Americans 'mixed' on wearable tech, leaning towards skeptical

A new poll suggests smart watches and other wearable tech might need to overcome some barriers before they become mainstream. As usual, the kids are setting the trend.

ZDNet's Rachel King giving Google Glass a run for its money. Image: CBS Interactive

Wearable technology, the gadgets you can wear on your wrist, wear as glasses, and other devices that can be worn on your person, may not have the consumer support first expected, if the latest poll is to be believed.

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According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive over a week-long period in mid-September, out of more than 2,500 subjects, close to half of all those questioned believe wearable tech is "just a fad."

We're talking here about Google Glass, and the wearable wristbands designed primarily for fitness, as well as smart watches, such as Samsung's widely panned Galaxy Gear .

While the fitness wristbands have already taken America by storm, smart watches have yet to take off, despite the reported rush by Silicon Valley technology giants to get their products out to market.

As for Google Glass? It hasn't even been released to the public yet, with 2014 pegged for a wider release. And even then the wearable eye-glass computer isn't expected to come cheap.

There is a great deal of skepticism in where wearable tech may become useful in some capacity, with a weighted split of 40 percent agreeing and 47 percent disagreeing.

However, an interesting snippet from the poll shows that wearable tech needs to cannibalize an existing tech category, such as a smartphone or a tablet. While 38 percent agree that such a device needs to replace a device they already use, 45 percent disagree.

Breaking down the numbers a little further, there's clearly a sloping decline in terms of the generational divides:

  • 63 percent of Generation Y members (aged 18-35) are at least a little interested, with 47 percent somewhat or very interested in owning a wearable device

  • 47 percent of Generation X members (aged 37-48) are a little interested, while 28 percent are somewhat or very interested

  • 47 percent of Baby Boomers are a little interested, compared to 32 percent of Matures; and in both categories a paltry 21 percent are somewhat or very interested

The bottom line, says Harris? Technology, particularly in emerging categories, isn't cheap. And there's no clear relationship between income and interest in wearable tech may strike some as "surprising."

Also, because the category of wearable tech has yet to be carved out by the major tech manufacturers, there is a lack of clear understanding in the category as a whole, Harris said.