Have Wearables Worn Out Their Welcome?

By Jeff Barrett

Social

Photo by Joachim Rotteveel, via Flickr

Projections have the wearable technology market at $8 billion by 2018, with a total of 130 million units globally. Unlike smartphones, though, the wearable industry has some uncertainty, as consumers contemplate whether or not they can see themselves using the devices.

The Internet is a sea of snark. There are people who have even found a way to complain about the Ice Bucket Challenge. However, the concerns over wearables are real and based in the real world. Whether it’s fear, fashion, or faux pas there is plenty of room for skepticism.

Early smart watches have looked clunky and the software on them have led most people, other than early adopters, to ask a couple questions. “What does this add? Couldn’t I just use my phone?”

Esquire recently said, “Nothing makes someone look stupider than wearing a smartwatch.” Ouch. If the software doesn’t add something tangible, then it just looks unnecessary.

Still, there is plenty of potential for wearables. Early smartphones weren’t sexy either but their computing power and how they made a multitude of tasks easier led to their mass adoption. None of us want to go back to flip phones. At some point the consumer has the aha moment where it would seem crazy not to adopt the technology. Wearables aren’t there, yet.

Google Glass offers amazing potential. Google has already sold tens of thousands to early adopters and will have a post beta version available in early 2015. There are some consumers who fear it for privacy reasons. Large venues and municipalities have banned the wearable tech because of it’s ability to capture photos with minimal effort. Those very familiar with the tech will point out that Glass lights up when it’s taking a photo but that is very hard to police, stop, or monitor. Las Vegas banned Google Glass as a clever publicity stunt.

Fear and fashion will not hold back wearable technology if it provides a real benefit. The tipping point will occur once software provides that tangible, inescapable benefit.

Early adopters of wearable tech, right now, seem out of place. They are wearing obvious technology with bad aesthetics and limited software. Twenty years ago, this was the person holding a Nokia cell phone the size of their head and yelling in to it everywhere they went.

In a culture full of selfies and self-promotion, there is inevitably a backlash.

This backlash is most often pointed at people who take bathroom selfies, still use the term “YOLO” or invite you to play Candy Crush.

However, the term “glasshole” has also picked up a lot of traction. Is it hilarious? Yes. It is accurate? Probably not. The Daily Show did a great satire on this topic this year. That term defines someone who by wearing Glass seems pretentious, self-absorbed and rude against accepted social norms.

That by no means defines the vast majority of Glass Explorers. Most people trying out wearable tech are intrigued by the possibilities and want to be part of something new. They are not doing it because it’s a fad but rather they see it as the evolution of technology.

Yes, they will look silly twenty years from now. We will laugh. We will create memes and turn this soon to be antiquated tech in to ironic Halloween costumes. Yet, without people willing to explore we will never move forward. People didn’t stop using cell phones in the 90s because they looked silly. People will not stop using wearables.

Upgrade the software, the capability, the ease of use and the mass consumers will follow. Function trumps fashion. Sorry, Tim Gunn.

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