Mar 7, 2014

Wearable Technology - Future or Fad?

Wearable technology has been part of our imaginations for decades. Now it’s 2014, and we’re way beyond the calculator watch. Smartwatches and smartglasses like Galaxy Gear or Google Glass are ready entering the consumer market, while smart jewellery, e-textiles, and wearable cameras show what other possibilities may lay ahead (or fall to the wayside).

Google Glass is not currently available to the wider public, but you can request a spot in their Explorer Program. At $1500, the price alone is a major obstacle to widespread use. The price will go down, but will that be enough to make Glass a popular device? And what about other types of wearable technology - will they ever be more than a gimmick?

Google Glass for the Masses?

One of the biggest potential advantages of wearable devices is that they allow technology, which is already a huge part of our lives, to be immediately accessible when we need it and out of the way when we don’t. For many of us, simply taking your phone out of your pocket may seem like the easiest way to access your device – why complicate it? Wearable technology removes barriers to accessing information and tools and makes tech that much faster. It aims to provide a quick, seamless solution to problems without distracting you from experiencing the real world. Google Glass proponents like how it removes an important barrier between individuals – the screen. You may wear Glass on your head, but there is no distracting screen that you need to look down at. As Google’s recent don’t-be-a-Glasshole guide states, “Glass was built for short bursts of information and interactions that allow you to quickly get back to doing the other things you love.”

If we get past the “explorers” stage and Glass becomes ubiquitous, Google is hoping that we won’t mind wearing a device on such an obvious part of the body. But will everyone jump on board? Sure, you don’t look quite like a cyborg, but it’s still on your head. Other wearable tech, like jewellery and watches, seems much more poised to go mainstream. They may have less functionality than smartglasses, but they are also more subtle, making them (for many of us) more attractive.

Here are some other examples of wearable technology:

·         Wearable tech has entered the fashion industry.

·         Smart jewellery from a company called Cuff.  

·         A wearable camera, the Narrative Clip, is only slightly larger than a postage stamp and simply clips on to your shirt, taking photos every 30 seconds. 

The Future of Wearable Technology

Social attitudes are one important issue that wearable tech proponents will have to face. Another significant barrier is privacy. We have Bluetooth’s and voice commands and cameras on our devices, but there is just something creepy about seeing someone with a device that could be taking your photo at any time without you immediately knowing it.

The future of wearable technology will have to find a balance between the functionality we want from our technology and how disruptive it is in our daily lives. Google Glass can do amazing things, but the public at large won’t be able to get past the head gear. Smartwatches and jewellery can look great, cost less than smartglasses and look must less obnoxious, but will they offer enough features and functions to tear us away from our smartphones and tablets? I think we’re in an evolutionary phase that is incredibly exciting but incomplete. I can’t wait to see how people come up with creative ways to use the current technology, and what we come up with next. 

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