For a long time, wearable tech has been little more than an intriguing concept. We already augment our bodies with various peripherals, using watches to tell time and glasses to protect our eyes or correct our vision. But what if those devices, and others like them, could do even more for us. What if our watches and glasses and jewelry could do what our smartphones do, and perhaps even more? Perhaps the most notable piece of wearable tech available today (albeit on a limited basis) is Google Glass, a pair of glasses augmented with a virtual display which adapts to your environment. It can record whatever you require, translate signs in other languages, give you facts about your surroundings and answer questions on the fly, among many other features. Basically, it’s like constantly having Google in front of you, allowing you to interact with it in real time without the barrier of a computer screen. What some might not realize is that Google Glass is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many pieces of wearable tech currently being developed, everything from interactive fitness equipment to bracelets that tell you when you’ve received a Facebook message. The only question is how soon these items will catch on and how successful they will truly be.
With the popular support of a number of startups devoted to the cause and the downright intriguing nature of the concept itself it’s hard to imagine that wearable tech won’t become popular eventually. That being said, it might be a while. However, with so many companies fighting to be at the forefront of this new type of technology, companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple, there’s never been a better time to discuss to viability of wearable tech. So, without further hesitation…
- More Immediate: The usage of many apps often requires some planning ahead of time. If you need information without delay, alternate directions in lieu of a detour for example, you’d better already have the app you require booted up and ready to go. Otherwise, you might be in for a bit of a wait. On the other hand, wearable tech can, hypothetically, provide you with the information you require immediately, responding to your environment and keeping you updated with whatever you might want to know on the fly. No time wasting stumbling through your phone for apps or even getting it out of your pocket and unlocking it.
- Allows You to Stay Better Engaged With Your Environment: For the most part, the usage of a smartphone or a tablet is a solitary activity, the screen forming a dividing wall between you and the outside world. Wearable tech largely eliminates that wall. Sure, glancing down at a watch’s face is similar to looking at a screen, but it’s much less involved. When it comes to devices like Google Glass the level of immersion possible is quite remarkable. Doing away with standard screens entirely, Glass and its ilk present an incredibly exciting and revolutionary way of engaging with personal technology. Indeed these pieces are generally just more convenient than smartphones or tablets.
- More Discreet: This is kind of a tricky topic, as the discreetness of devices like Google Glass could also lend the product to some less savory applications as well. However, for the most part the discreet nature of wearable tech is a positive thing. For example, remember that bracelet I mentioned earlier, the one which can alert you to the existence of any and all Facebook messages? Well, it can actually alert you to quite a bit more, including phone calls the user has received. Previously, to learn that same information the student would have had to pull out their phone or their computer, potentially disrupting the class (or, at the least, their own learning) and earning the scorn of their teacher. Now a student can learn essentially the same information in a much quieter, far less obtrusive manner. This is one example of the discreet nature of wearable tech benefiting not only the user, but their environment as well.
- Potentially More Fashionable: One of the most interesting ways that portable technology has progressed is in the area of aesthetics. Interestingly enough, many buyers seem to care just as much, if not more in some cases, about a device’s sleek look as they do its performance or capabilities. Tech companies have become set upon making their devices smaller, sleeker, lighter and more intuitive. As such, tech like pads and pods and, of course, phones have almost become fashion accessories to some. However, because they are replacing items like standard glasses and jewelry wearable tech has an even more centralized focus on being fashionable. If these items don’t look as good as possible their appeal will be greatly limited. After all, who would want to wear an ugly bracelet or a pair of glasses that did not compliment their face? Some won’t care much for the look of the pieces, buying them solely for their technological capabilities, but for others aesthetics will be very important, and the companies who make these products will need to recognize that.
- Less Versatile: Clearly, wearable tech can do plenty that standard smartphones and tablets can’t do, but they also have some pretty serious limitations. For example, you’re not going to want to write an email on a watch, and while your bracelet may light up to let you know when you’ve received a message it’s not going to allow you to see it or respond to it. Most pieces of wearable tech aren’t going to come with keyboards because there’s simply nowhere to put them. You’re also probably not going to use a watch or a pair of glasses to make a phone call. Whereas iPad and Androids are machines of many facets, most wearable tech is built around one very specific purpose. What that purpose is changes from machine to machine, but one constant remains: these devices simply aren’t as versatile as smartphones in some areas.
- Smaller: Here’s one of the most obvious complaints one might have about wearable tech. It’s also a complaint which doesn’t apply at all to Google Glass, or to that bracelet I mentioned earlier. However, the fact remains that you’re generally not going to want to wear a piece of jewelry which is as big as an iPad or even a smartphone. That means that, generally speaking, wearable tech will be smaller than your average phone or tablet. That might make certain tasks harder to accomplish, like browsing the internet for example.
- Not as Widely Accepted: This is the kind of thing that will change in time as people get used to its presence, but for the foreseeable future people who utilize wearable tech are going to be seen as outcasts. This prejudice has already reared its ugly head, as evidenced by the story of Steve Mann, an inventor who was attacked in a Paris McDonalds by three men who were fearful of the EyeTap Digital Eye Glass he was wearing. Currently, wearable tech is not widely understood or accepted by the masses, and it won’t be until it becomes more widespread. So for now, if you want to use Google Glass in place of a smartphone don’t be surprised when you get some weird looks.
Regardless of these pros and cons, wearable tech is obviously a hugely exciting concept. Far from being so far-off pipe dream, there are many products being produced right now which could easily be placed under that banner head. Some have even already been released, though in limited numbers for the most part. While wearable tech won’t be replacing smartphones any time soon, and likely won’t be widely used for years to come, the future is bright for this fledgling industry. There was a time when cell phones were rare and their usage seemed strange and disagreeable to some. That time has obviously passed us by. Wearable tech will go through the same process. At first, it’ll seem strange and perhaps a little scary, but as time continues on these products will almost certainly become hugely popular. They have too much potential to be ignored. So keep an eye on wearable tech. It’s here to make our lives easier, to grant us new opportunities and, maybe, to change the way we interact with the world as a whole, and with each other.