Synonyms: wearable devices, wearables, fashionable technology, tech togs, fashion electronics
What is it?
According to Wearable Devices Magazine, a magazine that is – believe it or not – entirely dedicated to this trend, the term wearable technology refers to “electronic technologies or computers that are incorporated into items of clothing and accessories which can comfortably be worn on the body”.
Another term we liked may give a better sense of its future: “intimate computing,” which for us evokes a product that is sensual and tactile, personal and discreet.
Generally wearable technology is more sophisticated than today’s smart phones or laptops because it can communicate with the wearer’s body through features such as biofeedback and a tracking or physiological function.
So, I hear you think, this is it? The science-fiction future that was until recently the preserve of James Bond movies and space age blockbusters is here? Well maybe not quite… Because while everyone seems to be talking about them, no one has quite nailed it – yet.
What about some examples?
There are plenty: watches that connect to your mobile phone, fitness bands that monitor your heart rate and other vitals, capacitive gloves that allow you to use touch screens, headphone hats and smart fabrics that respond to the wearer’s body temperature. Taking it one step further, there are also more invasive versions of the concept as in the case of implanted devices such as micro-chips or even smart tattoos.
And of course there is Google Glass, augmented reality glasses which allow you to communicate with the internet and your phone through voice commands. Google Glass launched in April 2014, and it is still far from reaching its full potential, as are most wearable devices.
As one commentator pointed out, “There are so many wearable products coming out. Some are not very useful, but they look beautiful. Some are not beautiful, but really useful. We’re getting to the sweet spot, where it’s both.”
So how big is this trend?
While it may be fairly small still, the market for wearable technology has massive potential.
Shipments of wearable devices are predicted to triple in 2014, reaching 19 million. By 2018, that figure will reach 111.9 million.
Besides tech geeks, who actually uses these kinds of devices?
More people than you think and in more sectors than you think!
The military, the medical and health sector are often named as the key sectors for wearables, but just walk down North Bondi Beach as we did this morning, or any other place where people exercise, and you’ll notice an array of fitness bands and monitors – and this area is set to grow massively over the coming months, years.
But there are also applications in other fields such as education, transport, gaming, music, disability… it’s pretty much endless, which is why it’s so exciting.
And what does the future hold?
Many tech and fashion companies, including Nike, Samsung, Fitbit, Jawbone, and others, are working on developing wearable technology.
Some funky prototypes we liked include a Sony Ericsson’s cocktail dress with Bluetooth technology that lights up when calls are received, keyboard pants designed during a “Fashion Hacking” workshop at a New York City creative collective, and the art students who designed a hoodie that sends text messages triggered by movement.
Taking it one step further into the world of sci-fi, scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands are developing computers that can read your mind. That means you wouldn’t need to type anymore, you can just think the words and they’ll appear on screen… Pretty cool, even if it’s kind of creepy.
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