Tech Column: Cyborg yourself
Wearable tech enters the mainstream
It’s pretty much official now: 2014 is the year of wearable tech.
Now wearable tech isn’t really a new thing. Calculator watches first appeared in the mid 70s, followed soon after by watches that included video games or simple computers able to store and recall data and memos. In 2000, IBM even released a device called the WatchPad that ran an operating system based off of Linux 2.4, complete with Bluetooth and a touch-sensitive monochrome display.
However these were largely novelty devices and were never able to find mass-market appeal. Wearable tech remained a niche focus for the rest of the decade, largely reduced to Bluetooth earpieces or watches that buzzed when your phone rang.
2010 was when things started to turn around. Allerta, a small company out of Waterloo, Ont. released the inPulse smart watch. Designed for BlackBerry smartphones, with some later compatability for some Android phones as well. The inPulse had both BBM and Twitter integration as well as the ability to run a few specialty apps and games from their store. While bulky and with a short battery life, the inPulse’s biggest failing was probably hitching itself to BlackBerry just as the company began to feel the effects of its long death march.
However, inPulse was just the first of many smart watches and over the next year, devices such as the Android-based WIMM One and Fossil’s MetaWatch started reaching developers and early adopters. Even Apple got on board; redesigning their iPod Nano into a small, square form that just so happened to fit perfectly into watchbands.
The floodgates had opened and by 2013, even big names such as Samsung, Sony and Qualcomm added their devices to a field that also included a plethora of crowd funded devices, such as the Pebble, the Cookoo and the Agent.
2013 wasn’t just big for smart watches, as other forms of wearable tech began making their marks as well. Activity trackers, such as the Fitbit Flex or Jawbone UP, began reaching a wider audiences as users began using their smartphones for more than just texting and Angry Birds. However, the activity tracker growth was nothing compared to Google’s best worst product ever: Google Glass.
When Google first announced Glass in 2012, it seemed to some (including yours truly) to be just a gimmick, another way for Google to intrude upon your life. Oh how they (and by they, I mean myself) were wrong, as consumer demand for Glass was immense and has just grown since then. Sure, the frames look odd and bring up all sorts of privacy issues in this Post-Snowden era, but Glass adds another layer of technological immersion into your world and when the device launches later this year, chances are it’ll rival the rush for the iPhone 6.
Not that Google is resting on its laurel of Glass and Android. No, the evil geniuses out of the Googleplex will not be happy until they apparently control all your data and so revealed Android Wear on March 18.
Android Wear is to smart watches, what Android is to smartphones, app-driven operating systems that use Android’s unrivaled databases to out-think you and provide for you the information it thinks you’ll need.
Already, Google’s announced its first two Android Wear watches, the Moto 360 and the LG G Watch, both expected to launch this summer, with the promise of more to come.
Even disregarding the perpetual rumblings about an Apple iWatch, 2014 has already seen massive shifts in the wearable tech market and it’s only April. There’s eight more months for companies to surprise us and who knows, maybe by the time classes return in September, smart watches will be on your back-to-school tech list.