Thursday 27 November 2014

Does my wrist look big in this? Wearable tech sparkles at CES

Published 19/01/2014 | 02:30

Back To The Future: The Occulus Rift is still in development, but it’ll be big
Back To The Future: The Occulus Rift is still in development, but it’ll be big

Forget about giant tellies or bendable smartphones. Of all the trends to emerge from this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, so-called 'wearable technology' stands out.

The term alludes to gadgets and devices that are worn on your person rather than tucked into a pocket, wallet or handbag. Typically, these include smartwatches, fitness devices, sports accessories and gaming gadgets.

So far, few of us have caught on to the trend. Wearable tech's biggest challenge is an aesthetic one. In other words, many of us think that wearable gadgets are ugly or dorkish. The biggest example of this in recent years is Bluetooth headsets.

And there are still daft products floating around, many of which were launched at CES 10 days ago. Take the area of sensor-driven clothes, such as the Navigate Jacket, made by Wearable Experiments. It's a pink, GPS-connected garment with vibrating shoulderpads that buzz to let you know that you've arrived at the correct destination. Alternatively, Eregear launched a high-heeled fashion shoe that displays your Twitter feed. There are even Bluetooth-connected vibrating knickers that can be set off by an iPhone or Android app.

On the other hand, some wearable technology devices have clearly captured the imagination of the public. Foremost among these are the array of fitness wristbands and bracelets which track steps and movement to analyse a person's fitness progress through the day.

There are also several smartwatches now in circulation, including Samsung's heavily promoted Galaxy Gear and Sony's Smartwatch 2.

Here are four wearable technology devices that caught my eye at CES this year.

Pebble Steel €200

Of all the smartwatches out there, this one generates the most positive feedback from those wearing them. The basic Pebble proposition is an affordable watch with an e-Reader style monochrome screen that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. This way, it can notify you of new tweets, texts or other updates from your online social media world.

What the new Pebble Steel does is to improve on the device aesthetically, with a choice of new bands and a much nicer finish to the actual timepiece. In other words, it doesn't look like a mini-computer plonked on your wrist.

Oculus Rift €500 (likely price)

It's 2000 all over again. At least, that's what you'll think the first time you try the heavy facemask of Oculus: there are definitely echoes of 'virtual reality' here.

But this is a specific device aimed at transforming our daily lives. It's a specific device aimed at video gamers. In this vein, the Rift has a superb 3D field of vision and motion-tracker that gels beautifully to create the very real impression of being immersed in the digital environment created before your eyes.It's still in development phase, but there is little doubt that it will launch soon and is destined to be a hit with gamers.

Sensoria Smart Socks €120

This is a pair of washable fabric socks with an electronic anklet band (like a wristband but for the front of your ankle) that magnetically attaches on to the sock. This connects to a smartphone app, which has a data system that tells you what your foot has been doing.

You can set fitness programs or simply track your movement. It also advises on the way you're running and whether your gait or footfall might be leading you toward risk of injury. It even tells you whether you've been sedentary too long. The same company also released a heart-rate monitor built into a bra and t-shirt.

Panasonic 4K camera €800 (likely price)

The GoPro opened up a huge market in wearable sports cameras. If you're unfamiliar with the genre, it's a tough little camera that you can mount upon a helmet, ski, surfboard, hang-glider or other sports equipment piece.

Panasonic is taking the concept a step further with a wearable camera that will record in 4K, also known as ultra high definition. In other words, the pictures it records will look silky smooth on any 65-inch television. Don't ask how it will store the footage, as 4K content takes up about 1GB for every 30 seconds.

This is due to be released later this year.

Irish Independent

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