Wearable Tech goes Stylish and Functional

"Belsis TECs Shot" (CC BY 2.0) by Alexander Annenkov
“Belsis TECs Shot” (CC BY 2.0) by Alexander Annenkov

It’s been creeping up on us for a few years now, so this seems like a great time to take a closer look at wearable tech. What is it, why do you need it and how is it going to help you? The clue’s in the name really. Wearable tech is technology that you can wear which can do everything from telling you when the Uber’s arrived at helping to track your fitness. In the last few years or so it’s seen phenomenal growth and this is set to continue. According to predictions by CCS Insight, by 2019 the global market will be worth $25 billion a year with the number of devices being sold rising to 245 million – nearly treble the 84 million sold in 2015.  Plus, by 2018 it’s reckoned that 81.7 million Americans will be wearing tech in some form or another.

 

"14NK0002" (CC BY 2.0) by heikkisiltala
“14NK0002” (CC BY 2.0) by heikkisiltala

 

Fashion-savvy Wearables on the Rise

By far the most popular kind of wearable tech at the moment is the fitness tracker. Wearing one takes the guesswork out of fitness because it’ll tell you how much exercise you’ve done, crunch the numbers so you can see your progress and compare yourself with your friends, even count the calories that you’ve been burning up. For lots of us, having a reliable fitness tracker has become just as important as investing in a good pair of trainers – maybe even more vital in fact. Plus the other great thing about some of the best fitness trackers is that they look really stylish too, as style-focused lines released recently prove – for instance, the Fitbit Alta HR Luxe collection, which features leather bands. 

For us, one of the most exciting developments in wearable tech is also one of the prettiest. Fabulous designers like Ringly as well as established names like Fossil have  been quick to come up with everything from rings that vibrate when an email arrives to voice recorders in pendants. So next time you go shopping for a beautiful ring or another piece of jewellery think practical as well as aesthetic.

Most of the major satnav companies have taken their basic GPS trackers and built a range of sports watches around them which take the most relevant aspects of the fitness trackers and smart watches to create devices that are perfect for all kinds of sports from running to cycling and from swimming to skiing. They offer a whole wealth of information which can take training and fitness to a whole new level – and they’re usually designed to look great too.

Smartwatches Look Set to Expand Smartphone Capabilities

Like in many other tech fields, Apple were the key game-changers in the world of smart watches. Designed to do everything including keeping you in constant touch with your emails, social media feeds and SMS messages, the Apple Watch of course also tells you what time it is. Although Apple doesn’t release specific sales figures on their Apple Watch, MacWorld points out that revenue from this gadget contributes to the $2.873 billion made by the company in the second quarter of 2017 from “other products” (including AirPods and more). 

The App Store and Google Play are already rife with smartwatch apps, from calculators to weather-tracking. However, the most surprising entries on these lists are actually video games. A slot machine called Thunderstruck II is actually available to play on the circular screen of smartwatches. Considering that despite the strong visual element, gameplay in slots mainly involves setting a bet and a number of paylines and then spinning, it’s a game that lends itself well to such a small screen, compared to others. However, there are more action-oriented offerings as well: Papercraft, an “Android experiment” that found its way to Google Play, is a simple but fully functional mini space battle exclusively available on Android Wear. As the action consists of tapping on specific parts of the screen to shoot enemies, the smartwatch format makes it easily possible. The game also features global leaderboards.

 

"Woman Using a Samsung VR Headset at SXSW" (CC BY 2.0) by nan palmero
“Woman Using a Samsung VR Headset at SXSW” (CC BY 2.0) by nan palmero

What Defines a Wearable?

2017 is being widely predicted to be the year when virtual reality really takes off – and ever since Facebook paid a reported $2 billion for headset maker Oculus Rift it was obvious that Mark Zuckerberg thought the technology’s time had come. Pop on a headset and now it can take you virtually anywhere in the universe, from the sunshine of Sicily or deep into outer space. Although the Oculus Rift headsets are at the higher cost end of things there are also budget options from other manufacturers including one ultra cheap headset that’s actually made from cardboard. While VR masks are not wearable in the same sense as a FitBit or an LG Watch Sport, Google’s recent focus on exploring more comfortable and stylish VR headgear designs in the Google Daydream View seems to promise that we will soon get trendier, more fashionable versions of VR devices – similar to the direction we’ve seen fitness trackers go.

So is there a future in wearables? According to research by Rackspace, 60% of Americans with wearable tech have reported that it helps them feel more in control of their lives and tech and the figure for Brits is 53% – and you just can’t argue with that!

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