Google Glass, iWatch, smart fabric, intelligent contact lenses... Wearable devices are about to take off. But will consumers want to wear them?

Wearable devices: consumers lean towards familiar objects

While still in their infancy, wearable devices are on the verge of moving mainstream. From Apple’s much rumored smartwatch to Google’s Project Glass and Nike’s FuelBand, technology giants are starting to seriously invest in wearable devices, with strong product strategies and active developer communities able to develop an app ecosystem around the hardware. There is no doubt we will very soon be wearing devices rather than carrying them. The question is how; how will we want technology to be embedded into our lives, onto our clothes and bodies? Manufacturers are each betting on different options, from head-mounted devices to vibrating tattoos. While Google Glass, for instance, seems like a ground-breaking, solid alternative to smartphones, many doubt consumers will actually want to wear those at all times. A recent Forrester report shows wearable devices generate a lot of excitement among American consumers. But so far, it seems like a majority leans towards more “traditional” and familiar objects, such as watches and devices that can be clipped onto clothes.

Consumers still favor less obtrusive tech

Despite strong concerns about privacy issues, Google Glass trigger a surprisingly great deal of enthusiasm. According to Forrester’s report, 21.6 million people - 12 percent of American adults - say they would purchase Google Glass if they could, even though most of them have never tried them on. Even more out of sync, 28 percent of American adults say they want to buy a smart watch - although the much expected iWatch hasn’t even come out yet. 29 percent of American adults prefer devices clipped onto clothes and 18 percent clipped on shoes. 12 percent would prefer technology to be embedded in clothes, and 12 percent would rather have it embedded in jewelry. Tattoos on skin (3%), contact lenses (4%) and around the chest devices (6%) are the least popular options.

Disruption versus adoption

Forrester argues that Google Glass has a much greater potential than watches, because it actually disrupts the way consumers actually interact with their environment. “Glass is continuously improving via over-the-air updates and new applications, and we have no doubt that in time, Glass will be the next iPhone” the report states. Watches, on the other hand, would simply “reinforce existing smartphone ecosystems.” However, consumers will eventually be the ones to decide which device they want to wear and how. According to the report, most Americans seem to favor less intrusive wearables, that smoothly fits into their existing lives and behaviors. 2013 might be a turning point in the wearable device space. Google is expected to commercialize its Google Glass by the end of the year, Sony just released its very first smart watch, and who knows if we’ll have the chance to see Samsung, Microsoft or Apple’s prototypes or products too. 

By Alice Gillet
English editorial manager