Simple fitness trackers are giving way to smart watches as the wearables trend picks up steam. Designers and tech wizards are gazing into the future and finding more ways to use microprocessors to enhance people’s lives. What’s next in the realm of tiny gadgets? The projects that are in the works encompass everything from socks to handbags and offer features from mindfulness meditation to linguistics. Read on to learn more about the upcoming trends in micro tech.
Image via Flickr by ForbesOsti
What if your shirt could tell you how much effort your bicep was exerting? Would you like to have socks that recorded the pressure under your feet when you run? Maybe you’d like a jacket that you can use like a credit card or one that tracks your heart rate. Smart clothing is the next step in wearables, and it’s already in development. Sensors embedded in the fibers of clothing will be invisible to onlookers, but can pair with a powerful smartphone to create two-way interactions; for instance, your clothing can record your body temperature, send that data to your phone, and receive instruction on how to adjust itself for your comfort.
Early adopters and athletes have been willing to sacrifice fashion for function, but as wearables go mainstream, they will need to adapt to a wider market. Small devices like the Misfit Shine already nest inside customizable straps and pendants. Companies like Fitbit are beginning to work with top designers to create wristbands that will look good peeking out of couture suit sleeves in boardrooms and courtrooms. Other companies, like Ringly, are creating cocktail rings and bracelets that look like traditional jewelry but have smart technology built in.
So far, most of the successful wearable technology has been health-oriented. The earliest devices were elaborate pedometers that also tracked sleep, and later models expanded on that model by adding heart-rate monitors and other health-tracking functions. But companies are beginning to ask what other functions users want to carry with them. A bedazzled clutch handbag that doubles as a high-end Bluetooth speaker is one creative example. A bracelet that tracks your body temperature and then helps you adjust it by cooling down or warming up your wrist is in the works, too.
Many mainstream trackers have ignored women’s unique health concerns, but a few devices are beginning to recognize that half their market needs to track menstrual cycles as well as steps and sleep. Some women have obvious reasons for tracking, like trying to conceive or prevent pregnancy, but healthcare providers expect all women to know the date of their last menstrual cycle any time they seek care. Devices like Bellabeat’s Leaf attract female users by adding this functionality.
Some trackers are already working to appeal to the wellness market. The Spire is the most successful device in this area so far. Spire tracks your breath throughout the day and alerts you when you show signs of stress, so you can take a moment to calm yourself. The app offers guided meditations that can bring you back on track when you lose your cool. Future devices could offer built-in biofeedback features that could help people learn to cope with a variety of issues, from anxiety to addiction.
Earbuds that automatically translate language are one of the most exciting developments in wearable technology. Waverly Labs has been funding its Pilot translation earbuds and is now beginning to take pre-orders. The device could be a game-changer for travelers, diplomats, and international business people.
Today’s devices already pack a tremendous amount of functionality into a wristband or cocktail ring. Fitness trackers have started a trend that is limited only by the imagination of techies and designers as wearable devices make advances in both form and function. This is a realm that will see rapid development in the next few years.
Tags: Wearable Concepts