8 Wearable Tech Exposed: Gimmicky or Useful?

When news broke this week that Google will be releasing a smartwatch within months, half of the internet went into a frenzy. The other half shrugged and went back about their lives. The truth is, wearable technology isn’t mainstream yet. But it has the potential to be.

For wearable tech to become mainstream though it needs to prove that it makes life easier. Technology is a huge part of our lives, sure. But it will take a strong argument to convince people that gadgets should be fashion accessories. Wearable tech needs to stay trendy, relevant and most importantly, useful. Remember beepers?

Let’s take a look at some of the wearable tech out there and decide: is it a gimmick or is there real value?

Smartwatches

Like it or not, smartwatches are gimmicky. At least right now. There has yet to be a smartwatch released to bring the wearable tech into the mainstream. However, rumors of an Apple and Google smartwatch could potentially make the technology popular with consumers. Let’s take a look at a pair of available smartwatches and what they fail to bring to the market.

Pebble Wearable Tech
Pebble – Gimmick!

The Kickstarter-funded smartwatch Pebble is one of the most popular wearable techs available now. Pebble uses minimalism to differentiate their device and offers the things you’d expect from a smartwatch: email notifications, texts, some apps, etc. And it’s also definitely a gimmick. It looks cool, but the Pebble smartwatch doesn’t actually have any game changing features. There’s nothing I can do with the Pebble that can’t already be done on my phone. We’ll wait for the next edition, thanks!

Samsung Galaxy Gear – Gimmick!
Maybe the ultimate smartwatch gimmick, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is a wearable tech fail. For one, compatibility for the Galaxy Gear is limited to only two Samsung devices as of this post. Secondly, and similarly to Pebble, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch fails to offer consumers a must-have feature. Not to mention around a third of all Galaxy Gears bought at Best Buy have been returned. Smartwatches are gimmicky and unless Google or Apple can break things open with their inevitable devices, smartwatches will likely be outside the mainstream for some time.

Smart Fitness

As it stands now, fitness is the most likely place to find legitimately useful wearable tech. And let’s be real: anything that makes working out easier is totally cool with us! Anyway, fitness and health are not gimmicky at all. Here are two useful wearables for fitness and the “Quantified Self” movement.

Run-n-Read Wearable Tech
Run-n-Read – Useful!
The Run-n-Read will never be a mainstream wearable technology but this little device sure is useful for bookworms on the move. This fitness/multitasking wearable tech syncs with your smart device and clips to your shirt or headband. Hop on the treadmill with an ebook open on your device and the Run-n-Read will adjust the text so it’s readable as you move. The Run-n-Read may seem gimmicky given how limited the functions are. But that’s actually what makes it useful! It addresses a specific problem and effectively solves it. That’s how you make a useful product.

AIRO – Useful!
Stress level is a hard thing to measure. The upcoming AIRO wristband is about to change all that! By using measurable stats like sleep, eating habits, exercise and heart rate, the AIRO wristband can give consumers a good idea of how stressed they actually are. Health is no gimmick and being able to monitor something intangible like stress is not only useful, it’s the future of health technology!

Smart Apparel


Wearable tech isn’t limited to electronics that are clipped on shirts or strapped on wrists. There are even plenty of smart apparel available. Shirts that change colors when sweaty, smart socks and Funderwear are just a small sampling of the smart apparel out there. But is smart apparel a gimmick?

Nike Hyperdunk+ – Useful!
Basketball sneakers are not safe from the wearable tech movement. The Nike Hyperdunk+ basketball shoes are perfect for the baller with big time aspirations. The shoes sync up to your smart device and tell you excatly how high you jumped, how quickly you moved and how hard you played. The statistics give real insights that players can use to tighten up their game making the Nike Hyperdunk+ wearable tech extremely useful. At least for hardcore players. Here we have another case of a niche wearable tech proving useful. Starting to see a trend?

Stealth Wear Wearable Tech
Stealth Wear – Gimmick!
Scared of the NSA or government drones spying on your every move? You, my friend, need to chill out Stealth Wear. This futuristic fashion statement will hide you from unwanted surveillance and effectively draw stares everywhere you go. We would destroy all of our gadgets and move to Madagascar before we made Stealth Wear part of our wardrobe. Do we really need to say it? GIMMICK!

More Wearable Tech

SIGMO – Useful!
SIGMO could possibly be the least gimmicky of all the wearable tech listed here. Have you ever been out of the country? Or maybe had to do business with someone who doesn’t speak English? That’s where SIGMO comes in. This little device provides real time translations in over 25 languages. Now your Spanish vocabulary will be deeper than “mas cerveza por favor”! Check out the product demo:

Google Glass – TBD
Did you really think we’d forget about Google Glass? This smart device has been talked about all year and is considered the poster child for the future of wearable technology. There are plenty of ways that Google Glass could prove to be useful as a wearable tech. Having access to information at a second’s notice is advantageous. So is being able to live-capture moments with video and photo. But where Google Glass will prove most useful as a wearable tech will be with augmented reality interfaces. Imagine being in a new city, equipped with Google Glass. You have no idea where your hotel is, but with Google Glass, you can have a visual trail that leads you right to the doorstep. Google Glass definitely has potential. But first, it has to come to market.

Wearable Tech in Conclusion

Wearable tech has a long way to go before we’re all adopting it. In the early stages of the wearable tech movement, there are various trends evident. For one, wearable tech has a better chance of being useful if it appeals to a specific niche. Smartwatches have failed to break into the wearable tech mainstream because they don’t provide functions beyond what is already available on smartphones. Smartwatches that include a fitness aspect however, provide a function unavailable or limited by a mobile phone. Wearable tech is an unlikely story of function over form.

That’s not to say form isn’t important! Stealth Wear clearly appears to a niche, albeit a highly paranoid one. But it’s outlandish design make it unlikely that we’ll be seeing folks rocking Stealth Wear at the mall. The future of wearable tech relies on smart design and even smarter functions.

What do you think about wearable tech? Is there a gadget out there that you think is the most useful thing ever? Tell us about it in the comments below or connect with us on Facebook!