What next for wearables?

Whilst there is no doubt that the wearables market will be huge, the jury is still out as to just what a wearable device will look like in the next couple of years.

On World predicts in its latest research that wearables will be a $50 billion dollar industry in five years with more than 100 times more smartwatches shipped globally, compared with 3 million that shipped in 2013.

Forrester on the other hand says that it expects the wearable market to be in decline by 2016 as many features will be integrated into devices users already have such as mobile phones or headphones. Interestingly this might also explain Apple’s thinking behind its recent purchase of Beats.

The reality I suspect will be somewhere between the two. Smart watches have left many puzzled to their actual value and as Lee Bell at Inquirer found even the fitness freaks may go back to using their smartphone apps for more accurate data, but these are just minor hiccups along the way. Wearable tech is definitely here to stay.

As semi-conductors become cheaper and smaller the ability to add computing capability to almost anything becomes a reality. The challenge will be how users interact with it, which is where technology such as NLI leads the way.

Regardless of whether the wearable technology is a pair of headphones, a watch or even smart clothing, it needs not just a simple interface such as voice or gesture for users to embrace it, but an understanding of the person using it too. Personalisation, such as anticipating a user’s need based on past behaviour or their location, will be critical in the uptake of wearable tech.

Doing this takes more than just simple voice recognition, it requires amongst other things memory, true machine learning and the ability to analyse natural language data in near real-time. However, adding this kind of intelligence takes wearables of the “in vogue” marketplace and into the consumer “must have” mindset.

Whilst wearable tech might not be setting the world alight right now, overlaying it with NLI will enable new application opportunities to be built as opposed to trying to ‘shoe-horn’ technology that works better on a smartphone than it ever can do on a smartwatch or other form of wearable. And without doubt, natural language interfaces will be a critical component of these new interfaces for wearables.

What wearable technology will ultimately look like, I have no idea. But I have a strong impression that reality will be stranger than fiction!

 

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