A pulse check on wearable tech: Think beyond the wrist already

A pulse check on wearable tech: Think beyond the wrist already

Summary: Wearable tech is more than just another receptacle for data collection. It's also more than a fashion statement. Where can these two meet in the middle?

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SAN FRANCISCO---Wearable technology, informally known as "wearables," has been the hot topic at the top of the agenda for mobile technology for a few months now.

Based on previous tech trends in the last few years, this market could go one of two ways. The first would be following the trail blazed by tablets, becoming so successful that it brings upon the death of another medium (see: PCs).

The second would be the flash-in-the-pan bin, inhabited by concepts and platforms that seemed great in theory and attracted lots of eyeballs at CES from year-to-year -- but no one figured out the equation just right, at least not yet.

Some examples in this latter category include social gaming (away from mobile devices) and a lot of needless stuff taking up valuable real estate in the living room, such as Internet-connected TVs (not counting set-top boxes like Roku).

Looking closer at social gaming, this market got a second life (pardon the loose pun) thanks to mobile devices, which is exactly the same lifeline fueling wearable tech.

For mainstream consumers, most of the wearables already available that are the most appealing and useful typically serve some sort of health or fitness-related function.

"Samsung thinks it’s the fact that the Galaxy Gear has technology in it that makes it fun and usable for us, and that’s not what technology is about," Gamet explained. "That’s what makes all these devices not hot."

More importantly, they link to smartphones and/or tablets through a myriad of different connections (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc.), which in turn shares that data with whatever other apps, social networks, and contacts that user wants.

For that reason, it's appropriate that wearable tech was on the agenda two days in a row at Macworld/iWorld 2014 this week, with the discussion more than likely to be continued at Google I/O in June.

Essentially there are two preconceived notions about wearables that need to be addressed, resolved and integrated for this market to become a veritable market rather than a fad we forget about faster than netbooks.

Wearable tech is more than just another receptacle for data collection. It's also more than a fashion statement. Where can these two meet in the middle?

Alas, there is more backlash than answers. Just look at the attitudes and diatribes directed at Google Glass versus constructive criticism.

Jeff Gamet, managing editor of The Mac Observer, posited at Macworld on Friday that there is a "serious problem in wearable tech in which companies want us to buy things, and they’re throwing everything they can possibly think of at us and hoping something will stick.” 

"Even something as cool as the Pebble — and the Pebble is cool — these things are ugly,” Gamet said frankly.

At the very least, he added, is Apple will debut something and the market will just follow. In regards to Glass, Gamet said that it takes a company like Google to take the risk and unveil a concept design that unnerves people.

Gamet admitted that he, too, has a bit of a “fetish” for wearable technology, especially fitness wearables.

With that in mind, Gamet suggested that the first hurdle is getting people to think beyond the wrist, quipping that the first piece of wearable tech might actually have been NASA spacesuits.

But as more products hit the market, superfluous features and designs that make people uncomfortable (visually or physically) are being weeded out, at the very least.

"Even something as cool as the Pebble — and the Pebble is cool — these things are ugly,” Gamet said frankly, hypothesizing further that there is no way that the next iteration of the Samsung Galaxy Gear, for example, will look anything like the “clunky” version available now.

"Samsung thinks it’s the fact that the Galaxy Gear has technology in it that makes it fun and usable for us, and that’s not what technology is about," Gamet explained. "That’s what makes all these devices not hot."

As an alternative idea springboard, Gamet displayed an image of a floor-length ball gown constructed entirely out of red, yellow, and orange LED lights, demonstrating an elegant convergence of fashion and electronics.

"You can see where designers are realizing the crossover point,” Gamet commented, predicting that wearable tech will seep into the fashion industry just as much as is with health, medical, and fitness.

Unfortunately for anyone who wants to see wearables flourish, Gamet lamented we’ll likely see a continued parade of “Wall-E-looking” wearables for the near future.

Image via CNET/Cuff

Topics: Mobility, Apps, Data Management, Hardware, Web development

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  • This.

    All this talk about looking beyond the wrist for wearables but not a single mention of Braggi s' campaign on kickstarter for the Dash bluetooth offering.

    ZDNets' writers are slipping.
    XDSS2014