Wearable Tech – Is The World Ready?

Copenhagen 29/08/2013

If you’ve ever seen a good science fiction movie, then you know that sooner or later we’ll be wearing our technology on our sleeve. Literally. In fact, it might just be implanted in our brain and we’ll be able to record and replay our lives at will.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

You’re probably heard something about Apple, Sony and smartwatches. Sony’s SmartWatch 2 (yes, 2) is planned for release in September, but their first smartwatch was released last year. Sure, the idea has been kicking around for a while, but it wasn’t until Pebble hit Kickstarter that things really started to pick up. Androidly, the first Android powered smartwatch, is already on sale, and Apple are coming up fast from behind with their (strongly rumored) iWatch. Then of course, there’s Google Glass, and the alternatives. You could argue that smartwatches represent a bridge between smartphones and Google Glass (for the sake of ease, we’ll just say smartglasses). They’re not so sci-fi and we’ve all worn a watch at some point in our lives, but would you wear one if you’ve also got your phone?

We’re not anti-wearable tech in anyway, but let’s play the devil’s advocate for the sake of a good read – is the world ready for it

Google Glass is breathtaking technology. Without a doubt it’s something from a sci-fi featuring Tom Cruise, but will we wear it? The few who have a pair have already earned the unfortunate nickname of ‘glassholes’.

The problems here are well documented in the video; how will the technology be abused? Will people get tired of the lack of eye contact? Will people who don’t already wear glasses (or do wear contacts) want to wear glasses? Our money’s on no. When Google Glass becomes Google Contacts, then we might – might – change our bet, but until then, we’re leaning towards the Segway view.

As for the smartwatch, the biggest chance the it has is Apple. We’ve no doubt that what they release will be cool. It’ll be smart, it’ll be beautiful, and it’ll be user-friendly, but will it be meant as a smart partner for your iPhone, a replacement (not likely!), or something completely different?

One technology that could be very useful in a smartwatch is NFC. Perhaps this is how Apple will adopt the technology – not in the iPhone 5S, but in their watch. Rather than waving or tapping your phone to pay, you would do the same with the watch. It’s already on your wrist (which is pretty close to your hand, let’s face it), and it’s safely secured to your body – unlike your phone.

But we also seem to be a bit confused about screen size. Screen sizes for phones are only getting larger – even Apple had to eat their words when they made the screen larger on the iPhone 5 – and yet here we are, looking at what is, effectively, a smartphone on a screen roughly a quarter (if not a fifth) of the size. Will it be big enough to type, or will that make it too big for the wrist? Will the screen be large enough to easily see? Will it be small enough to fit under a jacket sleeve, or will that render it useless for visuals? Or will our smartphones just bend into a smartwatch?

Perhaps, with flexible displays on their way, we’ll see some kind of fold out screen, so sending an SMS, email or playing games is much more convenient. Or perhaps voice recognition will become far more sophisticated and we’ll simply dictate our emails and messages, say ‘send’, and off they’ll go. Of course the alternative is that we’ll soon start to want smaller screens on our smartphones. Again.

Of course battery life is going to be interesting. Sony’s SmartWatch 2 lasts, they say, for 3 or 4 days. Longer than a smartphone but is that long enough to not worry about? What about when more functions are added?

But this is all presuming that smartwatches are replacements for smartphones. Let’s say they’re not. Let’s say they’re meant to be tethered to your phone allowing you to check your messages instantly, perhaps even send an automatic reply at the touch of a button. Perhaps they will play music, so you can stream it via Bluetooth to wireless headphones, or perhaps you can make phone calls, again via Bluetooth. But, do we want any of this? Does anyone ever want to wear a Bluetooth headset? We know it’s not simply a question of ‘what we want’ (did anyone really want the iPad before it launched?), but right now, we think that the world isn’t quite ready for wearable tech. There will always be early adopters (after all, there are people wandering around out there wearing Google Glass), but for the rest of us, well give it another couple of years, and then we’ll talk.

Let us know what you think! We’re eager to hear your views on wearable tech, no matter if it’s smartglasses or smartwatches.


For more information:
Lara Mulady
Online Communications Manager
+45 5045 2396

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