In recent years, we’ve seen new innovations in the world of wearable technology, advances that can transform life. Wearables like Google Glass, Apple Watch, Fitbit, Motiv Ring, and Oculus Rift promise to change the way we receive, use and share data.
Wearable technology has taken off in directions that were once considered impossible. The landscape of these devices has come a long way from the earliest wrist-sized calculators or the first Bluetooth headsets.
We cannot leave out the rise in smart jewelry: Motiv Ring tracks fitness activity, heart rate, and sleep patterns using a small ring. Ringly goes a step further and alerts wearers to important notifications such as meetings and phone calls through its flashy gemstone.
Wearables not only perform basic tasks of computing as laptops or mobile devices, but they also provide users with sophisticated features like tracking biological functions such as heart rate and calories burned, among others.
The effect these devices have on human life is extensive, especially in fields like biometric authentication, health monitoring, virtual personal assistants, virtual and augmented reality, and motion recognition.
There are several types of wearable technologies. We’ll be covering six of them:
As the name suggests, these are devices implanted under the skin of the user. They can be inserted in various forms like tattoos, pacemakers or defibrillators. Implantable devices are normally used to treat heart conditions, but can also be used in the form of implantable birth-control and biosensors.
Smartwatches are the most common form of wearable devices. Once connected to a mobile phone, smartwatches will notify the user about social media messages, emails, and calls. These watches, in combination with smart applications, are now being used to monitor UV rays and air pollution.
Companies are bringing the idea of a smartwatch to jewelry (smart jewelry) in order to attract women. Smart jewelry informs users of any emails, calls or texts when they are unable to access their phone.
Normally worn on the wrists, fitness trackers monitor the number of steps users take while wearing the device. Advanced versions of these trackers monitor heart rate and provide accurate data of calories burned.
Smart clothing is infused with conductive silver-coated fibers which act as sensors that stream data in real-time to a smartphone. For example, Sensoria - the connected sports sock - tracks users’ runs in detail.
Head-mounted displays are devices that deliver information straight to your eyes. Devices like Oculus Rift let you be part of a virtual world while Google Glass provides the option to record and share videos, take pictures, and find information, among other things.
Common Use Cases/Scenarios
What would people say if you asked them what a wearable is? You’ll probably hear about smartwatches, fitness trackers or even smart glasses. After thinking about it for a while, most people would come up with more sensible use cases like taking pictures using voice commands, sleep tracking, and making payments.
Wearable technology is often used to monitor health. Given that such devices are in close contact with the user, they can easily collect data.
Wearables can be used to collect data on a user's health including heart rate, calories burned, steps walked, blood pressure, and time spent exercising. Currently, other healthcare applications are being explored: measuring blood alcohol content, measuring athletic performance, etc.
While wearables can collect data, they have yet to analyze or come to conclusions based on this data. Because of this, wearables are mainly used for information about general well-being but not for making decisions about one's health.
Wearables have entered the entertainment sphere by creating new ways to experience digital media. The influence of virtual reality headsets and augmented reality glasses are seen mostly in the gaming industry. Virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Google Daydream View have the purpose of creating a more immersive experience by simulating a first-person experience or displaying media in the user's full field of vision.
When delving into new technology, it is important to understand how users experience and relate to that technology. It’s necessary to recognize how people would use wearables and not impose any expectations on how they should use it.
Design For Glanceability
Glanceability refers to information being designed for short moments of interaction. Glanceability is less about reducing the interface down to its most basic visual feedback and more about figuring out what exactly the user needs to see at any given moment of time.
Lightweight Interaction Design
While desktop and mobile apps might consider a longer user session, wearable experiences should be as short as possible. Minimize interactions and keep interfaces simple by displaying only what’s essential for a user to complete a task.
Keep It Simple
The well known KISS Principle is perhaps even more relevant in the domain of wearables than in desktop or mobile user interfaces. You should include the least amount of features and information in the wearable as possible.
Check What’s Viable
It’s important to consider both the capabilities and limitations of the platform when designing apps for wearables. Do the research on what is possible with the software development kit (SDK) and what physical capabilities are available on the device.
It’s not our intention to sound like science fiction but in the future, there will be mobile phones implanted in our ears, robotic exoskeletons will facilitate our work, our body will be continuously connected to sensors that will take data on our health and fitness. Let’s be prepared, wearables are here to stay!