In the first of a week long series of blog posts, Senior Trends Consultant Richard Cope reports back from the inaugural Wearable Technology Show at London’s Olympia, examining the devices on show and the recurrent themes and human needs that bind them.

Richard Cope presentation

Vrase

You know that something is mainstreaming when it gets its own trade show, but in his opening address, Intel’s Chief Futurist Steve Power Brown hit the nail on the head: wearable technology is nothing new and nor are its fundamental purposes. Since its inception, wearable technology has been about granting protection (exemplified by Inuit ‘sunglasses’ carved from whalebone) or conveying status (Henry VIII’s battle armour) or signalling intelligence or wealth (in the case of eye glasses or watches) and these principles will remain key to the success of the latest digital developments of this historic, long term trend.

What’s changed now is that computer technology has gotten smaller. Processors have already shrunk to the size of a grain of rice and this means that technology is moving closer to our brains, closer to our nerve endings and on to our bodies. We have entered an era where “anything can be a computer”.

Richard Cope presentation

Glo Faster

Entertainment is a big driver in consumer uptake of new technology, so let’s start at the fun end of the market. After the failure of 3D TVs, VrAse’s (www.vrAse.com) smartphone cases offer a more affordable, portable take on the concept. Harking back to 19th century stereoscopic technology, their dual lens headsets turn smartphone games in to immersive 3D experiences for around £100.

Exercise tracking devices dominate the sector, but Glo Faster’s smart running jackets offer a simpler, more visual take on fun fitness. These jackets light up to protect the user on the road and also use Bluetooth connectivity to flash and change colour according to whether a runner should slow down or speed up to meet a target or lower their hear rate.

Richard Cope presentation

Autographer

Wearable entertainment or signalling doesn’t have to be visual though. The Intelligent Headset proffers ‘3D Audio’ and by using GPS and gyroscope technology can place the wearer in an immersive, virtual soundscape. When combined with gaming apps this can variously enable the wearer to ‘enter’ a song and reposition various instruments around them or zap zombies by turning to face where you hear them coming from.

It’s debatable whether wearable technology will enslave or liberate us and this is a question Autographer’s hands free, wearable camera seeks to address. The device clips on to your belt or sits on your table and shoots at intervals like a CCTV camera or when triggered by changes in movement or light. This is a fascinating approach in that it seeks to restore the experience of ‘living in the moment’ and bring a degree of serendipity and even hand held cinema verité in to our incessant logging and broadcasting.

If you would like to know what these trends – and others – mean for your business please contact Richard to discuss our trend presentation, project and facilitation services. E-mail: rcope@mintel.com; Twitter @Richard_Mintel

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