Are you one of the millions of people who own a Fitbit? Or a Polar watch? Have you embraced wearable technology? I haven’t. I personally have yet to see why I truly need a FitBit or any other fitness tracker. Yes, they are pretty neat little guys, but do I need a FitBit to tell me that I have only taken 20 steps on a day spent binge watching The Walking Dead? Then again, for as little as $99, why not?
While many people buy wearables, the industry has yet to really define why people need them. The amount of people who now own these gadgets make it seem like wearable technology is fully adopted, but like any new technology, wearables are still finding their niche. Wearable technology is growing past its first marketable niche, and is ready to explode past the fitness realm. While the majority of us think of the colorful FitBit or high tech looking Garmins when we hear the word “wearable”, these are only the tip of the iceberg of the wearables market. Just doing a search for “wearable” under the technology category on Kickstarter.com returns 170 new, innovative inventions just waiting for adoption. The technology is here, but now the industry has to find real usability and show consumers their benefits.
Today, wearables are expanding past the crazy, conceptual, very expensive realm (think Google Glass), and becoming realistic, consumer-oriented, affordable, useful technology for more than just the fitness crowd. Even fitness wearables, so far, have been in a “data collection” phase. Now it’s time to do something with that data.
Here are some of my favorite wearables I’ve found so far, and ones that may really have a potential to turn into game-changers.
Pet GPS & Activity Trackers
If you are a pet owner, and you’ve been to a Petco or PetSmart lately, surely you’ve seen the growing selection of pet-GPS products like Tagg, Tractive, SportDOG, and even Garmin. These are neat, sure, and since it is illegal to implant a radio-emitting device into a living being (microchips do not emit anything, FYI), these are a great option to keep track of those particular pets that double as escape artists.
Photo Courtesy of: Voyce.com
However, what may really have a chance to change the pet owner/veterinarian industry is the Voyce collar. At first glance, this product appears to simply be some kind of pet activity tracker. However, it actually tracks respiratory rate, heart rate, rest, and activity levels. If you have an obese dog, yes, this product will definitely help you help your dog lose weight. What’s really neat about it though, is that this product is targeted at both consumers AND veterinarians. If a pet owner and a veterinarian collaborate with the usage of a wearable like this for their pet, they can watch trends and changes in resting heart and respiratory rates. Watching sudden increases or decreases in these rates can help your veterinarian identify congenital problems, conditions like congestive heart failure, and other sudden onset problems that our pets can’t tell us they’re feeling themselves.
Widespread adoption of a product like this may not only help the quality of life for animals, but also increase the time we get to keep our furry friends in our own lives. It also allows veterinarians to update medical records via an online Voyce account, so if you were to ever move or change doctors, your next veterinarian could easily access your pet’s medical care history (something the veterinary world is currently lacking). While the Voyce collar could never replace routine veterinary care, for only $199, it is an affordable way to help give your pets the best life possible. And who's to say this shouldn't be the next step for human activity trackers, too?
While fitness wearables are arguably the most popular type of wearable right now, fitness doesn’t always just mean physical activity and exercise. The Spire and Lumo wearables help you “get fit” in ways you may not think about. These two products are taking that basic fitness tracking we’ve seen so far to the next level by telling you how you’re feeling. Think of these as high-tech mood rings.
Photo Courtesy of: Spire.com
Spire helps you monitor anxiety levels. It clips to your belt and by tracking your breathing patterns, claims to help the fitness of your mind. Spire notices when your breathing changes, and sends you a notification to take a moment to breathe. The company website touts that just by tracking your breathing using its product, Spire can help you reduce stress by 50%. Less stress for only $149… that’s definitely cheaper than a therapist! Although, does anyone else think worrying about your breathing sounds stressful?
Photo Courtesy of: Luomo Bodytech
The Lumo Lift wearable claims to help your physical fitness, appearance, and confidence in a new way by reminding you to correct your posture. It clips on to your clothes and when it notices that you’re slouching or closing off your body, it gently vibrates to notify you to sit up. This $79 wearable is naturally based on the science of power-posing, and is arguably less annoying than your mom constantly reminding you to sit up straight.
Gaming on the Go
On a different note, the Gameband allows gamers to take their Minecraft game with them wherever they go. So far, Gameband has only developed a wearable for avid Minecraft fans who want to be able to play, save, and upload their Minecraft games on any computer or to cloud servers. There are more and more gaming-centric wearables coming out that claim to make gaming more like those virtual reality visors seen in 80's movies, but the Gameband is, as far as I can tell, the only wearable that is specific to a single game.
Photo Courtesy of: Gameband.com
The gaming industry isn’t going anywhere, and making your games accessible to play from anywhere, at any time, is a realistic application for serious gamers and a cutting-edge way to keep PC-based games relevant in a world of smartphones. If $79 can buy you piece of mind that your Minecraft world is still plugging away, then the Gameband is definitely a good investment.
The Future of Wearables
The wearables listed above are things you can buy today. In a year, who knows what will be available, for example, those 170 Kickstarter projects might get their funding tomorrow. There are some pretty neat conceptual and in-development products like the Google and Levi partnership that is introducing “conductive yarn,” showing us that wearable tech is right on the precipice of innovation. The industry is quickly approaching a point where consumers are going to see some real innovative technology that is truly going to shape our future. And in case anyone was wondering, yes, I do own a FitBit.