What will the next wave of wearable tech bring?

November 11, 2014 : TECHFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

What will the next wave of wearable tech bring

One of the big trends in 2013 was the push from tech firms to not only make their technologies smaller and lighter, but to make them even more hands-free by incorporating them into clothes, glasses and watches.

Some of the designs shown off so far won't exactly win top prizes in any fashion awards, but they represent what's likely to be the first wave of increasingly-capable gadgets that we'll be able to take around with us anywhere without relying on handbags or pockets.

So will we really end up all walking around like Robocop, with electronics sticking out of every part of our body? Sadly for anyone who wants eyeballs with a zoom function, that's still a way off, but there are a few things we can expect to see in 2014 and beyond that might just change the way we interact with the latest tech.

I spy with my little eye camera

Google's Glass device, which incorporates a tiny screen into a pair of spectacle frames right in front of the user's eye, was introduced early in 2013 to what we might charitably call a mixed reaction. While some were impressed by the potential to get info such as directions right in front of you, more people seemed to be concerned with how silly it made them look.

Let's face it, walking around with Google Glass on your face isn't exactly a cool look. But as the capabilities of the technology evolve, might this change? Google is already hard at work on the second version of the technology, which will no doubt offer more features, easier voice interactions and better connectivity. And as people get to grips with glasses technology and more developers offer their own solutions, you can bet they'll get a lot more stylish.

Of course, there'll still be issues to address. The in-built camera has already led to privacy worries about people being recorded without their knowledge or users being able to immediately pull up personal details, so there will probably have to be some social rules laid down about when it is and isn't acceptable to wear the gadgets.

The world at your fingertips – or at least on your wrist

The concept of the smartwatch, that packs all the features of your smartphone into a handy wrist-mounted screen, seems to have been at the 'almost there' stage for a while now, with gadgets like Apple's fabled iWatch still lost in development hell. But with the launch of Samsung's Galaxy Gear, they may be about to make the leap to the mainstream.

At the moment, there's still limitations on what they can do. The Galaxy Gear, for instance, needs to be paired via Bluetooth with a compatible device, such as a Galaxy S4. There aren't many of these around at the moment, which is probably one of the reasons it's unlikely to fall into the 'must-have' category.

Annette Zimmermann, principal research analyst at Gartner, forecast: "Wearable devices will remain a companion to mobile phones at least through 2017, with less than one per cent of premium phone users opting to replace their phone with a combination of a wearable device and a tablet."

So for the time being then, you'll still need your phone at hand to make the most of the technology – but for anyone who hates hunting around in their bag for their handset every time they get a text or want to check their email, the convenience of the devices might be highly attractive.

Thinking outside the box

Of course, these solutions might be just the start of the potential of wearable technology – as components keep getting smaller, we can expect to see tech-enabled versions of almost anything in the coming years – and some of the options may have been illustrated by some recent quirky patents.

Sony, for instance, has filed technologies for a 'smart wig'. No, it won't restyle itself depending on the occasion, but what it can do is provide users with info such as text and email alerts or GPS instructions, delivered through tactile sensors direct to their scalp. Or how about controlling a presentation by raising an eyebrow. We don't think it can actually read your thoughts yet, but give it time and you never know.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has also been investigating the potential of sensors with the development of a smart bra that's able to detect the stress levels of the wearer. So for instance, it can monitor mood levels and then predict when a person is likely to indulge in 'emotional over-eating'.

Whether these will ever find commercial applications is too soon to tell. But while they may be just proof-of-concept for now, they illustrate that when it comes to wearable tech, there really are no limits.

This entry was posted in TECH and tagged on by sarahstooks
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