Wearing Wearables – Thoughts on the Current State of Wearable Tech

2013-08-22 15.27.20 HDR I’ve been playing with a bunch of wearable tech lately. I find it all fascinating and really fun as a window into the future. The picture in this post shows the four wearable devices that I play with the most – Google Glass, FitBit (I am an investor), Jawbone Up, and the Pebble smartwatch. Wearable technology is one area where I feel like you really need to literally wear and use the products to get an informed picture on where things stand. Having played with a bunch of wearable tech lately, I wanted to write down some of my thoughts on the current state of affairs in wearables.

Can Be Worn vs. Want to Wear

I think we are very much in the first inning of designing wearable technology that is literally wearable (as in you can wear it) as opposed to wearable technology that you want to wear. It still feels to me like we are very much in the phase of the market where proving that things can be done is outpacing the fashion and design sensibility around building and shipping wearables that look and feel like fashion pieces.

Wearable Need Not Mean Visible

A lot of the early wearable technology that I’ve played with is very visible. You wear it on your face or on your wrist and others are aware that you’re wearing it. But I don’t think that every interesting application of wearable technology requires that the technology be visible. One other way to solve the first generation design challenges is to focus on making wearables less visible as opposed to more visible and obvious.

Too Many Things to Charge Too Often

As is the case with almost all of the electronic devices I own, one of the thing that plagues a lot of wearable devices is power consumption. Between my smartphone, tablet, and laptop, I already have plenty of things to charge. Adding in a few additional wearable technology items means that I have yet another set of devices to charge. What would really be a leap forward would be a generation of wearables where I could go weeks (as opposed to days) in between charges.

Smartphones Continue to Do the Heavy Lifting for Wearables

As much as I like the fact that I can wear a lot of wearable technology, many of the devices are limited in terms of what they can do. They don’t have native network connections. They rely on Bluetooth or something else to communicate with another device that has more processing power, memory, or storage. The current generation of devices is designed to work in concert with smartphones – many of them are not nearly as useful without a smartphone in the mix for data connection or processing as they would be without one. So it’s hard to think of most of today’s wearables as standalone devices as many function more as complements or extensions of the mobile phone.

There is Tremendous Work to Be done in Developing UI and UX Conventions for Wearables

We are in the very early days of exploring what it’s like to have a computer on your face or on your wrist. It has taken us awhile to learn what it’s like to have a computer with a data connection, GPS, and sensors in your pocket and I’d argue we still have a pretty primitive understanding of what that combination of features will unlock. We are way earlier in the game in terms of learning the same about life with wearables.

If you own, like, develop, or use wearable technology, I’m curious to hear about your perspectives. Feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message on Twitter @chudson.

  • This was helpful to me. I haven’t gotten into this yet, but am aware. I bought a fitbit for me and my wife. I don’t know where they are now. I’d get the nike or up but I didn’t have confidence that it would really track what I was doing. Not really sure it’s for me, though I do need to get back into shape and I wonder how I’d respond if/when I get my act together. (By the way, someone today told me about “implantables” — never occurred to me but I’m no longer shocked by much.)

  • Implantables are kind of scary – I’m not ready for all of that. I think you’d have a lot to say if you got a wearble or two.