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Apple, Android smartphones to refashion wearable computing?

Apple and Google both have hush-hush projects under way to iron the wrinkles out of truly useful tech that you could wear, The New York Times says.

The wearable iPod Nano.
The wearable iPod Nano.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Wearable technology has often been viewed as a joke, but Apple and Google are trying to change that, according to a new report.

A small team at Apple is currently working on wearable technology that would send data to an iPhone or iPod, The New York Times reported yesterday, citing sources. One idea, the sources say, is an iPod that features a curved-glass display and wraps around a wrist. People could use Apple virtual personal assistant Siri to communicate with the device.

Though the idea is still in its infancy, according to the Times, it's not so outlandish. Apple's latest-generation iPod Nanos come with clock faces, effectively encouraging people to wear the diminutive devices on their wrists.

However, the Times says Apple wants to take it a step further and make wearable technology talk to the user's iPhone and send data back and forth. The smartphone, the sources say, could become the central hub for mobile communication.

But Apple isn't alone. The Times says that in Google's X Labs, employees are also working on technology that would be placed on the body or clothing and could share information with an Android-based handsets.

The notion that Apple and Google might be getting into the wearable technology space could legitimize a market that, for quite some time, has been home to odd products that few people buy. Over the years, we've seen hoodies that can update a person's Facebook page, ski gloves with built-in Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, and even a dress featuring a laptop and projector--developed by Microsoft.

The issue, though, has been to make the leap from gimmick to usability. And although Apple and Google have both done a good job over the years providing products that customers want, wearable technology that people actually find value in each day is still a conundrum for many companies.

But some say that won't last for long. Speaking to the Times in an interview published yesterday, Michael Liebhold, a senior research for the Institute for the Future, said that in as little as 10 years, we'll be wearing glasses with built-in screens and kids will be playing a "virtual" game in real life, "chasing virtual creatures for points."

Neither Apple nor Google immediately responded to CNET's request for comment on the Times story.