Wearables is a very tricky topic to discuss because hyperbole has skewed the conversation.
Pronouncements about the future of technology might make agencies seem cool now, but they may end up with egg on their faces in 10 years when the picture is clearer.
What, realistically, is the near future for wearables?
If you want to try a range of new devices for yourself and see how they fit into your marketing strategy, including Oculus, check out our wearables taster session.
There is no middle ground between passive data collection and VR
Wearable devices that we can interact with (mainly smartwatches so far) have proven to be conceptual failures for a couple of reasons…
1. Nobody wants another data contract
Smart watches are used in tandem with a smartphone. Many of those trialling Apple Watch have found it to be no more than a prompt to take out their phone (which is a much more functional device).
If sophisticated standalone devices are to be developed, data networks will have to become a lot more competitive.
2. Functionality is limited by a small screen and touch input
This is summed up by the beautifully brief tweets of @benlovell below. It’s difficult to design for a tiny screen.
Even smartphone screens are uncomfortably small for many of us when making a considered purchase. Many would ordinarily wait until in front of a laptop to complete a sale, although mobile commerce is undoubtedly improved by software – apps make it easier to book flights, for example.
We know voice input has improved over the past five years and emerging products such as Apple CarPlay may further its usage, but for now screens must be made to be touched.
Virtual reality will be massive
While VR isn’t strictly what I think of as a wearable (yes, you wear it but you can’t exactly do anything else whilst you do so), it is included in this category for now.
Just looking at how far Oculus has brought VR in the past couple of years, it’s impossible not to be excited.
Aside from gaming, where the next hurdle for Oculus Rift is to allow the exploration of larger space, the Gear VR is already reported to bring a real feeling of intimacy when used for social VR.
Using social VR to inhabit the same room, even with only avatars (that turn their head as you turn yours) and voice, has obvious implications for communication. The next step is social video, allowing those people in a virtual room to experience the same media and interact as they do so.
As the video below shows, there’s also the burgeoning 3D creation tool, Oculus Medium. With such progress being made, it’s hard not to sound as excited as those agency technologists.
Life-logging is already pretty big
The use cases are already manyfold and it’s here where wearable technology and the internet of things are blurred concepts. Logging information about yourself is a way of dramatically reducing the unknown, that brings with it the possibility of cheaper insurance, better security, a healthier body, an efficient lifestyle etc.
Of all wearable technology, the FitBit and others are the devices that have already achieved mainstream acceptance. FitBit has 20m registered users, though many of these are considered inactive as people lose interest in their devices.
While it’s true that smart watches may include the same functionality as an activity tracker, it’s the trackers’ focused utility that makes them attractive. For those wanting to achieve a fitness goal, a band is now a recognised accessory that’s even thought of by some as a solution.
There are hurdles, of course, such as battery life (charging something we’re encouraged to wear continuously is obviously a downside), durability, even fashion.