The next big thing is right under your nose…or rather, sitting right on top of it.
Everyone expected big things from this year’s Google I/O conference. The world was waiting for the announcement of a new tablet, the debut of the newest Nexus phone and a wide variety of other surprises; everything from the highly anticipated Chrome for iOS to the baffling Nexus Q. What no one expected was Sergey Brin and friends pulling off a Google Glass demo that looked more like an episode of Nitro Circus. Not only did the wing suits and BMX bikes establish the high-tech glasses as more than a sci-fi fan’s dream, they also ushered in the next generation of consumer electronics. The trend of wearable technology has been making a small push for a while now, and we can expect to see some new features added to familiar accessories sooner, rather than later.
Project Glass is no doubt on the right track to corner the market on smart glasses. With known components including a camera, compass, gyroscope, speaker and microphone these spectacles will be able to help you do anything from navigate the city to browse the internet all without ever leaving your face. There are also many more impressive and practical possibilities for the glasses. Facial recognition may allow them to become law enforcement’s best friend by immediately assessing the background of anyone in a particular area. Travelers may be able to rely on them for instant feedback on their surroundings and then easily find exciting places with something like spontaneous Yelp reviews. It may also be possible to have the microphone and speaker work together to pull off something as incredible as real time language translation. The possibilities are endless.
However, Google’s glasses are not the only gig in town. Olympus has been toying with wearable computers for several years. Recently, they announced their newest prototype, the MEG4.0. It pales in comparison to Google’s offering at the moment and seems to lack direction; however, with as much experience as Olympus has, something useful will likely come out of it. Other companies are also entering the space. Apple has been observed obtaining a patent for a head mounted display. Although, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing the “eyePhone” any time soon, based on the company’s history of making a calculated entrance much later than its competitors.
2012 has been an explosive year for smart watches. There are plenty of them out there, most notably the Pebble which raised over ten million dollars on Kickstarter. Moving from the pocket to the wrist seems like a natural progression. Watches that connect to smartphones allow a user to stay informed about their device and curate what actions it performs. They do this all while being seamlessly integrated into normal behavior. Instead of interrupting a meeting or conversation, a smart watch lets you discreetly see who is contacting you so that you can decide how to handle the situation. They also are great at including the little features that make a big difference, for example, being able to skip tracks on a play list on the fly while going for a bike ride. Outside of the less than well received Sony Smart Watch, no major players have a real presence on the wrist (unless you count the numerous watch mounts for the iPod Nano). There is still plenty of room for more devices.
Along with Glasses and watches there are other forms of wearable computing on their way down the pipeline. Their applications range everywhere from medical to gaming to energy generation. The world will soon be flooded with biometric tracking t-shirts, bionic contact lenses, self-cleaning fabrics, vibrating notification tattoos, and even power generating shoes to charge everything.
What wearable technology do you think will stick? Let us know in the comments!