When you think of the wild, wild west, the first thing that may come to your mind is Clint Eastwood or John Wayne. But the concept of roaming free with just your wits to depend on for success isn't just limited to the wide open ranges of the Old West, but has expanded to the technology space.
The rate at which social media platforms and immense technological innovations have occurred has exponentially increased in just the last few years. One of the emerging categories today that is seeing the biggest boom is wearable technology, as new ideas and concepts appear on the scene almost daily.
If you were to survey the room at the next tech conference you attend, I bet you’d find 15 to 20 percent of those folks wearing a Jawbone, FitBit, Pebble Smartwatch or some other wearable “smart” device. The most popular wearable technology we’ve seen to date surrounds health and fitness. From working out and being healthier, to helping blind people see and physically challenged walk again as well as monitoring concussions in sports, wearable technology and the use cases for it have started to emerge.
Recently, I attended the MIT Disrupting Life conference where wearable technology was a panel discussion in itself. One theme that was echoed was the fact that our “sixth” sense is digital, so how we explore the world through technology almost defines us and enables us to live a certain life.
That digital sixth sense should be credited to science fiction according to Neurosky CEO Stanley Yang.
“When I was a kid, I used to watch Star Wars and think, ‘Wow, this is really incredible...I wish this technology existed.’ So, I wanted to create something that was like ‘the force’ in the movie and joined Neurosky to work on making things that used mental power and were brain-controlled,” Yang said. “Science fiction gives technology inventors inspiration because the things we see on the screen usually don’t exist yet, but we can see the use cases and other possibilities that otherwise wouldn’t have been uncovered.”
Because of the unbounded creativity that comes with a groundbreaking industry like wearable technology, the Clint Eastwoods and John Waynes of the world have emerged and yes, wearable technology has turned into the wild, wild, west.
“Wearable tech is the wild, wild, west like it was making the PC in the 80s,” said Carlos Rodarte who works at PatientsLikeMe. “You’re seeing a new gadget or cool piece of technology come out what seems to be every month. At CES recently, wearable tech stole the show because of the fact that it’s still something so new and exciting to everyone. But 90 to 95 percent of products today won’t be around in three to five years, kind of like how the iPhone is really the only smartphone that has stood the test of time.”
As a result, competition is at an all-time high. The battle for patents is something we’re seeing appear in the news every week and even the wacky wearable tech possibilities are being dreamt up like the SmartWig, patented by Sony. Whether its a wig, something worn on your wrist or even something integrated with your clothing, fashion is going to play a key role in the success of wearable technology.
“The two main types of people that are buying wearable tech are early adopters and people between the ages of 18 to 30.” Yang said. “What does this mean? It means that gadgets and smart technologies need to be an accessory and not every person wants to look as geeky as I do by wearing one of those things that just look clumsy. I can handle looking like a dork, but not everyone else wants to.”
And we’re seeing this concept evolve today, especially with partnerships like Tory Burch and FitBit. Wearable tech needs to be fashionable, easy to use and seamless for the user, whether it be an accessory, a sensor or a gadget integrated with your clothing. Wearables are going to solve real problems, like the use cases for Google Glass emerging right now. We’re seeing Glass in healthcare and medicine but also firefighting and law enforcement. The more creativity that wearable technology enables, the more hype that comes of it.
So what will the future of wearable technology be? Could it potentially change your life or someone you know? Well, it’s something that is still being explored with pioneers like Google Glass and Pebble. But Apple and Samsung haven’s joined this Wild West show yet, so that’s when we’ll see where this new industry will head.