What you need to know about wearable Tech

Like to think of yourself as a bit ‘trendy’? Love your gadgets? Well, if you’re a true technophile then you’ll already be well into wearables, and are probably reading this via your Google Glass, or have at least invested in a Galaxy Gear by now. However, if you’re still wondering how to jump on the wearables bandwagon and what you need to get going, here’s a rough guide to the different types of tech available, and what to keep your eye on in the future.

AI – the big seller

Top of the ‘wow, that’s so Sci-Fi!’ pile has to be Google Glass. Not only is this the ultimate in current on-trend wearables, but it also introduces a new level of cool into the equation – Augmented Reality. Google Glass is a stylish (okay, perhaps stylish is pushing it a bit, but it’s not bug-ugly at least) pair of glasses with a heads up display that connects wirelessly to the Internet and can download information quite literally in front of your eye. Google Glass lets you make a call, record video, send emails, search the web, take pictures, watch YouTube, get directions – all via a pair of glasses.

The AI bit comes in when you’re walking around outside – want to know about that statue in the park? Simply look at it and using the right software Google Glass will tell you everything you need to know about it. It may sound like a small step, but in reality this is the first time we’ve truly interacted three key elements of our new-age world: our surroundings, our technology and, not least of all, ourselves. That’s pretty groundbreaking stuff, and a lot of other developers are scrambling to play catch up with Google.


Phones have had the monopoly on the term ‘smart’ up until now. Next on our list of current favourites are smartwatches – like smartphones but this time you actually wear them on your wrist. Yes, it does tell you the time, but it also allows you to download emails, browse the web, take calls; in fact just about everything that a smartphone does.

However, smartwatches suffer from a couple of problems. Firstly, they’re not exactly ‘aesthetically pleasing’ especially for the slimmer wrists of female tech lovers, which is effectively alienating half the potential market. And secondly, the public has yet to be convinced that they offer a viable alternative to our beloved smartphones.

But with ongoing developments in flexible screen technology in particular, the first problem – the aesthetics – could easily be rectified with the next couple of generational jumps. If smartphone manufacturers adopt the flexible screen technology developed by R&D specialists such as Plastic Logic, then smartwatches and indeed all types of wearables could undergo a revolution in design. The second problem is really down to the marketing experts to shift public opinion to become more positive towards smartwatches.

More technical uses

Leaving aside the ‘fashion’ element of wearables for a moment, where most of us will encounter this technology at one point or another is via the healthcare industry. Wearables have been used in this field for years, and their importance in monitoring patients’ wellbeing without taking up valuable resources such as beds is well known. As we move more towards preventative care rather than reactionary treatment, wearables will play an increasingly important role in the health and wellbeing of us all in the future.

Past, present and future

In the past, the early wearables have been consigned to highly specialised areas such as medicine and the military. However, as we’ve become better at developing responsive and organic electronics, our options have grown considerably. The consumer base has become far more technologically aware in the past 20 years, creating a marketplace that’s hungry for new developments, and in particular wearables. In the future, wearables will be commonplace and part of our everyday lives, whether we use them to monitor our sporting performance (such as Nike’s Fuel Bands), wear a Galaxy Gear on our wrist or wander around trying not to bump into things as we get distracted by our Google Glasses (it’s strongly recommended that you DON’T drive whilst wearing Google Glass, by the way!).

Perhaps the last word should go to Indro Mukerjee, CEO of R&D experts Plastic Logic – a company that has been at the leading edge of wearables for some time: “Flexible electronics is a reality, already proven through the development and manufacture of plastic, bendable displays and sensors. For the first time a fully organic, plastic, flexible AMOLED demonstration has been achieved with a real industrial fabrication process. This marks the start of a revolution in wearable products, the next frontier in consumer electronics – 2014 will be the year that wearable technology starts to go mainstream.”

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