Smartwatches and fitness trackers are getting boring. Sure, they might have been exciting when they first came out (remember how excited we were about the Apple Watch?), but these days we’ve been feeling like there hasn’t been real innovation for a while.
Come on, it’s 2016 – where are our bionic contact lenses and brain or skin implants? Where are our cyborg-like exoskeletons? (They’re actually being developed, as it happens. But it’ll be a while before we’re able to put our hands on those.)
What’s the best that wearable technology has to offer right now? And, more importantly, what’s in store for the next few years, or even decades?
If you thought wearables meant bulky, plasticky-looking wristbands and watches, think again: Ringly is “jewellery with secret skills”, which sends you notifications by vibrating and lighting up whenever you receive a text, a mention on social media, or any other activity on your smartphone.
Notifications are customisable – you can choose different vibrations and light colours for different types of activity. The latest range of bracelets now also include a step tracker, and both the ring and bracelet can be connected to more than 100 other applications on your smartphone.
Look, Fitbits are a little bit boring. They’re not gold, for one. However, their incredible performance makes up for their plain looks. The Fitbit Blaze, especially, combines all the tracking qualities of the brand’s other products with biometrics so precise they’re a little scary.
The slim colour touchscreen, user-friendly interface and incredibly long-lasting battery (five days, people. Five whole days!) are only the cherry on top of a really, really good cake.
The royalty of virtual reality, Oculus Rift is one of the best VR headsets out there. The headset is packed with sensors (and a camera!) to detect the movements of your head and body, and boasts individual displays for each eye as well as integrated headphones.
For now, the device ships with an Xbox One controller, but we should expect Oculus Rift-branded controllers to be launched later this year.
This collection of three smart devices, a result of HTC’s partnership with Under Armour, is said to contain “everything a consumer needs to better manage their health and fitness.” It is comprised of a wristband, a chest strap to detect heart rate, and smart scales.
The UA Band tracks steps, sleep pattern and resting heartbeat, while the UA Heart Rate is a more complex heart rate sensor, designed to be used during exercise only. Both devices automatically transfer data to the UA Scale, which in turns analyses your weight and body fat percentage.
We can expect wearables to keep growing in popularity – pretty much everyone owns a Fitbit already, and will probably try to keep up with the advances in innovation – and in accuracy: more metrics (like blood pressure), better sensors, etc. Virtual reality headsets and smart clothing are also expected to become really big in the next couple of years – we’re already seeing smart shirts and sports bras being developed, and amusement parks have started offering VR rides.
We take a look at the biggest upcoming trends:
Imagine this: physical mazes and rooms, where gamers (with full VR headsets on) are free to roam, explore, and interact with the virtual world they’re seeing. US startup The Void is trying to make it happen, have a look here:
Why bother wearing a wristband to track your fitness activity, when you could simply pop your shirt on as usual and have it record and analyse data as you run, cycle, swim or lift weights? Take a look at the OMbra, a biometric sports bra designed to track heart rate, distance run, and calories burned, as well as breathing rhythm and “biometric effort”. Take a look at the most innovative sports bra yet:
Forget wearing your tech – the real future lies in chip implants. Some “biohackers” have been living with NFC chips (like the ones Apple uses for Apple Pay) implanted in their hands for almost ten years, making tasks like paying for a coffee or unlocking the door of their home even quicker – and they don’t have to worry about losing or forgetting their keys and phone.
Recently, a Dutch traveller named Andreas Sjöström passed through airport security using an NFC chip implanted in his hand in lieu of any paper documentation – although he admitted himself this may not be the safest or best method of identification.