Jessica Furseth looks at the forecast for when wearable tech will hit the mainstream…
Unable to see any colour at all, Spanish artist Neil Harbisson came up with an innovative way to experience the sense that he lacked: he implanted a sensory chip in his skull. He then attached the chip to a flexible camera antenna, which translated the various colours into different sounds. Harbisson became the first person in the world to do this and in 2013 he had the antenna attached directly to the skull bone, enabling him to “hear” colours by way of bone conduction.
Harbisson’s device, which runs in an arch from the back of his head his forehead, has been called an “eyeborg”. And it has bluetooth too, so it can receive phonecalls. “I do not feel that I am wearing technology, but that I am technology,” Harbisson said in an interview with ‘The Globe and Mail’. He went on to explain how, if someone touched his antenna, he felt it as if someone touched his arm.
Harbisson’s antenna may possibly be a glimpse into the distant future of wearable technology, but today most people are more likely to go for a device you can take off before going in the shower. Google Glass is the best known example, but it has got off to a rocky start; users are often described as “glassholes”, with numerous reports of personal attacks linked to the use of Glass. Seventy two percent of respondents in a survey by Toluna, a market research company, said they wouldn’t buy Google Glass because of privacy concerns. Aware of the issues, Google wrote a blog post of dos-and-don’ts for “Glass Explorers” which didn’t exactly make Glass sound like fun: “Standing alone in the corner of a room staring at people while recording them through Glass is not going to win you any friends. […] Respect others’ privacy and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy.”
While it seems fair to say that Google Glass has an image problem, the trend of wearable technology is real. It may even become an asset to us once the initial wrinkles are ironed out. Early adopters are already all over Fitbit and Nike Fuel, the wrist bands that track calorie intake, sleep and other health-related features. The Samsung Galaxy Gear is among a number of smart watches on the market, which in addition to telling time, will provide many of the same functions as a smartphone.
“I’ve never seen people more excited about the promise of the technology. They’re even more excited than they were about the iPhone App Store. It’ll only be 12 to 18 months before we begin to see massive adoption [of wearable technology],” Redg Snodgrass, co-founder of technology accelerator Wearable World, told the Content Marketing Institute.
While commentators readily acknowledge the privacy concerns, there also seems to be a consensus that the trend is real: we will accept wearable technology once we get used to the idea. After all, people fretted over the video player, webcams, and online payments, before soon enough we realised we couldn’t live without them. If industry intimations are correct, 2015 should be the year when the trend really takes off. Never mind a chicken in every pot, we’re talking a smart watch on every wrist.
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