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Wearable devices: What’s holding up the show?

With PC sales struggling and tablet demand slowing, are wearable devices ready to step up? Key obstacles remain.

Although quite the conversation topic in technology circles, wearable devices remain more common on wish lists than store shelves. With PC sales struggling and tablet demand slowing, are wearable devices ready to take up the slack? Key obstacles remain...

First of all, that must-have “Killer App” for wearable devices has been elusive. Today’s wearable technology has humble beginnings, with some offerings serving primarily as smart watches and exercise monitors. Neither application is going to drive mass adoption. Other wearable devices promise far more capability but are heavily dependent on a companion smart phone for higher level functions.

The issue of form vs. function is also slowing things down. The very form factors that make wearable technology compelling also prove limiting. Practical design considerations like screen size, battery life and heat generation are challenging issues for smart phone designers-and many designers are envisioning much smaller form sizes.

Form is also dictated by fashion. By definition, wearable technology is somewhat of a fashion statement, and there’s a fine line between the geek-chic look and the Terminator. Mass adoption requires wearable technology that’s not only functional, but looks good too, which means that design and fashion must remain at the forefront of development efforts considerations.

In the short term, affordability is another factor inhibiting the widespread adoption of wearable technology. Some popular exercise trackers currently retail for $200 to $300, which is an attractive entry price point for some early adopters. But that price point typically reflects relatively simple devices addressing a single consumer need. Google Glass, one of the better known attempts to launch a multi-function wearable device, is certainly intriguing. But it remains in limited distribution and priced out of the mass market, at least for now.

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