At a time when more and more people are trying to find ways to disconnect (temporarily, of course) from constant online activity, wearables pose the question of whether we may more or less exist in the future primarily in a virtual environment.
Fitness bands, activity trackers, and medical devices join all manner of headsets and smart glasses in exhibit spaces, but how many people are actually sporting them in Vegas? Wearables are still in the “intriguing idea” phase for many, more curiosity items rather than eagerly adopted new gizmos.
Nevertheless, they are generally acknowledged as the wave of the future, and tech companies are scurrying to produce the next big thing. Seemingly everyone is trying to occupy the market space that is projected to be worth $10 billion this year alone (including hearing aids and heart-rate monitors) with unlimited growth potential for the future (up to $30 billion in 2018, according to the research firm IHS). Pebble, Sony, Intel, Epson, and Garmin – and, of course, Samsung and Apple — are just a few of the early contenders in the wearable market.
Some companies, such as Intel, are beginning to partner up with fashion leaders like Barney’s, as they develop these gadgets and try to market them with mass-market desirability. It’s also announced a “make it wearable” contest, awarding $500,000 for the top wearable tech design. Monday at the CES, Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich said: “We are in the midst of a transformation from a world of screens and devices to a world of immersive experiences.”
Can wearables enhance our everyday experiences rather than distracting us from the moments that make up our lives? Sure, they have some advantages over how we tend to hunker down behind big screens, closed off from our environments, both physical and social. Wearables have many selling points, especially those that provide liberating features for people with disabilities and enable all people to learn and interact more seamlessly.
However, some of the potential boons can be re-scripted into scenarios reminiscent of 1984 and The Matrix, in which all our “immersive experiences” are monitored within clouds. Considering some of these alternative endings might be a good way to occupy the time before the right combination of chic and “essential” takes over our lives.