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Is Technology Ready-to-Wear?

Wearable technology is a hot topic these days and there are a growing number of companies paving the way for this new field. But in order for wearable technology products to become mainstream, there are two important factors to consider:

Is it wearable?

If we’re preparing to ask mainstream audiences to wear these new products, we have to remove the geek factor. If it’s not authentically you and if it’s not a normal expression of who you are, you won’t wear it. It needs to be a part of your image. Wearable technology can become wearable if it is:

  • Fashionable, comfortable to wear and allows you to express yourself
  • Discreet, hiding the technology so you don’t walk around with blocks of electronics on your body
  • Contextual to your lifestyle, your surroundings and your behavior, so the experience feels as simple as putting on a ring or a watch during your morning routine

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Does it add value to our lives?

If anyone attended CES this year, I’m sure you noticed the mountain of new wearable devices out there. But most were novelty products or gadgets that while inspiring curiosity, do not easily work with anything we already use. Wearable technology can become meaningful and add long-term value if it integrates with our environment, our lifestyle and the technology and tools that we already use. For that to happen we need to:

  • Design a seamless user experience that works across the device, software and services
  • Identify insights from multiple streams of data and present them in a meaningful way that the user can take action on
  • Understand what drives human behavior so we can predict how people will interact with devices and how we can motive people to make positive changes

This is at the core of Artefact, where our goal is to design experiences that improve lives. Take MEME, which makes photo capture and sharing more personal and integrated into your lifestyle, or SWYP, the concept that reinvented the printing experience. These experiences focused on reinvention not just to design a cool camera or printer, but to achieve a more positive outcome.

An industry in infancy

I just got back from the Wearable Technology Conference in San Francisco, which was a packed house with 21 speakers (including myself) presenting their ideas and new product developments with wearable technology. Overall, what I saw at the conference and what I’m seeing in the industry is that most wearable technology examples on the market today focus on only one of the two of these aspects. At the conference, we saw products such as SPORTiiis by 4iii Innovations, which is a heads-up display accessory and audio/visual coach for cyclists. The product is a good start, but still needs to consider fashionability both in the device styling and the software UI.

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Some companies are starting to consider both aspects such as Pebble, which is a smart watch that gives you a real-time window into activity from your phone. What’s a good indicator that these two aspects are working? How about over $10 million in Kickstarter funding and about 85k pre-orders? Overall, there is a lot of excitement and hopes that wearable technology is on the verge of becoming mainstream. What I saw was exciting, but just scratched the surface of the real promise and potential of it.

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Overall, wearable technology is still centered on the technology. At the conference, most of the talks were focused on innovations in technology such as bio-sensors (i.e., MC10, AiQ) and batteries (i.e., Imprint Energy). These are tremendous challenges to solve. But once they are, we will still need to apply them in ways that take that raw data and make it meaningful and actionable. Zeo Sleep Manager is taking the right steps in that direction – the company uses the catchy phrase: Device & Advice, which they define as taking data from the device, making sense of it and making recommendations for the user on what to do with it.

Wearable, not bearable technology

Wearable technology has come a long way since the early pioneering days of Steve Mann. The momentum we are experiencing now presents us with an opportunity to continue to envision, evolve, and commercialize more mainstream designs. We couldn’t be more excited to be collaborating with some of the biggest consumer brands to bring new wearable technology to consumers. In the end, it’s pretty simple, just ask yourself… would you wear it?