Four Wearable Tech Devices That Are Kind Of Pointless
Wearable tech is beginning to come more into its own, from the announcement of Google Glass in 2013, to this year’s CES event being taken by storm as manufacturers fell over themselves to show us what they’d been, ahem, fashioning.
In a perfect world, wearable tech could indeed be life-changing for all of us, with some devices claiming to make even the most mundane of every day tasks ‘smart’ (such as feeding the dog or putting on our socks). Many major brands have already released (or announced plans to release) wearable tech items that actually may have some real purpose in the world, such as GoPro‘s newest range of wearable cameras, or the Fitbit Force.
But as we all know, this isn’t a perfect world, and there are still a number of ideas out there that leave a little to be desired. The major problem of wearable tech has so far been successfully balancing function with style, and this is widely acknowledged within the industry itself. However, these particular devices may also encourage us to question their necessity at all; let alone how they might simply look when perched on our exteriors.
The Sony Smartwig
So this one was always going to be on the list. Who on earth ever thought that it would be great to control our environment through our hair? Or rather, hair that isn’t even actually ours?
The Sony Smartwig manages to somehow hide a sensor, a processor and communications interface under a wig, along with a GPS, ultrasound transducer, a camera, a laser pointer and a remote control device. High tech and multi-functional it may be…but the Smartwig is hardly a fashion statement, despite its developers Hiroaki Tobita and Takuya Kazi hoping to create a wearable device that is ‘both natural and practical’. Better luck next time, guys…
Whilst it is not quite ridiculous to see why Sony were looking to patent their own competitor to the Google Glass (one which no other manufacturer would be likely to have thought of, no doubt), it’s still difficult to perceive this idea as anything less than a joke to which we hope Sony will deliver the punchline soon.
O2 Bluetooth Gloves
Bluetooth headsets died a death a few years ago after people concluded that they felt too self-conscious walking out in public with a brace-like structure around their heads. Now O2 have developed something less obtrusive – Bluetooth gloves. These are built with speaker units in the thumb tips and microphones in the little finger tips so that people are able to use their hand like a real mobile by making a ‘phone shape’ and holding it to their ear. It also pairs with the user’s actual smartphone to divert calls from the handset to the hand. Named ‘Talk To The Hand’, the product is part of O2’s Recycle scheme, aiming to increase people’s awareness of gadget waste.
Whilst we can’t fault O2 and the gloves’ designer Sean Miles for coming up with a clever, creative way to support a good cause, we can’t help but wonder what the added benefit will be in the long term. When wearing the gloves, the user’s hand will be raised and poised in the same position as before and if anything, will need to do more work to stay there. This would perhaps be better off as a one-time concept or an artistic piece than a real product, but credit goes out for innovation.
Smartwatches are such a great idea in theory – watches have been a customary part of human attire for decades, me personally being a fan of the best G-Shock watches for nearly a decade and why wouldn’t we want them to be capable of doing more? But somehow, the idea just hasn’t quite worked out in reality. Early models like the Sony Smartwatch and Samsung Galaxy Gear were the first to make the concept a reality, later becoming a yardstick against which the Pebble and the MetaWatch Frame have since been measured. But so far, no model has managed to get it exactly right.
Common complaints for digital watches have mostly revolved around their unnecessary complexity, with manufacturers trying desperately to please several markets at once, as well as their failure to accurately sense appropriate time and place for notifying the wearer of certain notifications (something many users expect, due to the device being a lot closer to the body). Overall though, it has been concluded that smartwatches have so far failed to offer any new features that cannot already be enjoyed via a smartphone, reducing them to a companion device at best.
Only time will tell whether Apple’s anticipated iWatch will have the potential to redefine the concept of the smartwatch; something it managed to do with the tablet just over five years ago.
Vigo Drowsiness Detector
This intriguing product, designed by co-founder and chief technical officer Jason Gui and funded by Kickstarter, is being marketed as a potential ‘personal energy gauge’ in order to tackle the problem of unintentional drowsiness. Worn on the head, it monitors bodily signals of fatigue such as blink rate, blink duration and breathing so the wearer can realise when they are tired and take appropriate action. The device is also able to ‘nudge’ the wearer awake using an LED light, vibrations or by playing music.
With a high number of car accidents caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel or driving when not fully rested, the motivation and purpose for Vigo’s creation is evident an
d, if we may say so, potentially life-saving. But what does this mean? That humans are unable to judge for themselves when they are sleepy, or hungry, or need to use the bathroom? Such devices only serve to raise the question of how far things will go before we become entirely dependent on technology in every possible human way.
And whilst Vigo can help the wearer monitor their own patterns of alertness to manage their routines more effectively, that’s not to say it can actively prevent people from doing potentially dangerous tasks when drowsy. After all, it’s wearable. The user can of course just take it off.