On 25 December, in between turkey servings and glasses of mulled wine served with a backdrop of Slade, I unwrapped my new toy: a Garmin forerunner 210. Earlier this year, Samsung Electronics predicted that this Christmas the sales of wearable technologies in the UK were going to hit £104.7 million. For once, I was so on-trend.
When we talk about wearable technology, the images that spring to mind are those of tech geeks wondering around labs wearing complex headsets controlling their avatars with a blink of the eye or a toss of the head. But wearable tech is already very much ingrained in 'normal' life, most notably in the fitness industry. On the startline of the last race I did, my Casio stopwatch was almost certainly having an attack of the ‘I’m not good enoughs’. Everyone around me was tapping away on their Garmins or TomToms, aligning it with the stars or whatever it is that might allow them to shave a couple of seconds of the PB. With GPS watches getting cheaper they are no longer for early adopters or semi-professional Lycra-clad triathletes.
Fitness is certainly an area where the technology is booming with wearables jumping off the wrist and onto the torso with the likes of smartclothing. There are multiple workout tops out there that claim to be your personal fitness trainer. In the past, gym buffs and athletes would strap on a heart rate monitor, whereas now they can now slip on a top with built-in technology that tells them how fast they are going (or how slow) whether they are in their target zone, how much more they have to do that day, and whether they are being lazy. Although they are expensive initially – this is undoubtedly cheaper than shelling out on a personal trainer to tell you you’re fat instead.
In order for true love to blossom, the fashion industry will probably have to get on board. People do have to wear the stuff after all. Helping to make it sexier this year will be the likes of Ralph Lauren with the fashion designer’s launch of the Polo Tech Shirt, which made its debut at the US Open this year. It’ll tell you you’re great, while telling others you shop designer.
Does the technology only have a place among the fitness fanatics? Not necessarily. Enter Circret – perfect for those who need to access their emails in the bath. Jokes aside, it does look very cool. At the flick of your wrist a discreet wristband turns your forearm into a touchscreen. It hasn’t made it past proto-type stage yet and is asking for donations on it’s website in order to continue… but your dream of becoming Buzz Lightyear could be getting nearer.
If Google puts its name to anything it’s likely to cause a stir. Google Glass is another wearable that’s been in Beta for a while, but as it gets closer to launch more apps are being built. One such app is ‘Sentiment Analysis’ which allows the wearer to read the emotions on someone’s face – scary in front of your boss, perfect for un-sure first daters perhaps?
Fashion house CuteCircuit, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year, has been merging technology and fashion for a decade. The forward-thinking Shoreditch team are the ones behind the Twitter Dress, neatly allowing those inclined to wear the digital worlds.
But while all these seem very cool indeed, what will it take for wearable tech to actually become a stable love affair rather than a passing fancy? Apple of course. Apple did it for the tablet, it did it for MP3 player and now it will do it for the smartwatch. Many other devices are already out there – Samsung, LG, Sony and the Pebble watch, but when Apple announced theirs the world got excited.
The Apple Watch will allow you to send and receive texts, makes calls, and 'nudge' or 'sketch' something quickly to be sent to someone else's watch. And you can hook it up to all that fitness stuff too. But Samsung, LG et al... those products all do this too right? The thing that makes Apple stand out from the pack, yet again, is that the company realises that a watch is a statement piece of jewellery. People have to actually want to wear it. My Garmin is great, but it looks rather ugly on my wrist and I wouldn't fancy wearing it down the pub. The Apple Watch looks slick and comes in three designs that allow people to choose their primary function of the Watch. It doesn't have to be an alternative watch to the grown up one you wear for work, it can be that Watch. It is reported that the Apple Watch will be available in time for Valentine’s Day 2015 – and I bet it will start hearts afluttering for wearables.