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Wearable Tech: Style Meets Substance

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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Ray-Bans with built-in google Glass? It’s just the latest sign that wearable technology is hitting the big time, Michael Moore

Today’s announcement that Luxottica will equip Ray-Bans and Oakleys with Google Glass, is the surest sign yet that wearable technology has arrived. From Google Glass to Apple’s rumoured iWatch, companies are jumping on the bandwagon as consumers embrace the chance to become further connected to the world around them.

Wearables are the next logical step along from smartphones, as what seemed like science fiction comes closer to the mass market. You can already check emails, send texts, and sync your media library using a range of smartwatches, and Google Glass continues to make headlines thanks to its innovative design (along with a range of legal issues).

Group_Galaxy Gear 2Life on your wrist

With its technological roots back in the pager era of the early 1990’s, the industry has been spurred on largely by sports companies, who look to provide runners, walkers and cyclists with statistics on their speed, distance, and amount of calories burnt. This has led to a wide variety of companies looking to offer unique and niche services, with brands such as Jawbone and Fitbit competing with the likes of Adidas and Nike.

As far as smartphone manufacturers are concerned, Samsung and Sony currently lead the way, with the former’s Galaxy Gear (pictured left) now in its second generation, and the company heavily pushing bundle deals with its Note phablet at many high street stores. Other companies are also preparing releases, with HTC in particular looking to the wearables market to revive its fortunes, with a wearable band device set to be available before Christmas.

Last week, Google announced its entry into the market, releasing Android Wear,  a tweaked version of the OS for wearable devices. Android Wear will soon be seen in a range of new smartwatches, including the stylish Moto 360 from Motorola, also announced last week. Looks could prove to be a major factor in attracting new customers, with the Moto 360’s round face and colourful display helping it stand out from the bulky-looking square devices currently dominating the market.

But the major question remains when Apple will announce its entry into the wearables market. An ‘iWatch’, which would doubtlessly also offer a polished design, would open up the market to legions of Apple fans, with the iOS software offering app developers a potentially huge set of tools with which to create new and innovative services.

google glass cinema large wearableTalk that talk

Last week, I attended the Wearable Technology Show in London, the first such conference of its kind in the UK, and a sign of how far the wearables industry has come in so short a time.  During the show’s opening keynote, Intel futurist Steve Brown told a packed auditorium that the physical and digital worlds are becoming ever closer, as people use technology to “help them be their best selves”.

Highlighting how the ability to make computers smaller and smaller has opened up the possibilities for the wearable technology space, Intel believes that humans now also need to come up with a new way to ‘talk’ to computers. These are devices which are going to be attached to our bodies, ensuring that we remain healthy and active, so the need to become closely linked is paramount.

Medieval Armour wearable history © Sibrikov Valery ShutterstockThere was a multitude of companies at the show, from big businesses such as Intel and GoPro to small start-ups looking for their big break. In just one hall you could experience virtual reality helmets, a Wi-Fi connected weighing scale, smart clothing, and a wearable monitor which alerts users when they have been out in the sun too long. The sheer range of uses being developed shows what a vibrant and dynamic industry wearables is, and this will only continue to develop as the technology behind it evolves further.

In his speech, Brown also provided a brief overview of how wearables had evolved over the centuries, starting with tattoos and personalised armour in medieval times, before moving to eyeglasses during the Renaissance, and finally the prominence of wristwatches in the mid-18th century. When put like that, it’s clear that humans have always looked to technology, however primitive, to further ourselves, and wearable devices that may even give us extra-sensory powers are really just the next logical progression.

Interested in finding out more on wearables? Try our quiz!