Disruptive by Innovation, Invisible by Design

Is wearable technology only good if it's invisible?


Technology and design go hand in hand these days, just ask Apple. They’ve made a habit of hiring the fashion community’s brightest minds to work on their products. With former Yves Saint Laurent CEO, Paul Deneve and Nike’s Ben Shaffer on the payroll, design is without question a major facet in the way Apple goes about developing its products.

But what if good design wasn’t about having a slick product, but instead, something that was entirely invisible. For handheld technology like phones and tablets, making a product so small that it’s invisible doesn’t seem to wash. In fact, Apple’s iPhone 6 is bigger than its predecessor, which would imply that bigger is indeed, better.

But that’s all about screen size. Wearable technology is different – tacky, clunky devices are without question; the biggest turn off for potential buyers. This is epitomized perfectly with the ‘neurocam’, a device that basically straps an iPhone to your head, apparently reading your emotive response to triggers that come your way throughout the day.

Technology like that gives wearable technology a bad name. In our Sports Performance and Tech magazine we looked at Babolat’s Play Pure Drive racquet and Shot Tracker’s wristband, a device that gives young Basketball players a feedback mechanism when they’re practicing. These two devices are excellent examples of how wearable technology is developing in a way that makes it as simple to use as possible because they’re almost invisible.

We’ve also seen fashion houses like Ralph Lauren bring out their own wearable clothes. Its ‘Tech Polo Shirt’ was released in conjunction with this year’s US Open. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks like it’s free from any gadgetry, instead, relying on bio-sensing fibers woven into its fabric. It can track a number of metrics, including distance covered and your stress levels.

But the emergence of the smart-watch is something entirely different to that of sports equipment. For wearable technology to really take off, it has to fit to a perceived notion that the consumer has about its level of usage. If I were to buy an iWatch for $350, I would expect to be able to wear it like I would wear a normal watch. The fact that I have to charge it throughout the night and have to worry about the battery running out immediately sets it apart from a normal watch, which is something that could possibly stop it from being successful.

If the iWatch operated in exactly the same fashion as a watch, the technological side of it would be invisible in terms of design. We wouldn’t have to make compromises, and when you spend $350 on a watch, you expect not to have make any compromises, even if the product is jam packed with technology.

For wearable technology, it’s imperative that it can fit in with a consumer’s lifestyle without any hassle. If you bring out a smart watch, it should operate in the same way as a normal watch does. It’s only then that wearables can really be seen as a disruptive force within the marketplace.


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