Smart watches, Google’s Glass and health and fitness devices are getting increasing attention in the media. But is there really any need for them?

So we have six months until 2015, the year where hover boards become a reality, as predicted by Back to the Future II. Okay, so we probably won’t be leaving the car behind and flying to work on our very own levitating device any time soon. However, that’s not to say that the technological market isn’t advancing at a very swift pace. In the past two years alone there’s been huge growth. Voice recognition has come on leaps and bounds thanks to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect, 3D printers breached mainstream level (we even have one in the office) and the reality of drone technologies went public. Wearable technology in particular is becoming all the rage in consumer electronics, but will the humble digital camera and smart phone need to step aside and make way for their new and exciting counterparts?

If I’m honest, I was never really one to immerse myself in the world of technology. Although at 7 years old I did think myself a technical genius when I decided to sport a Tamagotchi on my floral dungarees. Since becoming a fully fledged adult (realised by the purchase of my very own cutlery set), I have found myself relying on technology more and more. My career has led me into the digital world and I’ve become particularly aware of the wearable technology trend as the hype grows.

The release of Google Glass to the UK market sparked quite a discussion amongst the folks here at CookiesHQ. You can now see and interact with information in a hands-free format for a mere £1000 (I’ll have one in every colour please!) But with the hefty price tags, are these gadgets a good investment, or are they nothing more than a gimmick?

Wearable devices are designed to offer more interactivity than laptops, smartphones or tablets and are supposed to be seamlessly integrated into everyday life.
Current applications are largely limited to smartwatches, sports and lifestyle tools (e.g. exercise, sleep and nutritional monitoring). The early growth in wearables has primarily come from these products because they do something unique that smartphones can’t. These devices are better at tracking activity levels and have much longer battery lives. Consumers see the added benefit from fitness & health wearables and as a result, they’ve opened up their wallets in excitement. But whether other types will receive just as much interest is yet to be seen.

Will the time ever come when phones and tablets are a thing of the past? As the world develops to be further connected through the internet, people want ever quicker applications and even easier access to data. Convenience is the key. Take Google Glass for example. If everything goes to plan, users will soon have no need for their standard smartphone. It can easily respond to verbal commands and future talks include adding a laser-projected virtual keyboard. And with the ability to access countless sources of information in seconds and display them in the user’s field of view, Google Glass makes 4G internet connectivity features seem ancient. Doctors are even wearing them during surgery so patient vitals are always in their view.

The Pebble smartwatch tries to add more convenience to your life by serving as an assistant, calendar and phone all at once. The main attraction is being able to see notifications without having to fumble around for your phone. However, currently there is no functionality to reply to texts, emails or take a phone call. To do those things you would need your smartphone anyway, so what is the point of having one, aside from serving as a reminder to check your phone? While smartwatches do offer some cool features in the form of health and fitness monitoring, you can find those kind of wearables much cheaper and better looking elsewhere (e.g. Nike FuelBand). Smartwatches are needed to seriously up their game if they want to compete with our cherished smartphones.

Will everyone be wearing these devices soon? Probably not. In fact, many places will likely ban them. Google Glass might give students access to exam answers and allow business meeting attendees to record sensitive information. UK cinemas have already banned the headsets over fears that the gadgets can be used to make pirate copies of Hollywood blockbusters. This comes just a week after their release in the UK!

There are also plenty of hurdles faced and obstacles to overcome. There is a natural worry over privacy and security. Devices logging information about individuals such as location and experiences which may even include their field of vision, could be an attractive target to hackers. Battery life, durability and robustness are also other important things to consider.

No doubt spurred by the stuff sci-fi dreams are made of, brands, journalists and entrepreneurs alike are eager to see what the future of wearables will look like. According to industry experts, the wearable technology market is set to expand rapidly in the next several years, with worldwide spending expected to hit $1.4 billion this year.
Amid the weird, will emerge the wonderful. The invention of The Vaginal fitness tracker might be taking things a bit too far though.

Photo by Simon Doggett on Flickr