Google Glass. Samsung Wear. Apple Watch. Occulus Rift. “Wearables” is being crowned as the next big thing in consumer electronics. But is it really? Some see wearables as a fad that is being fostered by the hipster crowd and a technology industry that is searching for a few more years of market growth as the smartphone and tablet market matures.
Running enthusiasts have enjoyed the use of gadgets for years to monitor and improve their fitness goals. In addition, the now infamous Bluetooth earpiece is certainly a wearable and it’s still in demand. Walk around any shopping mall and you will spot a few folks that we wish would not have embraced Bluetooth earpieces with such loving arms.
But in the end, the Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft’s of the world will soldier on and high end products such as smartphones will always be in consistent though not necessarily growing demand. I think it is too early to discount wearables as a fad. I think an aging baby boomer generation will drive medical related wearables for quite a few years. I even think that devices like the Apple Watch and Google Glass will mature to a point, both technologically and price wise, that they will gain mainstream acceptance. Again, I point to the Bluetooth earpiece, as an indicator that people are comfortable with the concept of wearables even if they are not jumping at the current product selection available in the market.
With that said, I am not sure mass consumer products will drive the real wearable revolution. Wearables are much more of a personal statement than any technology that has come before it. People will want wearables to say something about themselves without them having to say a word. People also want wearable technology to meet their exact and specific needs to a degree unseen even with the smartphones, which seems to have come down to simple screen size preferences.
I humbly submit that we should look to things like Project Ara from Google to see where the future of wearable computing truly lies. Something you might call “hyper-personalized tech”. That is to say, customization that goes far beyond custom cases and home screens. Imagine a shirt that serves as wearable Arduino, the motherboard of wearables if you will. You might be a sports enthusiast and decide to attach sensors to that shirt that monitor your personal performance. Someone else, using the same shirt, may decide they want a different combination of sensors tailored to their needs, perhaps a GPS, compass, altimeter, and barometer suited for a backpacking excursion in the wilderness. The point is wearables are going to become very personal, just in terms of design but also function.
What are your thoughts? Are you interested in purchasing wearable electronics? Or are you satisfied with the tech you already have? Let us know in the comments down below.
Michael Parks, P.E. is the owner of Green Shoe Garage, a custom electronics design studio and technology consultancy located in Southern Maryland. He produces the S.T.E.A.M. Power podcast to help raise public awareness of technical and scientific matters. Michael is also a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Maryland and holds a Master’s degree in systems engineering from Johns Hopkins University.
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