There was a well produced and very entertaining fashion show at CES this year focused on wearable technology. Many things caught my eye, but the emphasis was much more on fashion than than utility and consumer technology for my liking. Of course all the clothing that sparkled and garments with screens built in so that they could be whatever they wanted to be fit the occasion very well and was entertaining.
Next year I would like to see business and lifestyle enhancing technology blending in or invisibly being worn on the catwalk with descriptions of super powers and augmentations that happen without it being glaringly obvious. And where were all the Smart Glasses? Well, I just don't think Smart Glasses are ready for the catwalk yet. Maybe next year? This is the year of industrial and professional applications for these. Small enough to wear, but still a bit too big to wear out.
Well what about watches?I didn't have time to see all the watches! They are all trying to jam too much Tech into a package that looks ugly and is too big. Not to mention the problem of battery life. it took 15 years to see enough utility in the mobile phone to learn that it should be religiously charged every night.
Watch batteries last four or five years. How can people get their hands around charging a watch every three to six days.
when I see so much technology and features jam packed into something called a watch, it gives me nightmares of the past working with tech companies just putting in everything because they could. And they didn't exactly know what people would find useful, so didn't want to take chances!
Seeing big companies like Qualcomm in the game though, and producing software platforms rather than science projects tells me that this is going to start coming good this year.
I have been wearing a Pebble watch for about three months and found it large, difficult to keep charged and buggy (e.g. Notifications seem to go in and out of operation). But lately now that there are third party apps available, I can see there might be something in it other than lots of clock faces. Lots of fiddling though to find and install these apps...
I have noticed that Apple has been hiring a lot of gurus in the medical, fitness and sensors areas. Gurus of why and how rather than what technology. That is the main reason why I think it will all begin to come good this year. Bring it on Apple!
As I said lots of devices - over a hundred that can be considered to be called products and almost all are step counters of some description (accelerometers). The focus on lifestyle, fitness and medical is important to note as these are the areas which have potential to have real value to consumers.
So everyone reported on Wearables as the feature of CES 2014, but I just couldn't believe how little variety there was in the functionality and also noted how ugly they all were!
this picture is of the showcase of an Asian manufacturer who manufactures a large number of the step counters and Smart Watches for brands that I saw and tried on their booths too.
How many companies can survive, all marketing a single sensor device? Especially since Fitbit and Nike seem to have captured 2/3 of the sales so far.
i was personally wearing four different step countersa CES and all of them were telling me that the eight miles a day I was averaging cruising the exhibition halls was making me healthy. Not taking into account other factors like what my body was actually telling me, not to mention what I was eating and drinking. The user experience, ease of use, and interpretation of what it all means is still lacking for the average consumer to get interested IMHO. So I am not going to list and review a lot of wearable devices. But a few did stand out as being innovative and better equipped to serve mankind going forward.
CES did great job of laying out specific "Tech Zone" sectors for all the companies innovating with technology in emerging areas of consumer lifestyle to be grouped together so one could visit and see many products and products all together. This helped me with discovery of many types of eye-opening tech, but also showed how crowded some product categories were as well as helping to find gaps in what is available, or that the pieces are in place but for example, the ecosystem or end user value propositions are not.
Those who feel a bit self conscious wearing a GoPro on their helmet or hat, especially when on the street, might be interested in glasses that have somewhat concealed cameras on board. These have been in the Spy Tech category in the past. But given that a high percentage of the demos by the Google folks of Glass and some of the emerging applications for Smart Glasses (such as real estate agents creating a house tour) seem to be mostly about video capture, it was interesting to see so many camera glasses at CES.
Most of these have simple button controls and autonomously store quite a lot of video or still images to be downloaded via USB or SD card.
Of note in this category of Smart Glasses are these four shown - Epiphany, XOEye, Orcam and Liquid Image plus one company who I couldn't find at CES, but reviewed recently - Nemesis (product SunnyCam).
Each one has features that differentiate (e.g. Liquid Image for SCUBA divers!) but are fundamentally concealed cameras that you wear on your face.
Very encouraging advances on show at CES 2014 from three further candidate Smart Glasses display technologies.
GlassUp – Projection on coated lens, currently Monochrome
Optinvent – Another approach to see-through lenses that has lots of promise.
Innovega iOptik – Uses special contact lenses to produce very wide FoV see-through experience and potential to address some near eye focus challenges.
As with Lumus, these are display technologies with potential, but not full featured applications development platforms like Google Glass, Vuzix M100 and Epson BT200.
LUMUS has been working on core display technology for some time now and year on year, seems to produce better, brighter displays and this year at CES didn’t disappoint. The display is rich in colour yet lens is reasonably see through. LUMUS is producing the lens technology and as far as I could tell, not yet a full packaged product with OS, SDK, sensors, applications, etc.
They state that a one-eye solution is most viable and are targeting military and high end industrial manufacturers and VARS to produce the final product.
Shown are their prototype implementation of the display technology, and monocular packaging.
Probably not a product for broad applications for a while, but the display technology did catch my eye.
Epson brought to CES 2014 their next generation product with several industrial and professional applications examples being shown by partners and software developers on their booth. Like Vuzix, their open OS for development is Android, so existing platforms and applications can be run directly with only slight modification. Their Smart Glasses do this via a separate tethered control box and battery, so not as totally self contained and wearable as the M100, but in the industrial applications they are addressing, this is probably acceptable. The important aspect to note is that in both the Vuzix and Epson cases, SDK and APIs that enable a standard Android OS are the core offering. Expect a proliferation of Apps to appear based on valuable use cases.
Very encouraging again to see not just technology, but valuable applications such as medical, maintenance, gaming, etc. with fairly simple to use UI’s On show from this company.
One of the first commercially available of the Smart Glasses is from Vuzix who is specifically targeting the professional, industrial and prosumer sectors with this product. Also seen from Vuzix at Showstoppers and on the CES exhibition floor was their next generation lens technology which could be the beginning of consumer appropriate see-through Smart Glasses. These enabling technologies will only take hold if a large number of valuable industrial and eventually consumer applications become available.
A wearable camera and near eye display coupled to context awareness enabling sensors, plus an open Android Applications platform able to store or connect to relevant information is a killer combination for enabling a wide range of valuable professional and industrial use cases. There is a ready market for this device. Desk-less, hands-free work environments are the killer sectors.
Making this unobtrusive, fashionable and even undetectable is the key to wide spread consumer use, simply because the value propositions already exist and are a high value subset of what smartphones are taken out and used for now, but will extend well beyond that when the consumer friendly, wearable technology becomes available.
Vuzix is breaking important new ground in both areas with their commercially available M100 monocular Smart Glass product and with thin, see through lens technology ready to deploy in normal looking consumer eyeglasses formats.
At CES 2014 they were showing Industrial Applications on the M100s developed by industrial partners and VAR’s.
They were also showing patented Waveguide lenses which will be used in their consumer Smart Glasses. Hopefully we will see these as products at CES2015 :-)