Part Two //  Wearables: So Much Hype, So Much Meh, So Much Matters

Part Two // Wearables: So Much Hype, So Much Meh, So Much Matters

This is part 2 of 4 in a series about wearable tech, written by our founder and wearables expert Liza Kindred, and was originally published in The Internet of Things Quarterly (get your copy here.) 

In our last post, we looked at the hype around wearables, and in this post, we’ll look the “meh”.

The Meh

First and foremost, most wearables to date are bulky and ugly and ironically, unwearable. The watches tend to look like the calculator watches of the 1980s (without the throwback chic), the bracelets are undesigned rubber blobs, and there has been a rise of the movement I call “Slap a screen on it”, where any-sized screen is thrown on any-sized accessory and it’s called wearable tech.

Google Glass couldn’t be any uglier, and the partnership with established fashion house Diane von Furstenberg to release fashion-forward frames was just another design disappointment. Many wearables make the wearer look like a cyborg-in-training.

 Hussein Chalayan's Robot Dress

Hussein Chalayan’s Robot Dress

There is a proliferation of fashion designers that wish they knew how to build devices, and of device-makers who lack any fashion design sense–but with few exceptions, they just continue on their merry ways. Fashion houses keep wrapping some pretty on a bracelet, or tossing a charger in a bag, and sending out press releases. Tech companies keep adding single sensors to rubber bands and calling them jewelry. If it’s not wearable, and it doesn’t use new technologies, then it’s not wearable tech. One of the biggest opportunities in wearable tech is for fashion and engineering to come together.

We also see a huge number of devices that nobody really needs: a bra that tweets when it is taken off, an air guitar t-shirt with a built in amp, a paparazzi-deflecting handbag. While building novel devices is fine for learning and testing, it’s not what our world needs. We need joy, we need utility, and we owe it to humanity to improve the lives of everyone on the planet, not just the tech elite. Think of the Kite; the small patch that is worn on the body and keeps mosquitos at bay, preventing their bites–thus preventing malaria, which kills over a million people each year.

Would you rather help build a hat that plays music videos (a real thing) or something that literally helps saves lives?

In the next installment, we’ll look at why, despite the hype and the meh wearable tech still matters so much, and explore what we should really be asking ourselves when we build wearables. 


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