The future is nigh. Soon enough, we’ll be riding in flying cars, clinging beer mugs with cyborgs, fortifying our immune systems with specialized nanotechnology, and exchanging caresses with loved ones telepathically. But for now, perhaps as a precursor for what’s to come, we have the advent of wearable devices. It’s a burgeoning industry: according to predictions from Credit Suisse, its value may rocket to between $30 and $50 billion in the next two to four years, and it’s one of the fastest-growing sectors of consumer electronics, with several tech companies revealing next-level accessories at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 in Las Vegas.
So far, the items come mostly in the form of smartwatches that connect to the Internet and eyeglasses that can run software apps. There are some problems, though. For one, many pieces are geeky and less than fashionably-designed, making them hard-sells (since, after all, they’re supposed to be wearable—and flauntable—on a daily basis). Also, they’re expensive (in the multiple hundred, or thousand, dollar range) and mostly have poor battery life, making them unpractical for a full day’s use. So, yes, it’s a market still in its experimental stages, but there are some brands working with fashion/design labels to at least solve the aesthetic issues. Below are some of our favorite wearable devices (that have a decent fashion sense, too):
Google Glass: Other companies have been releasing “computer glasses,” but Google Glass is the granddaddy of them all—an optical head-mounted display (basically a hands-free smartphone) that allows users to communicate online via voice commands. It features everything from an integrated camera to various applications, including Google Maps, Gmail, Facebook and Twitter sharing, news alerts from CNN, and an exercise app called Strava. Additionally, Google is considering partnering with Ray-Ban and Warby Parker to create more modish glasses, which is important for fashion-conscious users. Take, for instance, Epson’s Moverio BT-200, another example of smartglasses: you can rock them and play virtual reality video games, but they’re fugly and uncomfortably attached to a cord.
Nike+ Fuelband: Sporty and minimalist, Nike’s Fuelbands are sleekly-designed bracelets that can track various aspects of your daily physical activity, from the amount of steps you’ve taken to the number of calories you’ve burned. The idea is for users to set and monitor fitness goals, while engaging with other members of the Nike+ online community. Hence, all the info gathered by the device can be transferred to a mobile app or to NikeFuel points, which can be used to compete with other members.
Pebble Steel: Since launching, smartwatches have suffered from insipid design more suitable for a clanky robot than a snazzily-dressed human. Enter Pebble Steel, the brand’s second offering. Same functionality here—e.g. alerts from various smartphone notifications and online services, as well as third-party apps, including BBC News, Instagram, LinkedIn, and more—but while its first version looked cheap and was made of plastic, this one’s made of steel, with brushed stainless and black matte versions, both of which come with a matching metal band and a black leather strap. To boot, Pebble’s product also has great battery life.
Smart Bracelets: Fashion designers and tech companies have been joining forces lately to create sundry bracelets that you can show off on your wrist. That includes Rachel Zoe and Milly with eBay to create affordable ($25) bands that double as USB cords; Opening Ceremony and Intel to collaborate on a smart bracelet that apparently will allow users to go online and connect with family and significant others all day, every day; and Tory Burch and Fitbit to conceive chic, activity-tracking bracelets (plus pendants and wristbands). Also, take note of MEMI, a gleaming, iPhone-compatible silver bracelet that looks classy and also notifies you of important calls, texts, and calendar appointments (all customizable).
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