Wearable computing is the next big wave in electronics, according to various self-proclaimed oracles in the technology industry.
That's why there's all this recent hubbub about Google Glass, the Internet-connected glasses-mounted computer. It's also why rumormongers won't cease in discussing a possible Apple watch of some kind. And it's why your neighbor won't take off his Nike FuelBand or Jawbone Up or Fitbit, even though it makes him look like he just got discharged by the local hospital.
If you've ever seen or read a work of science fiction, it becomes rather clear as to why wearable computing technology is embraced with such zeal: aside from being more aesthetically appealing than today's mostly cuboid electronic devices, it is a step closer to the convergence of natural and artificial embodied by the cyborg, the person made superhuman thanks to the biological integration of electromechanical elements.
Not everyone wants to fuse transistors to their precious skin. But putting on a pair of glasses or a watch or an LED-studded rubber wristband? Yeah, they can get behind that. (Especially if it spells an end to the hunched-over position we all take regularly while using today's mobile devices.)
Rackspace, the U.S. IT hosting company, has an indirect stake in all of this. While it doesn't manufacture fancy glasses or anything like that, it does provide storage and other services for businesses in the cloud. In short, if the future is more Internet-connected than it is today, Rackspace and its peers stand to profit.
To explore this future, the company commissioned a study on wearable technology from the Centre for Creative and Social Technology at Goldsmiths, University of London. The survey asked 4,000 adults in the U.S. and U.K. for their thoughts on the concept.
Their responses were rather interesting.
Thirteen eyebrow-raising data points:
- 82 percent of Americans and 71 percent of Brits said that cloud-powered devices have enhanced their lives.
- 71 percent of Americans and 63 percent of Brits said that wearable tech has "improved their health and fitness."
- One in three respondents of both countries said that wearable tech has "helped their career development."
- 53 percent of Americans and 39 percent of Brits said that wearable tech has "made them feel more intelligent."
- 54 percent of Americans and 46 percent of Brits said wearable tech has boosted their self-confidence.
- 60 percent of Americans and 53 percent of Brits said that wearable tech "helps them feel more in control of their lives."
- 36 percent of Americans and 27 percent of Brits said that they use wearable tech "to enhance their love lives."
- 22 percent of Americans and 19 percent of Brits said they would be "willing to use a wearable device that monitors location for central government activity."
- One in three respondents of both countries said they would be willing to use a wearable health and fitness monitor that shares personal data with the government's health agency or a healthcare provider.
- Nonetheless, 51 percent of respondents cited privacy as a barrier to adoption.
- 62 percent of respondents said they believe wearable devices should be regulated in some form, with 20 percent calling for an outright ban.
- Just 18 percent of those surveyed said they have actually used wearable technology. (Update: The statistics above were culled from this group, the authors tell me.)
- Of those who use it, 13 percent said they "never remove the device" and an additional 7 percent admitted to checking it "at least once every five minutes."
So who are these people, you ask? A mix of curious experience seekers, productivity pursuers and the health conscious, according to the study.
For more about this, read my colleague Steve Ranger's interview with researcher Chris Brauer, the fellow who led the study.