Pictures Samsung, Fibit & Htc
The right wearable is all about finding the correct playing field, and currently, the rules are not set in stone.
The latest announcements at CES 2016 got us thinking about the direction of wearables at large. Huge brands are now jumping into the second wave of smart-things, emulating the moderate success stories and trends of last year’s releases. At the same time, wearables have taken a rather strange turn, going beyond what was seen as the holy grail when someone slaps every conceivable perk and feature onto a part of the human body that was mostly unclaimed by gadgets for the last decade. So what are the trends that points towards the evolution of wearable technology – for better or for worse?
Not just smartwatches
One of the directions these electronic giants are going with wearables is to venture beyond the smartwatch form factor. While the concept has been bounced about by hopeful Kickstarter entrepreneurs for a good year or three, brands like Samsung are beginning to pick up on introducing smartclothes at CES 2016. While it is a first attempt in the mainstream market, they can be useful like the Samsung Body Compass – athletic-wear that lets you track all those fitness stats more accurately, right down to your fat levels and stance. They can also be quite mundane, like the Samsung Smart Suit, an NFC-enabled suit that does redundant things like exchanging digital name cards (when physical ones suffice) in a suit. We’re also not forgetting the quirky ones, like the unfortunately-named Samsung Welt (wellness belt) that comes with sensors to track your waistline, eating habits, steps taken, and sedentary periods, all while being able to give wiggle room during a heavy meal.
These examples actually hold some merit to what wearables should evolve into. We believe that it’s not enough for a team of smart engineers to pile a bunch of re-hashed features on an accessory that’s blend of impressive, premium workmanship and materials. Said features and the accessory needs to add practical value to the average user, and not simply because they can get a watch with an in-built Geiger counter with voice feedback, but because it caters to people living in an age where Geiger counters are necessary for survival in an
alternate, modern reality. By this analogy, the Body Compass and Welt are practical. As the masses continue to become more informed about their health, these wearables help users to attain those health-related goals with better accuracy and convenience, all while addressing the growing need of managing your personal information.
The second wave
While wearables exploring beyond the confines of the wrist, the bandwagon that followed will inevitably begin to catch-up. Electronic titans and sports megabrands like HTC and New Balance are two of the many new entrants to the wearable market, all eager to have a slice of a highly marketable and nearly oversaturated pie. For the most part, there’s not much excitement yet, since most of these new additions are actually just brands attempting to push new proprietary systems thinly veiled as showing sensitivity to a user’s needs, all in the hopes of becoming the new standard in this fairly unstable field. Case in point, the Fitbit Blaze, a full-fl edge smartwatch by the company that’s been making fitness bands with a variety of trackers, comes with its own proprietary operating system instead of Android Wear. Do we truly need more operating systems for smartwatches, when Android Wear itself had to open up to pairing with iPhones (like the upcoming generation of Samsung Gear S2)? We think not, even if the Blaze is indeed aesthetically appealing.
Others, like HTC and their HealthBox wearable kit adopted a slightly more sensible approach at setting foot into the market. By working together with Under Armor in developing the HealthBox, both brands take the best from their respective fields of expertise – technology and sports science – to bring a realistic option to the table.
Where do we go now?
Whichever the approach, having more competitors in the wearable field may actually be a good way to drive makers towards building something that’s indispensable to our technologically-inclined lives. The evolution of wearables cannot come any sooner, and it’s time to move on from building yet another smartwatch. Of course, like any free market, more brands can come by and offer something truly ground-breaking that can mark the next milestone in wearable technology, although it will be another few years before it’s worth checking back again.