This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas was the equivalent in size to 50 American football pitches so walking the expansive halls took both endurance and shoe leather.
More than once, I overheard people say that they wish they had a pedometer so that they could see just how far they’ve walked. The reason that more people aren’t strapping fitness wearables to their wrists, despite their mass availability and low price points is, I believe, two-fold.
Firstly, “wrist real-estate” is now a thing (really!) and with greater choice, people have become more selective. And secondly, too many wearables are designed to just spew out basic data on movement or heart-rate. What we then do with that data is up to us and do you know what? Most of the time we don’t bother doing anything with it.
To try and stop the rot of discarded Fitbits, the San Francisco company is moving into fitness-focused smartwatches, having launched the Blaze at CES.
The reaction to this Apple Watch wannabe still hasn’t been great though and Fitbit’s stock took a nosedive after the announcement, with investors complaining about the chunky size of a watch you’re supposed to wear out running or to the gym.
Basically, a wearable’s success potential has to factor in how it responds to our emotional needs. It has to give value and meaning; otherwise, we just won’t wear it.
So while the CES crowds queued for a glimpse of the Blaze, I headed off in search of five wearables that could actually be more useful. Here’s what I found.
The iLi translator pendant
It’s the stuff of “Doctor Who” and “Star Trek” and what CES should be all about, inventive futuristic gadgets that could add meaning to our everyday lives.
The iLi translator from Japanese startup Lobar, is a pendant you wear around your neck that automatically translates between Japanese, Chinese, and English. Yes, it’s basically a Star Trek communicator that looks like an iPod shuffle but it just may pave the way to conquering one of the final technology frontiers — mobile translation.
My UV Patch
Wearables need to get smaller, not bigger. MC10 Chairman Carmichael Roberts tells me they should almost be invisible and certainly non-intrusive, especially where constant wear is required.
That’s why he was at CES showcasing “My UV Patch,” a smart sensor electronic tattoo, created in partnership with L'Oréal.
My UV Patch is designed to let people know how badly their skin is being damaged by the sun. It’s a stretchable, ultra-thin sticker that’s loaded with a series of dyes that change colour depending on how long it’s exposed to light. Users can then take a picture of the patch with their smartphone, with a companion app calculating how much damage they've silently endured. In addition, the app will offer suggestions on how to be more “skin safe.”
Wearables certainly have an important role to play and, therefore, a brighter future in the baby care and healthcare sectors.
Temp Traq looks like a plaster (sorry, America, but Band-Aid sounds like a concert fundraiser), and works as a continuously monitoring intelligent thermometer for your sick child.
Once placed under the arm, Temp Traq uses bluetooth technology to send readings to any nearby smartphone without the need to wake your baby or child up to stick a thermometer in their mouth.
This mindfulness and meditation band wraps around your ears, temple and forehead and reads your brainwaves in order to facilitate better meditative practices.
It looks no more ridiculous than an Alice band, which is often a problem with headwear, and while you meditate using the app, the headband uses brain-sensing technology to measure whether your mind is calm or active, and translates those signals into guiding sounds.
When you’re calm, you hear peaceful weather sounds. When the mind wanders, the weather intensifies and guides you back to a calm state. Of course, there’s goal-setting data from the app as well but after a 10-minute meditation with Muse, I was too blissed out to care about that.
I really like the simplicity and analogue nature of this wearable. It’s Kickstarted-funded technology that works with your body’s natural response to rhythm to change how you feel, and that appeals to my hippy side.
Basically, you feel Doppel’s heartbeat on the inside of your wrist. Like listening to music, a fast rhythm helps you to feel more alert, a slower rhythm is calming.
It’s just a shame it has to come in the form of a wrist-strap. If this technology could be incorporated into ear-studs or headphones for the pulse behind your ear, I think it would have greater, longer lasting appeal.