Wearables are not (yet) a thing

This article was first published by dmcityview.com

When a new computing platform emerges it seems the our initial reaction is that of a four year-old on Christmas morning. At the age of four kids have reached the cognitive capability to anticipate the importance of Christmas morning, but not really the ability discern between a truly stellar gift and underwhelming that’s been nicely wrapped. While not all new tech platforms underwhelm, the misses all seem to hit with a fervid marketing scheme followed by a tepid consumer response. Right now no sector of the tech consumer space is seeing the tide turn quicker than that of wearables.

Apple, Sony, FitBit, Google, Garmin, and hundreds more wearable manufacturers REALLY want you slap a tiny computer on your wrist or face. These little gadgets allow you to monitor your heartbeat, send and receive short messages, get directions, receive app notifications and other features that apparently aren’t convenient enough on our smartphones. Of course hightech bracelets and headsets are billed as the great emancipator of the mobile addicted, but considering most wearables must be sync-ed with said phones to unlock all features, they’re not so much an a replacement as an add on.

Still to truly understand the marketplace’s indifference to wearable tech, look no further than the most high profile gadget in the field. Last spring, the Apple Watch was released to a supposedly eager tech community. Every mainstream and tech obsessed news outlet covered the event as if every man, woman, and child were moments away from owning their luxury wrist computer. So with all that coverage, one year later Apple has never formally released the number of Watches sold. Market estimates have set the number of units sold between 5 and 7 million, but Apple has suspiciously neither confirmed nor denied that figure.

Even without a formal acknowledgement, inquiring minds need look no further to the Apple Watch’s sales struggles than last month’s Apple new product announcement. Every major Apple gadget got a tech refresh, minus the Watch, which only received a new line up of wristbands. Nothing screams corporate confidence like fancy new leather.

Of course just because consumers are less than fanatical over digital wristbands and glasses, that doesn’t mean the wearables don’t have a future. Healthcare looks to be ground zero for wearable interest. Beyond wristbands and headsets, doctors and researchers are looking for sensor technology that can read the human condition from every garment you can imagine. Whereas consumer tools mostly sense body temperature and pulse, healthcare innovations look to record and breakdown a patient’s condition from various bodily fluids, plus muscle, hair, and skin conditions.

While the medical community is practically frothing at the mouth to try on the latest in wearable tech, the entertainment community has recently dipped its toe into the waters as well. As odd as it may sound, last year’s man-verse-nature film The Revenant gauged audience reactions to the film with pulse pounding thrills with high tech wristbands recording their heart rates and breathing while watching the film. Apparently Revenant audiences held their breath, sat motionless, and saw their heart rates sky rocket for the entire two and hour film. While the film was hotly anticipated with its oscar winning filmmaking team and Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role, the studio’s expectations went over the moon thanks to wearable data.

So it seems if Apple can’t seem to make the wearable market take off, other industries are itching to do it themselves. Even if you may not choose be wearing a smart watch, ring, glasses, or glove any time soon, it looks like your doctor or employer might eventually force it.


Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb

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