Wearable technology isn’t exactly a new concept. Anyone who listens to music with headphones gets the general idea. Creating products and experiences that interact with our bodies in a natural, convenient way is often regarded as an upcoming shift that will prove to be as big as smartphones were just a few years ago. 2012 was a year that saw a lot of innovations and promises of things to come in the space.
The Nike+ FuelBand lifted activity tracking out of the weight-loss pedometer doldrums to reach a more mainstream audience. Pebble, a proposed smartwatch that syncs with a user’s phone, became Kickstarter’s most successful project to date. Google officially announced Project Glass, which puts all the capabilities of a smartphone into a pair of glasses. (Read more about smartwatches and the Nike+ FuelBand below). But when we really boil it down, will all this wearable technology truly make our lives easier? Or is it more of a hassle than it’s worth?
The positive potential of all these devices is fairly evident in theory. They strive for user experiences and interfaces that feel so natural that the line between user, device and environment begins to blur. A slight hand gesture can call your mother. Dilating your pupils can close your browser window.
But here’s the downside to all that: a slight hand gesture can call your mother. Dilating your pupils can close your browser window. Every little thing you do starts to means something.
Currently, technology and I have a fine relationship. My phone and computer are rather agnostic – they are there when I need them to be but don’t really expect anything of me. They aren’t trying to guess what I want from them, I just tell them what I want and they do a good job of responding accordingly.
With wearable technology, we begin to enter a space where technology is much more active, trying to interpret our intentions and constantly asking us what we want. Anyone who’s attempted to use the motions controls of a Wii or Kinect know how quickly the constantly monitoring of your every move can turn into a sour experience.
In order to truly succeed, technology needs to stay agnostic. There is a difference between slipping a FuelBand on your wrist and checking it every hour or so and slipping a pair of glasses on your face and having it push notifications at you.
I need to be able to forget about it. And, more importantly, it needs to forget about me.
So Many Smartwatches
The aforementied Pebble may be the most well-known smartwatch – but it certainly isn’t the only one out there. Everyone from Sony to Motorola and more have gotten in the game. Apple fans have been clamoring for the company to create a dedicated smartwatch every since the company unveiled a very watch-like shape for the iPod Nano. Even after several years, speculation over an Apple iWatch has not died down.
The FuelBand Shakeup
The health industry has been one of the biggest promoters of wearable technology. From Fitbit to to the once highly anticipated Basis Band wearable monitors that track your physical activity are a dime a dozen these days. But it wasn’t until the release of the Nike+ FuelBand that the category was able to break beyond the stigma of pedometers for moms who want to lose weight. Positioned not as a device to help one get healthy but as a daily game that rewards activity, FuelBand broke through with a younger, urban, connected demographic.