(Photo by Thomas Hawk. License.)
Lately we’ve heard a lot about wearable tech. It’s said to be an exciting new product category that involves smartwatches, Google Glass, and perhaps fitness trackers.
But how many of the people talking about this future of wearable gadgets are wearing wristwatches, glasses, or contact lenses? And how many of them are wearing clothes and shoes made from fabrics that didn’t exist a century ago?
Wearable tech isn’t the future, it’s the present. Just because we don’t always think of elastic underwear or an old-timey wind up watch as “tech” doesn’t mean they aren’t.
So what are we really talking about when we discuss this seemingly inevitable rise of gadgets we strap to ourselves?
Essentially, we’re lumping together products designed to put on our bodies that are futuristic in the sense that they’re not very good yet. They all suffer from one or more of the following flaws:
Is Google Glass really something you’d be able to wear all day? And aren’t your fingers too fat for a smartwatch touch screen?
- Doesn’t work well
Early digital watches required users to press a button to see the time. Existing analog watches didn’t have this problem. Most new products take years to get right.
- Not useful enough
Microsoft launched a smartwatch called SPOT nearly ten years ago. It wasn’t on the market for long. Why? Most people at that time were buying cell phones that offered more features. It’s one thing to have an extra gadget (or ten) around the house that you don’t use, but the bar for usefulness is much higher if you have to put it on when you get up in the morning.
- Looks silly
Would you wear a fake beard made out of colorful beads? While most people would have no problem wearing one on Halloween, on most days wearing something visible and unusual in public has a social stigma.
Point is, we need to stop talking about HUDs and newfangled computer watches as though they belong together. These are very different gadgets with discrete feature sets — and different problems to overcome.
Even as buzzwords go, wearable tech isn’t meaningful: it’s unnecessary, not descriptive, and even if it were it still wouldn’t be a product category in and of itself. It’s time to shut up about wearable tech and let this buzzword die.