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Wearables and the Next Gen Wardrobe

Tech is not the first thing to come to mind when we think of fashion. Technology often is about features and function. But those days are fading fast. ‘These won’t make you look geeky’ is becoming a mantra of companies that sell wearables.

Vancouver-based Recon Instruments makes smart glasses and smart goggles that, to the untrained eye, double as non-smart sunglasses and regular ski goggles. Both use HUD (or heads-up display) technology that displays real-time performance data and navigation onto a virtual screen about a foot in front of you, just below your right eye. You direct what data you see using touch controls from the ‘mini computer’ on the glasses, or by a wireless remote. Think of “Minority Report” without all the hand swiping. Here’s a look at what they can do for your golf game, and while cycling.

Wearable computers

Sports are a natural for wearables because athletes like data that tells them how they’re performing, and want data that’s instant, real-time and mobile …but not always on a smartphone screen. Says Recon CEO Dan Eisenhardt, “We started with cycling because it already has a high adoption of riders using bike computers. And if we’re willing to wear weird-looking Lycra shorts and a helmet, we’re probably OK wearing smart glasses.”

But at the end of the (ride), it’s still about function. In some of today’s cars, real-time integrated data from the GPS and Internet apps is displayed on the windshield using HUD technology, often controlled directly from the steering wheel. With Recon’s smart glasses, you can also text or share a picture (taken from a camera on the glasses) …all with one touch. The whole idea in sports like cycling and skiing (and while driving) is to keep your eyes fixed on what’s ahead.

While skiing, Recon’s smart goggles are your virtual ski buddy. The HUD displays real-time data such as your speed, vertical descent, and resort info including a look at all the runs around you, and if they’re beginner, intermediate or expert…before you head down a double black diamond. The technology is integrated into the actual frame of the goggles so they look like regular goggles.

And yes, these do sound a lot like Google Glass, which can also be found on the slopes this year (with tinted lenses). Squaw Valley will launch what it says is the world’s first ski and snowboard app for Google Glass, starting with basics like real-time info on trails, lifts and weather, but will later include proposed ski itineraries based on a skier’s level, a ‘friend finder’ for when you accidently take the double diamond and separate from friends, and augmented reality to show points of interest and summit names. (Recon’s goggles also tell you where your buddies are on the mountain).

But these are all just a start to the world of wearable technology. Rachel Kalmar is a data scientist at Silicon Valley-based misfit wearables, and a noted wearables trend watcher. “This is where the state of wearables is right now:  It’s not giving people 20 new features. We wear something because what it says about us.”

The first wearable that can fly?

Rachel says we’re even seeing jewelry-oriented wearbles. The Apple Watch is a great example. And she points to the Ringly – a ring that will notify you when you get a call, text or push notification by blinking colorful lights and soft vibrations, and the Nixie, a drone helicopter that wraps into a bracelet (and can be a real conversation starter.) But Rachel says wearables are still about a utility or purpose. “Just as the best camera is the one that you have, the best data is the data you have.”

Kalmar says Google Glass is all about the real-time data. “I see it popular with applications, like with surgeons who need instruction, auto mechanics or technicians, or even people working on the space station; any step-by-step process. Google Glass could be very useful in those kinds of cases where there’s not this kind of ‘creepy factor’ because you know why you’re using it.”

For daughter and mom team Julie Singh, in California, and Sue Whitney, in Indiana, the Jawbone UP24 wearable is about both fashion and function. Says Julie, “I chose hot pink, and we got my mom a black one.” The two use the fitness bands to compete with one another on who walks the most. The bands upload data automatically to their smartphones using Bluetooth, and the data gets stored in the cloud, from where it can readily be shared across 2,000 miles so both women can see how many steps each took in a day.

And just as mobile devices opened up the ability to access information without sitting at a computer, wearable technology allows data interaction without even holding a device. Today, we can wear it.

About the author

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Mary Gorges

Written by Mary Gorges. Gorges is a former print and TV journalist (contributor to The Huffington Post, CNN) who is now a freelance writer and content creator. She uses her broad interest in technology and entrepreneurship to help companies tell stories that entertain and educate. Used with the permission of http://thenetwork.cisco.com/.