The journey thus far
When Google debuted their now-defunct Glass product, there were a lucky few who were able to try them first. Non-beta testers quickly labeled those pioneers “glass-holes.”
A lot of that had to do with the fact that Google Glass was hard to use; one had to yell at it (“Okay, Glass!”) in an Inspector Gadget-like fashion to get to one of its, let’s just admit it, very few functions. But when it comes to wearable tech, we’ve actually come a long way, baby. And in a pretty short time.
Google Glass was cool in a "the future has arrived" kind of way, and as virtual reality gains ground computerized shades will circle back around. But for now, wearable tech is gaining in popularity because the various devices have gotten better at blending into our wardrobes or our bodies.
They’re also accessible to a general market – versus limited to Silicon Valley residents or a handful of developers in Manhattan. Google shot for the stars (and thank goodness, because someone should), but when it comes to the adoption of technology – and in this case the very big step to full-on cyborg – it’s better to go slow sometimes, and start with something a little more subtle.
Wearables shouldn’t be heard or seen
It's okay to admit that listening to someone yell into their tech – be it Google Glass or Amazon’s Alexa – is awkward. The best new wearables don’t talk to you, and you don’t even have to show them off if you don't want to.
There’s VivaLnk, for example, which recently launched their Vital Scout patch or “tattoo” as they call it. It’s about the size of a quarter and goes on the chest to monitor heart rate, temperature, and activity. They previously made waves with Fever Scout, a patch for kids to wear by their armpits to monitor for fever. It (quietly) collects data for your physician and your well-being.
Other wearables are just getting more fashionable. Ringly, for example, markets jewelry to young women that connects via bluetooth to their phones. When they get a notification of any kind, a little green light flashes and they know to check their devices. The rings are trendy and cost around $200. And you can appear fashionable and carefree – standing out from the device-addicted – without actually losing touch. However…
The device is still in the equation
The most popular wearables still aren’t all-in-ones in the way Google Glass tried to be. Wearables like Fitbit or Vital Scout are still just health monitors – not to downplay the tech, but they perform a niche function. And they, along with products like Ringly or Samsung’s Gear Fit, ultimately bring you back to your phone or desktop – they don't replace either.
Even the AppleWatch doesn't replace your iPhone (though it likely will at some point). Which begs the question: How many wearables is too many? Won't we ultimately want a single wearable that does it all, so we don't have to miss out if we decide to go with fewer accessories on a given day?
Sure, the watches and activity wearables are interesting, and arguably useful gateways to adopting wearables in general. And one of the obstacles – if we do want all-in-one wearables to manifest – is in convincing those on the fence that this tech is useful and not a 5th Element pipe dream, or a non-green waste of microchips.
Because in the meantime, we're creating that much more technological waste – adding to the junk pile of the clock radios, Betamaxes, and Discmen that came (and fell out of favor) before. Granted, we're on the right path, as smartphones now cover the jobs those items performed. But knowing that ultimately consolidation is likely – and desirable – it would certainly be more eco-friendly if some of these wearable companies worked together to prevent the inevitable device litter to come.
Then again, maybe that's just not how progress works. But, hopefully, someday it will.
This post originated from MediaPost.
Image: Florian Pircher