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The Current and Future State of Wearables: Trends, Attitudes and Total Domination
Wearable Tech World Feature Article
February 16, 2016
The Current and Future State of Wearables: Trends, Attitudes and Total Domination
By Lindsey Patterson
Contributing Writer

Today, wearable devices are a technology that is experiencing an awkward infancy. With the disappointing reviews and tepid sales of major products like Google (News - Alert) Glass and the Apple Watch, many consumers seem to have concluded that wearable devices are no more than a fad.

The rapid growth of digital devices promises far more powerful and cost-effective wearable technology in the days to come. The potential convenience, greater range of features and new innovations like augmented reality seem to hint at a brighter future for wearable devices may be just around the corner. 

Current Trends in Wearable Technology

Currently, wearable devices represent a 700 million dollar industry. While sports and activity trackers continue to be the most popular items, higher-end devices that are able to support a wider range of features continue to creep into the market. Today's wearables face a number of unique challenges that limit their usefulness. Current devices often need to pair with a smartphone or tablet in order for users to access their functionality. 

Wearables also suffer from a problem of perception with many consumers at a loss as to what benefits and potential applications these devices may provide. Lack of function, high purchase costs and, perhaps most importantly, the unfashionable nature of current wearables all remain barriers to adoption. While the demand for wearables in today market is limited, market forecasts predict rapid and robust growth. 

The Smartwatch 

The smartwatch is poised to experience an explosion in popularity in the near future. While current devices are able to offer some limited advantages over smartphones, they still lack the functionality needed to capture the attention of many users. Many consumers are unwilling to purchase expensive items that are unable to operate effectively as a stand-alone device. A range of applications that may become available in the coming months and years have the potential to make smartwatches a must-have item. Anticipated new features include:

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  • Advanced heath monitoring and tracking
  • Superior quality still images and video capture
  • Single-touch interface
  • True voice control and enhanced audio feedback

Currently, only high-end smartwatches are able to stand out and differentiate themselves from simple fitness trackers. Greater functionality, simplified interfaces and an expanded range of potential features and applications all mean that the next-generation of smartwatches may herald the true arrival of the wearable era. 

Smartglasses and Visual-Based Wearables 

Smartglasses continue to lag behind watches and other wearable due to the greater number of obstacles that developers need to overcome. Smartglasses are no doubt a few years behind watches, but these devices have enormous potential to provide consumers with access to a host of new features and innovations. While Google Glass was little more than a testing platform, other devices like Oculus Rift and even DIY cardboard headsets that allow smartphones to be used for VR and AR applications offer an important glimpse into the future of wearables. 

Current issues and obstacles that must be overcome in order for smartglasses to be worth the cost of purchase include: 

  • Total purchase costs
  • Limited battery life
  • Bulky hardware

Smartglasses have a great deal to offer. Users who are able to access visual information without interrupting another task can enjoy enhanced effectiveness in a seemingly endless range of situations and circumstances. From insurance adjusters who are able to access details regarding different types of life insurance in the field to a visual overlay for Hadoop reporting and other detail-rich sources of information, smartglasses have the potential to change how professionals do business. 

Future Trends in Wearable Technology 

Even years after they first hit the market, mobile phones remaining little more than an expensive novelty. The growing number of major manufacturers and tech-industry leaders who are developing new wearable devices suggest that a wearable tech boom is not far off. The growing sophistication and falling costs of today's devices has seen wearables move out of the fitness and medical industry and into more mainstream markets. Obstacles to wider adoption, such as limited usefulness and lack of a killer-app ecosystem, may be surmounted much sooner than many consumers might imagine. 

Long-term tech trends are often difficult to predict with any degree of accuracy. With smaller and more powerful devices being made available for lower and lower costs, smartwatches and smartglasses may be just the beginning. New innovation may create a host of new wearable devices with smartjewelery and smartclothing signaling the total domination of wearable technology.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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