Wearable computing devices are beginning to look less and less like the stuff of sci-fi and more like near-future reality.
Google recently released prototypes of its augmented reality “smart glasses” and Apple is rumored to be developing a “smart watch” as an accessory to the iPhone. While more niche devices such as the Jawbone UP and Nike Fuel Band, both of which are targeted at the sports market, already exist, these new developments point toward an accelerating trend in smaller, wearable computing devices coming into the mainstream.
Though smart watches aren’t exactly new (see the Pebble Smart Watch) they have yet to take off as a mainstream consumer product, mainly because the few versions that currently exist are short on function and high In cost. The Pebble connects to iDevices but has few apps of its own, which limits utility.
One of the chief design elements said to going into the Apple product is a material called Willow Glass. Developed by Dow Corning, Willow Glass is as flexible as a piece of paper, allowing it to bend around cylindrical objects, yet still retains all of the conductive and optical properties of traditional glass. Such a material would allow an Apple watch to bend to fit contours of a person’s wrist.
But a small startup is looking to beat the big boys in the wearable computing space. Neptune, found by an 18-year-old from Quebec is developing a fully functional smart watch, one which will not have to pair with a phone or other device but has cellular radios imbedded into the device. It runs the Android operating system which means that it will not suffer from the app limitations that plague the Pebble. If Neptune debuts a viable device in April as they have promised, they could upset the tech world in a mighty way. This could be a David versus Goliath matchup and the outcome of the contest is entirely uncertain. If Neptune has genuinely created a game changing product in a fully functional smart watch, Apple and the other tech giants might be left scrambling to catch up.
Watches have largely gone out of vogue with many millennials who, if they need to check the time, are more prone to whip out their smartphone than glance at their wrists. But Apple and Neptune's interesting hybridcould reverse that trend and bring watches back into style.
Wearable computing is on the horizon. Whether it comes in the form of a watch, glasses, contact lens, or another platform, very soon most of us will be wearing our computers instead of carrying them.