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The good, the bad and the ugly of wearable tech

The good, the bad and the ugly of wearable tech
Holly looks at the wearable tech market and asks 'what's in it for women?'

 

I was fascinated to read that by 2016 experts predict that consumers will have bought 92.5 million wearable devices. Since I'm yet to jump on the weable tech band wagon, I decided to look at what's in it for me. 

There are already some big success stories out there for both men and women such as Fitbit, a smart wristband which helps you to monitor your exercise, sleep patterns, weight and food habits. Another heavy-hitter is Pebble, a smartwatch which connects to either your iOS or Android device and can notify you about important emails, text messages and phone calls (our Managing Director, Andrew, is already a big fan; read more about his Pebble here).

There are also some big (and slightly crazy) products still in development. One of the better-known is Google Glass, smart glasses which are fairly reminiscent of Star Trek's Geordi La Forge (see below)!

 Wearble Tech Google Glass

It does have other features though - Google Glass provides an augmented reality experience for the wearer, where information can be shown over your review of the real world. It could be used for looking up directions whilst you're on the move, or even for price comparisons whilst shopping. The glasses have also been trialled on Virgin Atlantic flights where flight attendants made use of the facial recognition features to give passengers a personal greeting, this could either be seen as great customer service, or a little creepy!

Which leads me on to the most ridiculous smart tech revelation so far: the Sony SmartWig. This is (as the name suggests) a wig-cum-computer, which can be used for directions, monitoring vital signs and alerting you to phone calls and text messages. Although the possibilities for this truly personal computer are almost endless, I'm sure I'm not the only one who would feel silly wearing a talking pink wig! 

 Wig

Although gadgets have traditionally been classed as "boys' toys", a study in the US revealed that women are more likely to invest in wearable tech than men. With this is mind, companies are starting to focus on making their technology not just functional but beautiful too.

There are a variety of gadgets already out there being marketed primarily at women in which designers are reaching beyond the traditional 'pink it and shrink it' approach that has been applied to most female tech in the past.

Take smart jewellery for example. A company called CSR has created a piece of Bluetooth® jewellery which lights up when the wearer receives a notification on their smartphone. The colour and brightness of the light can be customised and the pendant can even be programmed to spritz perfume at set intervals, the ultimate in geek chic!

 Bluetooth Jewllery

A similar device to the Bluetooth necklace is a smart bracelet called ‘MEMI’ which was developed by two working mums who were always missing important calls on their iPhones. The stylish bracelet can be programmed with different vibration alerts for phone calls, texts and calendar alerts from people on your VIP list. It’s currently only compatible with the iPhone and is due to launch summer 2014. It’s not cheap at $150, but it looks like a piece of wearable tech I would actually wear!

 memi

At the other end of the spectrum is the GPS jacket, something I'm yet to be convinced by. A company called Navigate has created this little number which has a GPS tracker and vibrating shoulder pads which will discretely guide you to your location. Although this pretty pink version is aimed at the ladies, don't worry gents, there is a men's version on the way!

Another piece of crazy technology that won't be on my wish list is the tweeting bra (yes, you did read that right!). First we had the tweeting shoe (don’t ask!) and now we have an ‘intelligent’ bra which sends a tweet every time it is unclasped. It has been launched as part of an advertising campaign by a Greek ad agency to help raise awareness of breast cancer. Greek celebrity, Maria Bakodimou, wore the bra for two weeks and every time she took it off a tweet was sent to remind women to self-examine their breasts and check for signs of cancer. Unusual? Yes, but at least it got the world talking about an important issue!

 Navigate

Finally, a piece of wearable technology which has really caught my eye; the charging handbag! I think it's fair to say that most women love a good handbag, and if it can charge my phone and look pretty then frankly I’m sold. A successful Kickstarter company called Everpurse are about to launch their 2014 range in a variety of colours, finishes and sizes (the 2013 range is unfortunately all sold out).

 Everpurse

The bags themselves are charged wirelessly on a charging pad and then phones and gadgets are plugged into the bag itself, which I've heard makes the Everpurse relatively light and compact. Prices start from $190 and it’s currently only compatible with iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5c, 5s and Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4. There doesn't seem to be anything like this on the market that's aimed at men - but let me know in the comments section below if you've come across anything.

It's good to see that companies are realising their wearable tech products need to be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional before people start to use them but I’m not yet, like many other people, convinced about the need for some of them. I don’t see the need for my jacket to tell me directions, or for my bra to tweet or my glasses to tell me where my friends are! I think once companies find a balance between creating a beautiful, intelligent gadget and solving a real problem, then wearable tech will become accessible to everyone, until then I’ll probably deny my inner geek for a bit longer and just stick to my smartphone!

 

 

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