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The 5 critical lessons CES taught us about wearable tech

Jon Phillips | Jan. 10, 2014
If you begin to see smartwatches dangling from tree branches, and activity-tracking wrist bands collecting in rain gutters, then you can thank the Consumer Electronics Show for belching out something akin to a pyroclastic flow of wearable tech over half the earth's surface.

Then there's GlassUp. It's got more fashion-forward aesthetics than competitors, but these specs are still in a rough prototype stage. I don't think Google Glass will ever go full retail (at least not in any form remotely close to the current alpha version), and I have the same concerns about GlassUp, which is slated to ship to early crowd-funding backers in March, and go retail for $400 later this year.

The essential smartglass concept is incredibly intriguing, but a raft of obstacles — relating to comfort, safety, aesthetics and plain-old usefulness — stand in the way. Not a single smartglass company emerged at CES to scream "We're ready!" and not even the overall wearables hype engine of the show paid much attention to glasses this year.

5. Wearables: Still incredibly exciting, all stumbles aside
I'm a cynic. You've already read this far, so you know that about me. But even I, in all my pissy-mooded grumblings of negativity, find optimism in where wearables are heading.

Consider: I feel naked without my Jawbone UP24 attached to my wrist. And I'm encouraged by the new Hangouts feature in the latest Google Glass update. It really does make text messaging a bit more convenient for those times when you can't pull out your phone.

And I'm optimistic about where Intel is going with wearables-friendly chip design. And I'm even glad that half of the wearable companies that demoed at CES showed us gear we'd never want to wear in public. We won't buy their products, but the industry will learn from their mistakes.

Las Vegas was hit by a big, messy, exaggerated mass of wearables hype at CES this year. Let's just accept that as fact, nolo contendere. But the wearables of 2014 aren't the 3D TVs, connected appliances, and no-name E-readers of CESes past. There are just too many useful products — or flawed products with a few useful features — to suggest the hardware industry isn't on to something important.

 

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