Smart watches – what are they good for?

November 11, 2014 : TECHFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Smart watches what are they good for

For a technology that's spent most of the past 12 months being hyped up as one of the key game-changers of the tech world in 2014, it's fair to say that wearable technology – and smart watches in particular – hasn't yet taken off in the way the big brands have hoped. But before you consign that expensive wrist screen to the dustbin along with your Minidisc player and Netbook, hold on – as there's still a lot more to come from the technology.

It's still very early days for smart watches, and as you'd expect, a few of the kinks are still being worked out. After all, has there ever been a technology that blew your mind right from day one? And while early iterations suffered from poor battery life, underwhelming features and some decidedly dodgy designs, there's a new generation on the way and many of the glitches are set to be ironed out.

So what can they do?

The question of what you can actually expect to do with a smartwatch is one a few brands have stumbled over early on as they've struggled to explain exactly why you want one. But at heart, smart watches are intended to be use as a companion device to a phone, rather than a replacement. 

So instead of fumbling around in your pocket or handbag every time you get a notification, you can instantly see on your wrist whether its something you need to respond to straight away or can put if off for later. It might not sound like much, but if you've got hundreds of Facebook friends, Twitter followers and WhatsApp contacts all queuing up for your attention, it could be a lifesaver.

But as well as this, they could control your music player, answer or reject calls, provide you with directions via Google Maps and even run their own apps. So if you've got a Flappy Bird or Candy Crush Saga addition, there's even more reason to keep playing discreetly for just one more level.

What about the design?

Yes, it's true that some of the first generation of smart watches have been pretty ugly beasts – not exactly something you can match up with a sharp suit or your best partying gear. But this is rapidly changing, as a range of stylish new designs are making their way to the market. So far this year, for instance, we've been introduced to the Moto 360, which boats a circular LED screen and a selection of adjustable leather and metal straps to move as far away from the cheap, plasticky look as possible.

Samsung is also said to be investigating circular-screened watches, while of the options that are already on the shelves, Sony's SmartWatch offers a cool, modern design with a silver metal edge and glossy black fascia and the Pebble Steel impresses with its understated, classic look that should fit right into any business meeting.

So where are we going?

As you'd expect, the rapidly-improving technology will lead to a huge new range of ideas and innovations as makers gain a better understanding of the potential capabilities of smart watch technology and – more importantly – what actual buyers want from them. There'll be a few misses along the way – the camera included on the Samsung Galaxy Gear probably won't see much use – but there will also be plenty of good stuff too, like health and fitness monitoring solutions that could be great for helping you in your daily workout.

If you think the idea of speaking into your watch to control it like you're in a low-budget spy film is a bit daft, Samsung might have you covered, as it's unveiled a patent application that would let you perform tasks through the use of hand gestures. This could also be useful if you're cursed with fat fingers that make navigating the small screen a frustrating challenge.

And other hardware innovations to fix this have also been showcases, such as a prototype from a team at Carnegie Mellon University that lets you enter controls by pinching, twisting and tilting the bezel surrounding the watch like a mini joystick. Though still very much in the early stages, it's been shown to be able to perform quite complex tasks – even controlling a simple first-person shooter game. 

So as these innovations show, developers are looking at smart watches as something far more than just a gimmick, and we can expect a lot more of these advances in the coming months and years. Just watch this space.

This entry was posted in TECH and tagged on by sarahstooks
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