What's Next for Wearable Tech?
The wearables market is just starting to explode, but we're already taking it for granted. And it's hard not to wonder where it will go next - especially considering where we've been.
We couldn't have imagined
Though not true wearables by today's standards, devices like the Sony Walkman and Discman of days gone by offered a glimpse of a future big on "attachment." After all, both of Sony's old-school mobile music players had wrist straps - that counts for something, right?
Gary Gulman's raucous take on the Discman aside, these portables certainly paved the way for the iPod, which could be worn in a pouch that strapped around your bicep.
It made sense to be hands-free while walking or jogging - two activities where tunes are a welcome diversion.
And though tunes aren't part of the package, walking and jogging is the impetus behind the very popular Fitbit - which offers a higher purpose than merely entertaining.
Wear your health on your sleeve
What's great about Fitbit, beyond how it tracks the wearer's steps, sleep, exercise, and more -manageable from their mobile devices - is that there's a social component tied in. Users of the Fitbit App can create challenges to motivate themselves and their family and friends with a little "healthy" competition.
But Fitbit isn't the only option out there. The newly released Apple Watch offers similar health and fitness tracking - as well broader applications, with iPhone notifications/features and Apple Pay.
Fitbit may not be able to compete against the Apple Watch at the moment - but it was here first. So who knows what the next incarnation will be?
And health wearables are moving beyond the need to be strapped on - which could pave the way for the next generation of wearable tech.
VivaLnk, for example, could best Fitbit with their Vital Scout, a wearable patch that not only monitors physical health, but mental health too. The patch is the size of a Band Aid and uses a variety of sensors to measure critical bodily functions which the user can access on their smartphone or other device.
The major selling point of Vital Scout is its accuracy, the result of ECG sensors that give it a 90% accuracy level in measuring heartrate and stress levels. As VivaLnk CEO Jiang Li points out, "When it comes to consumer health, and understanding what's happening with our bodies, accuracy is vital."
But it's another VivaLnk product, the eSkin™ Tattoo, that hints at what may be coming for wearables.
I've got you under my skin
The disposable eSkin Tattoo breaks free of the health/fitness niche to offer identity verification for event admission, or even the ability to make cashless payments. It can be customized to work with a number of RFID apps, and be printed with your business' logo. This just solidifies the case that while wellness is important, the wearables market has far broader appeal.
And though the eSkin Tattoo sits on top of your skin, it's easy to imagine that this technology will evolve to do more of what devices, and more well-rounded wearables like the Apple Watch, can do now - but it won't be worn, it will be implanted.
Implant technology is already being developed for the medical field, and of course microchip technology helps us reunite with lost or stolen pets, and if parents have their way, someday, to keep tabs on our children. It's only a matter of time before "smart" implantables disrupt wearables. When they do, will they still send data to our smartphones and tablets, or will they be interfacing with new devices as well?
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
The latter is bound to be true, given the strides being made in Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR) technology, which is already used in simulations ranging from crashing planes to train pilots, to zombie attacks for gamers.
Right now experiencing VR and AR relies on strapping on a headset of some sort. And while these headsets aren't as subtle as a wristband or dermal patch - they're proving to be big sellers in the wearable tech market. Companies including Sony, HTC, Samsung, Microsoft, and Freefly have all dived into the VR/AR headset market.
But the one to watch is Microsoft's HoloLens, which provides the wearer with an AR experience that enhances their daily routines. It's tantamount to seeing all your smartphone's apps in 3D - but better.
Amazing though it is, the headset is a little bulky, and probably not something you'd want to be seen walking down the street in (well, maybe for the street cred). It would be cool if the next incarnation of Google Glass carried this idea forward with Google's sleeker, lighter eyewear design.
And then what? Lens implants for our eyes that respond to voice commands or blinking sequences?
Wearable tech is here to stay
It's trippy to imagine, but there's every reason to believe the various technologies now at use in the wearables market will converge to form the next great thing. In matters of work, play, and health - wearables are becoming part of our everyday, tech-filled lives. As long as they keep improving the way we live, I'm all for it.
IMAGE CREDIT: LWYANG
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