Let’s Talk Tech: Getting Comfortable With Wearable Tech
Enter the fast-moving world of wearable tech, where you can change TV channel with a thumb gesture, search the web by asking your glasses a question, check emails on your wrist or track your health and fitness with a bracelet. All of this and more is possible with wearable tech, and with the trend starting to find stability in 2014, we may start to see the commercialization and adoption of a lot more wearable tech products from both new and reputable brands.
So let’s get down to the crux of it – what is this all about? Basically, the wearable tech revolution has seen hardware and software developers come up with wearable pieces of technology that improve the way that we go about our lives on a daily basis. The purposes for wearable tech range widely – from something as simple as pushing notifications to be seen at a glance, to more complicated purposes such as health tracking and augmented reality. All in all, most wearable tech devices have been created to improve the way that we do things, make day to day activities more convenient and to seamlessly work and fit with the way our bodies are made. Many technology professionals and commentators have tipped wearable tech as a trend that will gain great momentum in 2014, and be effortlessly integrated into our lives as soon as 2020.
Let’s take a look at some of the categories taking shape.
The idea of a wrist-watch has been around since the 15th century, but other than digitalization and a few nifty features – the core idea hasn’t changed much at all. The smartwatch is about to change that. Smartwatches have the ability to connect to other devices such as smartphones, tablets and PC’s. Through Bluetooth and Cloud connectivity, a user can share information from these devices with their smartwatch. This means that a user can now send and receive calls, emails and instant messages from their wrist as well as scroll through news feeds, browse the internet or access any other glanceable information. The idea of a smartwatch is fairly intuitive and the possibilities are vast (other than small limitations such as screen size and battery life!).
Many of the popular and leading tech companies have already released a number of smartwatch models. Google Android Wear, Samsung Gear, Sony Smartwatch and LG G Watch (all pictured below) are all available on the market and have been designed to enhance the user experience of customers who own other devices from the respective brands’ smart-product portfolios.
Additionally, there has been much talk about tech giant, Apple, getting involved in the wearable tech arena. With their recent announcement of iOS8 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, leaked patents and a fair amount of hype and speculation, it seems that all arrows are pointed in this direction, many believing that the iWatch is already in full-scale production and will see a release before the end of 2014. Below are two of the concept models that may give us a hint of what to expect when Apple releases their iWatch.
Finally, we take a look at a leading third-party tech company that has gained tremendous momentum in the smart-watch arena. Meet Pebble, the Kickstarter campaign that, in 2012, met its target within 2 hours of going live and became the most funded project in the history of Kickstarter. The smartwatch is now publicly available for purchase, and currently in its next generation edition – the Pebble Steel (see video below). Pebble has been optimized to work with Android and iOS devices and has a number of useful apps and tools included on-board. With water-proofing, extended battery life, customizable straps & faces as well as vibrating notifications and a visually appealing e-paper display, Pebble is fast becoming the third-party smartwatch of choice. This is one that I’d strongly recommend.
The future of smartwatches is allowing for some interesting new projects to take shape. For example, Ritot is a smartwatch that projects notifications and images onto your hand.
Also, Glance is a project that allows users to turn any existing watch (or wristband) into a smartwatch. So, as it turns out, you don’t even need a smartwatch to have a smartwatch!
Next, we look no further than eye-level, taking a look at smartglasses. Smartglasses are effectively wearable eye-level computers that are designed to add information to plain vision or create a new visual experience through augmented reality. We’ll look at some of the leading smartglasses in these two categories.
In this first category, we see a number of products that operate in similar fashion to many of the above smartwatches. By connecting via Bluetooth and Cloud, smartglasses are able to project information onto the lense that allows users to see notifications or information from a smartphone, tablet or PC. The most popular example of this, as you may have guessed, is Google Glass. Glass was officially launched to consumers this year and uses an optical head-mounted display to project information onto the user’s lense in a hands-free format. With a camera, voice control, audio, navigation and a bunch of cool applications, Glass is a pure example of innovation. Below, you can see an exciting video of Google Glass in action in London, showing off many of its features.
However, there are a number of companies starting to make waves in this category, suggesting that we may start to see some competition for Google Glass in the future. Be sure to check out Optinvent ORA, Lumus and Vuzix. Below is a video from Optinvent ORA.
In the second category of smartglasses, we look at smartglasses that embrace the idea of augmented reality. This means that the user sees a view of a physical, real-world environment with elements that have been altered or created by computer generated sensory input (hence the augmented part!). This means that a user may see the room that they are currently actually inside, however, this room may be supplemented with additional graphics, sounds or video effects to create an augmented reality. The results can be quite amazing and have great application for gaming, video content or, simply, a unique experience.
First up here, is the Oculus Rift. The Oculus Rift is a head-mounted display that allows users to experience virtual reality with enhanced comfort and presence. The product is currently in it’s second development phase for developers to create unique user experiences and provide feedback before the product becomes available to consumers. Once it’s launched, it promises to be a one of a kind virtual reality experience and immersive way to take gaming to the next level. Here’s some more info in their overview video.
Next up, is one for all the wannabe secret agents out there, Meta Spaceglasses. This unique project allows users to navigate with their hands through virtual reality objects in front of them. The glasses can project smart phone and laptop interfaces in front of the user, and they look pretty cool too! Check it out here.
Finally, we look at a project called Avegant Glyph. The idea behind this project is providing users with their own personal theater. Using a head mounted band and virtual retina display, the Glyph displays crystal clear images for movies, games and virtual reality.
Smart Health Tracking / Life-Logging
The next category of wearable tech is one that has proved to be popular (and useful) among many consumers. Smart helath tracking, or apty named “life-logging,” is the process of continuously tracking important physiological information, processing and monitoring it to ensure good health. Some of the popular metrics in this regard include exercise info, blood pressure, cholesterol and even sleep. There are many third party apps that have been created to monitor this info, Mashable listed 9 of the best ones here.
The wearable part of life-logging comes in when we look at the actual hardware that has been created to monitor a user’s health information. These come in a variety of forms, most commonly wristbands. Some of the leading wearables in this arena include Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Nike Fuel Band, Samsung Gear Fit and Garmin Forerunner (all pictured below).
Check out the video from one of the life-logging leaders, Fitbit.
The life-logging craze seems to be growing rapidly and many of the tech giants are starting to catch on to the trend. With Apple Health, Google Fit and Samsung Gear Fit all announced this year, we can expect a lot of tech attention for our health and fitness.
Smart-Everything! 6 Unique Wearables
The wearable tech trend doesn’t end at watches, glasses and fitness trackers. Here are a few smart pieces of wearable tech that are a bit more unique and unusual.
3: Cuff, the connected cuff link bracelet that lets your family know where you are or if you’re in trouble.
4: The Dash headphones, wireless in-ear headphones to play audio and track health info.
5: D-Shirt, the sensor-laced shirt to track your fitness.
6: Smarter-Socks, for the sock fanatics who don’t want to worry about their socks going missing!
7: Google contact lenses to track your glucose levels.
Where’s It All Going?
As you can see, the possibilities for wearable tech seem pretty unlimited. As technology advances and form continues to marry function, I’m sure that wearable tech will start to become a more integral part of our everyday lives. To close off, here’s a video from Mobile Minute that tells us some of the ways that wearable tech can help those with disabilities.