More Than Just Watches: The Wearable Revolution Is Here

During Apple’s “Spring Forward” event early last month, Tim Cook announced that the long awaited smartwatch would be available for purchase on April 24th (preorders start on April 10th—that’s TOMORROW!). Naturally, this news sent the tech world and Apple enthusiasts into a frenzy.

I can’t tell you how many wearable tech articles I saw on social media that first week. Clearly,the Apple Watch is the biggest news in wearables since the rise and forthcoming rework of Google Glass, so high levels of anticipation are expected. The potential success of smartwatches has leading influencers in the industry calling them the future of technology.

Nevertheless, while watches are undeniably exciting, they aren’t the only wearable items on the horizon right now.

Activity Trackers

One if the major selling points of the Apple Watch, other than the ability to read texts and make calls (and, you know, check the time), is the product’s secondary function as an activity (fitness) tracker. These devices monitor wellness throughout the day by keeping track of important biological factors like heart rate, blood pressure, calorie consumption, sleep patterns, and movement frequency.

The data from most trackers can be synced to a computer, or come with their own smartphone app upon purchase. Health and wellness are essential to leading a long life, and fitness trackers provide raw, actionable data that promotes positive change. No matter your lifestyle, activity trackers are beneficial for everyone. Popular brands include Fitbit, Misfit, and Jawbone.

Smart Textiles

Yes; microchips in fabric are a thing, and they’ll probably soon be everywhere we look. Smart textiles are an emerging part of the clothing and fashion industries that are poised to revolutionize the future of apparel as we know it. According to Forbes columnist Rebecca Gaddis:

“Smart textiles are fabrics that have been developed with new technologies that provide added value to the wearer…they have the ability to do many things that traditional fabrics cannot, including communicate, transform, conduct energy, and even grow.”

There are two types of smart fabric: aesthetic and performance enhancing. Aesthetic, as the name suggests, is all about visual augmentation. Whether your shirt lights up or changes color, anything is possible with smart textiles. Conversely, performance-enhancing products have many more “hands on” applications. Laura Entis of Entrepreneur made the following observation at SXSW a few weeks ago:

“Weaving and embedding technology into fabric can expand possibilities and usefulness for wearers. Experts predict the new wearables will track and record health and fitness statistics, wash themselves via sunlight, provide haptic feedback such as directions, and even stabilize body temperature.”

At the rate technology is evolving, standalone fitness trackers will be nonexistent because they will be embedded into our clothes. Check out Grado Zero Espace and Sensoria Fitness for some amazing examples of how smart textiles are being used in everyday clothing.

Wearable Cameras

This particular product category might have made this list on a technicality, but it still counts. Mounted cameras like the ones offered by GoPro allow for a unique, first-person video recording experience. The company’s YouTube page is filled with footage from skydives, snowboarding sessions, and everything in between. Each camera is equipped with 4K video capability to ensure that no detail is spared. Regardless of brand, most mounted cameras include Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can upload all of your adventures to your social site of choice.

Smart Glasses

Of all the different types of wearable technology, smart glasses are perhaps the most mysterious. Ever since Google stopped production on Glass earlier this year, rival companies have yet to manufacture a stable model that is ready for public (personal) use. Furthermore, Google Glass has already  been banned in movie theaters across the country, citing piracy concerns. That being said, visual technology firm Vuzix seems to have worked ahead on a prototype intended for industrial use; you can even buy the M10 on Amazon, but the lack of credible reviews is worrisome.

As someone who does not currently wear glasses, the thought of strapping, well, anything to my face isn’t terribly appealing. The wrist seems to be where it’s at, at least for now, and until we perfect the sort of embedded personal assistants that we’ve seen prophesied about in science fiction novels for decades.

But a shirt that regulates its own temperature and feeds you data about how your body might be performing? That’s the future I’m waiting for.

Image Credit: Flickr (via Creative Commons License)

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