Veena Misra sway you. She talks not only about how these devices will monitor our health and our environments, but even how we'll be able to power them with our own bodies. In fact, that's already begun.

David Camarillo on 2.0 helmets to prevent concussions, April 2016 (16 mins)

Here, a bioengineering professor from Stanford talks through the problem of designing sports helmets which prevent concussions. He looks at the impact on the brain, how ideas like 'bubble soccer' with giant helmets can be made useful and talks about Stanford's collaboration with Swedish startup Hovding on a system with sensors on a neck collar that can trigger an airbag for cyclists. Plus the standards and regulations keeping it from going on sale in the US.

Eric Ju Yoon Kim on making the world's first braille smartwatch, April 2016 (8 mins)

"Every time technology moves forward we see more real-time information, but for the blind, that's a widening discrimination gap." The talk might be about one product - Dot's braille smartwatch - but Kim talks about the wider importance of accessibility when it comes to technology. It's a short but worthwhile watch.

Nonny de la Pena on the future of news, May 2015 (9 mins)

Another titan of VR, Nonny de la Peña laid out her vision for future journalism at a TEDWomen event a couple of years ago. CEO of Emblematic Group, de la Peña has taken VR pieces to Sundance since this talk but here she outlines how the "basic tenets" of journalism can remain as the form our news takes shifts into virtual reality; "What is different is the sense of being on scene."

Gonzalo Tudela on where all of this is going, November 2014 (14 mins)

The first wearable device was given as a New Year's gift to Queen Elizabeth in 1571. FACT. Even though this talk is from 2014, there's still plenty of relevant and fascinating factoids to chew over. Tudela also looks at the adoption cycle and where wearable technology is headed.

Todd Coleman on health tech tattoos, October 2016 (9 mins)

Tech enabled, temporary tattoos hold a special place in wearable tech culture. Everyone wants to get there and every few months we see new ideas from university lab. In this talk, bioengineering professor Todd Coleman discusses how a flexible, health monitoring patch could help women with high risk pregnancy, and many others, to keep tabs on their body without being confined to hospital wards.

Chris Milk on virtual reality as an art form, February 2016 (17 mins)

Chris Milk is a pioneer for VR and has taken the TED stage a few times to talk up the huge potential of the immersive platform. In his latest talk, Milk discusses how virtual reality is truly changing the way stories can now be told. If you were sceptical about VR, you should definitely give this a watch.

Lauren Constantini - wearables expanding our potential, September 2014 (11 mins)

What if you had a wearable that would compare your pheromones against other people in the room, so you could beeline straight to your perfect match? It's not sci-fi, but just one possibility coming our way, says Constantini, who ponders on the capacity of wearables to enhance human connection and understanding.

Meron Gribetz on a glimpse at the future with AR, February 2016 (10 mins)

If you're not familiar with the name, Gribetz is the man responsible for building the Meta AR headset that's going to give Microsoft's HoloLens a run for its money. Last February, the Meta CEO unveiled the company's second generation headset, but more importantly gave us all a glimpse into a world where holograms become part of everyday life.

David Eagleman on new senses, March 2015 (20 mins)

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist who is doing really interesting stuff with new interfaces such as a sensory, haptic vest. It can be used for different purposes - to help deaf people experience sound or to extend how pilots interact with quadcopters. If you're into how our brains perceive the world, Eagleman is your man.

Sergey Brin on Google Glass, May 2013 (7 mins)

An oldie but a goodie, here is Google's co-founder Sergey Brin making the case for Glass on the TED stage five years ago. It's worth remembering that Google Glass isn' dead, but it's often held up as an example that should be learned from. There were certainly some good ideas in Google's proof of concept (we still think it was more of a proof of concept than a product Google expected to sell in vast quantities). Brin talks about wanting to free our hands, eyes and ears from the tyranny of smartphone screens with smartglasses.

Fei-Fei Li on image recognition, March 2015 (17 mins)

If lifelogging wearable cameras, action cams and smartglasses want to become truly useful, we need our computers to be able to understand and edit our footage. Fei-Fei Li is the director of Stanford's Artificial Intelligence Lab and Vision Lab so she's been involved in teaching machines to understand images with a 15 million strong database.

Chris Kluwe on AR and sports, March 2014 (9 mins)

Chris Kluwe is a former NFL player turned author who thinks augmented reality is the world-changing tech to beat. Various companies are looking to help sports fans spectate from all angles - Kluwe argued in 2014 that AR can also be used by teams to win games by putting the tech in football helmets. We're still waiting.

Eythor Bender on exoskeletons, March 2011 (6 mins)

An intro to the potential of exoskeletons - for uses as different as military and medical - from the CEO of Berkeley Bionics. Bender demos two robotic devices onstage that he hopes will one day replace the wheelchair by helping patients to stand and walk. Berkeley rebranded and now makes exoskeletons under the name of Ekso Bionics which can be seen in clinics and construction sites around the world.

Emily Balcetis on exercise, November 2014 (14 mins)

One for fitness tracking types who are interested in increasing motivation to beat PBs or simply exercise more, Balcetis' TED talk is based on her work as a social psychologist. She focuses on how our vision can change our perceptions of how hard we are working - for example keeping our eyes on the prize, or the finish line of a half-marathon, can make us run 23% faster without feeling that we are working harder.

Nick Bostrom on AI, March 2015 (16 mins)

Food for thought around the artificial intelligence revolution from philosopher Nick Bostrom. He asks big questions around machine learning, emotional intelligence and using VR as security. AI has the potential to make wearables and smart homes much more powerful but we also need to make sure AI's values match that of humans. Scary stuff.

Kate Hartman on wearables, March 2011 (9 mins)

Artist Kate Hartman presents a quirky bunch of wearables which explore communication including the Talk To Yourself Hat, the Gut Listener, the Inflatable Heart and the Glacier Embracing Suit. Hartman says this era of communication is "tremendous and exciting and sexy" and explores some zany social protocols we might not have thought about yet.

How we test


Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

Related stories