We were on-hand at this year’s Wearable Tech show, a two-day event held in the centre of London, that included a range of wearables exhibitors and workshop discussions on the present state and future of this thriving industry.
From big name brands such as Samsung – who were on hand to present their new Galaxy Gear range – to tons of start-ups that were hoping their product will be the next big wearable, there was plenty on offer.
Read on to find out what devices we thought were the best-in show at the event. And don’t forget to grab the next issue of What Mobile magazine for a comprehensive overview of the show.
Google Glass was the most ubiquitous device at the event. Although they are still in test mode, the exhibitors and speakers at the show were exactly the type of business-minded user Google is currently targeting. But will they appeal to the average consumer? A source at the Wearable Tech Show told us that the device will probably retail in the $400-600 price range. And luckily for us, we even managed to get our hands on a pair. Just don’t call us ‘glassholes’, okay.
So, what are they like? Well, it’s surprising that Google is holding back from releasing them to the general public because they definitely will appeal to a lot of people.
We tried out a range of the in-device games which, although simplistic, make the most of the device’s movement and voice-control functions. Shape splitter is a relatively easy title that allows you to use your hands to swipe in front of your face to shatter the digital shapes floating through the air. Meanwhile, clay shooter requires you to aim a crosshair using head movements and shoot a series of bombs by shouting “fire”. Both displayed the solid voice functions on the device ‘ no problems here like there are with Siri and other digital voice assistants, albeit the fact that these tasks are easier to understand.
We also tried out the translation feature, which allows you to point the glasses at your desired text and view the translation superimposed on the attached screen. This in particular was a very impressive feature and, again, a very easy-to-use tool.
Although much was made about the hands-free accessibility of smartglasses at the event, Google’s device does still require you to use your grubby paws from time to time. In order to navigate back and forth through the various functions, you have to slide your hands along the frames both vertically and horizontally. It is by no means an arduous task but we’re sure other products will forego the process altogether.
And with the added GPS functions, not to mention the infinite amount of apps that will inevitably be developed for Google Glass over time, this is definitely a desirable piece of kit.
Samsung Gear 2, Gear Neo, Gear Fit
Samsung’s brand power allowed it the chance to present its new range of Galaxy Gear wearables in the main auditorium at the Kensington Olympia. Following a short video that showed the evolution of mobiles and wearables in pop culture, a Samsung representative displayed the new devices which included the Gear 2 and Gear Neo smart watches alongside the health and fitness wristband the Gear Fit. According to the speaker, the idea with the new devices was to provide individual products geared at different segments of the market. As a result, you have the Gear 2 as the comprehensive smart watch with built-in camera and multi-function capabilities, the simpler but sleeker Gear Neo which does not include a camera and the Gear Fit, which is aimed at the the health-conscious consumer. Will this approach take off in a market that is increasingly relying on all-in-one product design? That remains to be seen. Most attendees agreed, however, that Samsung is the locomotive behind the acceptance and growing popularity of smartwatches in the industry.
vrAse – the smartphone virtual reality case
The vrAse is a virtual reality smartphone case that looks a lot like the Oculus Rift VR headset, but the visual aspect of this device is powered by your smartphone. By slipping your handset in to the front of the device, you can then wear the headset and view your device’s screen in a more immersive fashion. As a result your small smartphone is transformed into a huge screen on which you can view movies, play games and surf the net. We tried it on and, although we were skeptical at first, it was an impressive and relatively easy-to-use piece of kit.
Intelligent Headset – world’s first headset with 3D audio
These headphones present sound in 3D. More than simply surround sound, they allow the user to move their head to focus in on sounds. The software that will utilise the Intelligent Headset is currently being developed – it will include a GPS service that allows you to face a direction, focus in on a specific location and receive customised info about that place, and a zombie mobile game entitled Zombie X that allows users to sense where the enemies are attacking from using head movements. The software development kit for the device allows developers to work with iOS at present with Android capability in the works. If everything goes to plan, the Intelligent Headset could be one to watch in the future.
Kiroco – smartphone interactive jewellery
During his presentation Vianney Courbon of Orange talked about the need for diversity in the design element of wearable tech, and the example he gave was of jewellery. The reason smart jewellery is so important is that it appeals to females, whereas currently wearables are predominantly geared toward men in their design ‘ with some exhibitors claiming that the reaction from women is that they find the devices “ugly”. That’s where Kiroco comes in. The world’s first smartphone interactive jewellery, Kiroco allows users to use their necklaces and bracelets- designed for both men and women ‘ to view private visual messages on their smartphones via a custom-built app. An interesting way to enhance an age-old gift, Kiroco already offers a wide range of products.