An Information Week article from just over a year ago discussed “8 Wearable Tech Devices to Watch.” Among them was the Run-n-Read (which helps you enjoy your eReader while on the treadmill), Embrace+ (the device that’s supposed to help you put down your other devices), smart socks (yes, I said smart socks), and LUMOback (which helps correct your posture).
Now it’s one year later, and I gotta ask: how many people do you know with smart socks?
According to a recent report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), wearable technology is defined as “clothing and accessories that incorporate computer and advanced electronic technologies.” The wearables you’ve most likely heard of are Google Glass, smartwatches, and fitness trackers like Fitbit. But as suggested by the “8 Wearable Tech Devices to Watch” article, there are many, many more wearables already on the market today.
On the Rise?
If you follow recent news on wearable devices, you know there’s conflicting information on whether or not wearables are on the up-and-up or just another flashy technology trend (COUGH – augmented reality – COUGH).
Those predicting wearables as the next big thing have strong data to back their cases. The PwC study of 1,000 consumers reports that 51% of Millennials (ages 18-24 today) say they’re likely to purchase a fitness band next year, while 40% have their eyes on smartwatches, 24% on smart clothing, and 23% on smart glasses. Now that’s one smart generation.
PwC goes on to say that 1 in 5 of all adults already own a wearable device. The trouble is this: are they actually wearing them?
The wearable naysayers often cite this powerful statistic: One-third of surveyed consumers who purchased a wearable device more than a year ago have abandoned using it, thus meaning wearables won’t make it in the long run. And, of course, there are also concerns with privacy and security.
For the sake of argument, let’s just say the 2015 smartwatch coming from Apple will change the game, officially cementing wearables as technology that’s here to stay. How do you design for these types of devices?
According to Mashable’s iOS director Sean McMains, the challenge of designing for wearable devices is that they all use different development platforms. But the good news is the same concepts can be applied almost across the board.
Despite the wide range of wearable products on the market today, many commonalities exist. These devices are small, touchable and customized to the user. As a result, design must be concise, simple and minimal: an app-style interface that enhances the user experience by focusing on functionality over frills.
This summer, Google’s Designing for Wearables presentation offered insight into how to create wearable user interfaces. Here are five of our favorite takeaways from the presentation:
● Wearables are the rearview mirror, not the windshield. Timely, glance-able information, or micro-interactions, is what makes wearable UI work.
● Wearables are intimate; we wear them on our body. They need to be personal and made for the closest people in our lives.
● Phones often distract us and take us out of the world. Wearables provide much more compact experiences that are as short and as fast as possible.
● Wearables must be designed for voice, as it will become an increasingly key component. Imagine you are the app and you need to communicate with your user by talking to them.
● Wearables should have singular, focused tasks. Users should only be able to see and do just one thing at a time.
And then there’s the little detail about wearables that no one (read: everyone) is overlooking: Consumers have to wear them. As such, wearable devices either have to be fashionable or invisible. We can’t wait for the day when the red-carpet question “Who are you wearing?” is answered simply with this: Google.