The future is now, wearable technology is finally here! Or so the hype would have us believe.
The question on hardware manufacturer’s lips, however, is whether or not the mainstream actually wants to wear it.
By now you’ve probably seen the Samsung Galaxy Gear ads, or maybe even seen a Google Glass ‘Explorer’ out in the wild. Along with the unexpected popularity of the crowd funded Pebble e-watch and persistent rumors of an iWatch from Apple, we could be forgiven for thinking that ‘wearables‘ is already established as a product sector.
The Promise of Wearable Technology
The aforementioned Samsung adverts say it best. Ever since sci-fi shows erupted onto our television and movie screens with all manner of fantasy technologies, early adopters have scoured the electronics shows for smaller, shinier and more portable tech products.
In some cases the predictions have been fully realized as successful commercial products, such as the flip communicators of 60s Star Trek fame being achieved (and surpassed) in the form of first mobile, then smart phones. More recently, the rapid spread of tablet devices could be said to prove ‘The Next Generation’ spin-off equally prophetic.
Elsewhere, though, that promise has been more elusive, with Samsung’s first mover product sticking its neck out as a potential white elephant. Google Glass has also had its fair share of detractors, admittedly with an element of geek chic jealousy fueling it in the case of journalists who missed out on that coveted ‘Explorer’ trial.
The Potential Woes of Wearables?
Aside from the lukewarm reception for Galaxy Gear as one of the first entrants into the wearables marketplace, other challenges await future products. Wearable technology’s biggest burden may come not from the tech crowd, but instead from the notoriously fickle world of fashion.
Our current devices are undoubtedly co-opted as accessories to reflect our personality in some cases, but functionality is placed far ahead of fashion when deciding which smart phone or tablet to buy. As technology migrates onto our body, will consumers begin to reassess that balance?
For all its success in the crowd funding stages, the Pebble watch has come in for criticism thanks to its uninspiring design. And Glass has received widespread media coverage, yet the style-conscious have often commented that they would consider this particular eye wear a fashion faux pas. Style icon that it is, Apple has perhaps the best chance of winning approval in this arena. With iWatch rumors especially rampant ahead of its next big announcement, expect the renowned innovator to stake its claim for the next must-have device in the months ahead.
All of this comes even before factoring in substantial privacy concerns, which arise specifically in the case of eye wear but could also extend to other wearables with the ability to unobtrusively capture images and audio.
Despite these potential pitfalls, it seems unlikely that any of them will truly be able to derail this next evolution of mobile technology. The challenge is set for all of you creative designers out there: make a product that we’ll love to wear as much as we love to use!