Wearables are not an entirely new phenomenon, as we discussed in a previous post, but they are speeding up towards the next phase of development and fast garnering mass market appeal. With the integration of connected devices becoming the norm, the expected release of the Apple Watch in March is set to kick start the market and convince consumers that a smartphone/timepiece hybrid is a viable purchase.
The hype surrounding the Apple Watch, which will retail from an estimated £250, is increasing ahead of its launch on the shelves. Rumour has it the software is in its final stages. Back in November 2014, Apple released WatchKit – the framework software for developing apps for the device. Since then, the makers of the news app Pipes have released a rudimentary working demo of the Apple Watch available to view in any browser, enabling consumers to try before they buy.
According to Rhiannon Williams in The Telegraph, the wearable will be available in three designs; ‘the Apple Watch Sport in silver or space grey aluminium, the standard Apple Watch in stainless steel, and the luxury Watch Edition, available in rose or yellow 18 carat.’
Competing products endorsed by celebrities such as Will.I.Am are set to go head to head against Apple in what has been dubbed a ‘smart watch battle.’ Others are flocking to join in the craze for wrist-based products; Microsoft’s new band powered by Microsoft Health not only promises a holistic approach to wellbeing, but can also help you to be more productive with email previews and calendar alerts.
But it’s not just the well represented smart watches causing a stir. This month, the International CES trade show in Las Vegas delivered publicity for other innovative wearables. As well as showcasing fit bands, it has been revealed that some wearable technologies may even have the potential to save lives. The iPal, for example, can track the eye movements of drivers to anticipate drowsiness at the wheel, and incorporates a natural user interface to allow for dynamic communication between device and user.
According to co-founder Anne Lacey Holmes, the iPal can ‘alert a driver through user-configurable settings, such as audio or vibration, and can work alone or paired with the driver’s smartphone app. iPal offers Bluetooth connectivity for pairing with the smartphone, but in many cases, the driver may want to connect iPal directly to the vehicle’s Bluetooth audio system.’ In a similar vein, Volvo showcased the prototype for a helmet to warn a vehicle when it is too close to a cyclist.
Also on show was a smart belt by Paris-based start-up Emiota that can track tension in order to slim and expand for comfort, and even alerts the wearer if they have been sitting still for too long. The new trend for collaboration between tech and fashion brands is flourishing; Swarovski, for example, has teamed up with wearable technology company Misfit to launch Swarovski Shine Activity Crystals which track the wearer’s lifestyle and can even power themselves by solar charging. The ostentatious Mota ‘smart ring’ displays Facebook and Twitter updates on your finger.
The visual impact of hi-tech fashion such as 3D printed dresses and shoes did not go unnoticed either, suggesting that it is only a matter of time before ready-to-wear tech becomes a staple on the runways and in our wardrobes. Designer Ultimaker is one to watch for printed garments, and British designer Rainbow Winters showcased a dress made with photochromic ink, which changes colour when exposed to UV light.
However, not all wearables in the market are gaining successful momentum. Google recently announced the withdrawal of Google Glass from the shelves after a disappointing reaction to the limited utility of the device, and a lack of apps. The decision came just two days after Tesco announced the launch of a shopping app for the device, according to The Times.
It has not yet become clear whether consumers will prefer wearables which put their technological capabilities on display, or whether more subtle devices will be favoured. Only time will tell whether or not tech truly is ready to wear on a mass market scale.