It's a good thing that Gianni Versace didn't live to see the era of wearable computing. On the other hand, perhaps he's exactly what we need. On the absolute cutting edge of fashion for decades, Versace set the bar for dramatic design—something that, in the tech world, we often look to Apple to do. Unfortunately, Cupertino hasn’t entered the world of wearable computing yet, and it’s perhaps because of their absence in the market that the devices we see today are all hideously unwearable.
Am I the only one who feels this way? There is so much great buzz about wearable technology right now, from Bluetooth devices to smart watches, that one would expect chic, fashion-forward designs that capture our imaginations to be replete. Yet it seems people are missing the most important part of the "wearable" concept: People actually have to wear this stuff.
And it's shocking, with the proliferation of sexy technology in movies these days—think Iron Man—that there's obviously not a lot of thought put into the aesthetics of these gizmos. The focus is development-heavy, but that’s so misplaced—the technology is already there. Yes, we can build the smart watches people are buzzing about. When will someone start talking about how these things look? Or how the interactions should work? Or notifications? These are design objects that need a philosophy behind them, and no one has stepped up to offer one.
It feels like wearable tech is in this awkward limbo place—so much in its infancy but so outdated already. Back to the smart watch news; is this Dick Tracy? What a 1930's vision of the future! Or Google Glass, which is not only ugly, but makes you ugly as well. Some nerdy males may give these things a shot, but if people expect the female half of the population to add technology into their daily wear, it needs to look less self-conscious. And come in better colors. (The late-'90s iMac called—it wants Tangerine back.)
When will these tech giants start tapping Prada or Gucci for help? It's not like we have a shortage of fashion experts in the world. Please, guys. Please! Ask them for help. (Caveat: No, Warby Parker can’t save Glass.)
If the world of function can't meet the world of fashion, let's ditch "wearables" for "implants." No one will argue that a pacemaker does its job and that no one cares what one looks like. (Although, to be honest, even the pacemaker has made huge leaps in esthetics over the years.)
If the question is about size, there's plenty of designer items that are "big enough" to house the needed technical bits to make constant, digital connection possible. If you're a bracelet type, these pieces could easily hold as much technology as the painful-to-look-at Jawbone.
Or how about this one?
But maybe you like the look of rings better. Although some practical-minded techies may find these things "gaudy," fashionistas simply go mad for this type of thing!
Or maybe this:
How about one more, for the necklace wearers out there?
You can make something great to look at that's big enough to house the technology—and that people will enjoy wearing. Who knows, with a little bit of collaboration, we may even see collections of Bluetooth devices on the runway someday. Wherever the future of mobile technology lies, it's safe to say we're not there yet.
Rachael Frank is lead strategist at Gravity Switch, a development shop in Northampton, MA.
[Image: Flickr user Maria Morri]