This article was first published in the June edition of Media Pulse – Omnicom Media Group’s monthly highlights on relevant media insights, intelligence and trends.
We’ve already come a long way from the over-the-top aesthetic of some previous wearables—like those made of glass—and it’s only been a year. If the idea of sporting a noticeable wearable device fills you with more dread than pride, have no fear. Wearables are becoming more and more integrated into products we already use and are, in most cases now, being designed specifically to be undetectable.
As the fervor over the much-hyped Apple Watch has tamed, people started asking themselves, “Do I really want everyone to know that I’m an early adopter? That I paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to wear a computer on my wrist? That I’m ‘enhanced’” For many, the answer was no, and just in time. A slew of designers and tech startups have quietly been working on wearables that aren’t meant to stand out in a crowd but are designed, in fact, to seamlessly meld the concepts of product, tech, design and media in our everyday lives. Now that’s some useful innovation.
One of the most popular concepts in this space are wearable “navigators.” Leg-zapping electrodes guided participants through a park in Seoul at the recent CHI 2015 conference, and there are several almost-to-market versions of this technology already in place like the city-specific “Navigate Paris” jacket—a stylish coat that uses vibrations to guide its wearer through the City of Light without ever popping open a screen. Anna Wintour would approve.
It’s still to be seen how many of these subtle wearable ideas are more novelty than game changer (all eyes on you Photochromia, clothing designed to reveal patterns when exposed to UV light.) Some applications, though, will likely be in direct competition with visible wearables. Recently seen at CES 2015: The Mota Ring, an even tinier, less conspicuous version of a smartwatch and a smart shoe insole with the functionality of a FitBit but none of the flash. The question is, what do people want more from their wearables… form or function?
As the line blurs between product and media vehicle, marketers should look for new ways to reach out to hyper-segmented targets. A day may come where every consumer is hooked up to some kind of wearable tech which in turn “communicates” with everything from items on a store shelf to QR codes on a restaurant cup. The new crop of invisible wearables has taught us one thing for sure: we’re all destined to become cyborgs, it’s just a matter of time.