What's new in wearable tech for 2015

Wearables are changing fast and we reveal how and why
What's new in wearable tech in 2015

The wearable whirlwind has passed; the device dust settled, but nothing is the same. CES 2015 has whipped up a storm and set the landscape of the rest of 2015.

We've already told you what we think the best wearables of the show have been, we've run down the top fitness tech and even the craziest crackpot creations; but CES 2015 wasn't about the devices, that's the job of MWC 2015 in March. CES was about the bigger picture, and the fact is that by the end of 2015, our fitness trackers, smartwatches and VR headsets will look nothing like the ones in 2014.

Bioimpedance, brain reading wearables, mood sensors and convergant designs are set to change everything; read on to find out how.

Fitness trackers

Not everyone showed their fitness tracker cards at CES. Some, like Fitbit and Jawbone, had done so at the end of 2014.

While Misfit took time to wow the crowds with a wearable even more wearable than its last, there was still space for other brands to come up with their first wrist-worn counters and time aplenty for entirely new tracking tech to take off.

The straight fitness tracker is dying

It’s a big ask for wearable tech companies to get us to put fitness trackers around our wrists and they’re starting to realise that. So, at CES 2015, one of the ways that these brands dealt with that issue was by turning their bands into something else.

The Polar A300 is more like a basic sports watch. The Lenovo Vibe Band and stainless steel-style Garmin Vivosmart 2 look closer akin to slimmed down luxury smartwatches, and the Misfit Shine’s Swarovskification has made it more of a jewellery accessory than ever before.

Throw in the arrival of the button-sized Intel Curie processor - with low power Bluetooth, accelerometers, gyros and plenty of memory all on board - and there’s really no reason for fitness trackers to remain colourful bangles in 2015, they can instead fit into anything.

Bioimpedance measuring is becoming a thing

We saw it introduced with the Jawbone UP3 at the end of 2014 but, at CES 2015, the Korean-made InBody Band has given us a decent idea why measuring bioimpedance is going to be big in wearables from now on.

By sensing the opposition to a flow of electric current around your body, devices can make decent estimates of body composition. You can get an idea of your fat and muscle mass, your body fat percentage and your BMI too.

Given that absolute mass is something of a difficult sign to interpret when you’re either looking to fight the flab or get fit, and that body composition is a key marker health, you can bet that bioimpedance analysis is something that’s going to be important.

Finally they’re tracking our mental health too

It’s an obvious place for activity trackers to go and, with no wearables really looking out for our mental health before CES 2015, the show has come up with not one but two devices to do just that. The more straightforward is the Zensorium Being. It measures your heart rate and blood pressure - amongst other things - and combines the two to work out mood. When it senses that you’re not in a good place, it then offers some calming techniques to get you back on track.

Instead of advice, the Melomind conducts a slightly different approach for getting you to cool your boots. It’s a headband with electrodes on four separate sections, which measure your brain waves using an EEG. According to what it picks up, Melomind plays you back a series of custom musical tones to get you to feel at ease.

While it might sound like there’s a touch of snake oil about both of these, it’s clear that the mind is looking to be just as important as the body in wearables from now on.

Smartwatches

Withings was a hit with the more affordable Activité Pop and, if it's value you're really after, then make sure to check out the super cheap and surprisingly decent Alcatel OneTouch Watch. As for the smartwatch trends and what to expect from them, this is what you need to know...

Women’s designer smartwatches finally got real

Michael Bastian was the first designer label to come up with a smartwatch just a few months back when the US mens’ fashion guru teamed up with HP to create the MB Chronowing but where did that leave our wearable women? Absolutely nowhere, that’s where.

Fortunately, that’s now changed since CES 2015 with the Guess Connect smartwatch launched in hers (and his) flavours. Expect this to be a sign of things to come with a slew of other fashion brands and luxury watchmakers looking to go smart this year.

Wearables became remote controls

You can use your tablet to flick over to Corrie and your mobile phone to adjust your heating, so why shouldn’t wearables be able to run your life too? Well, now they can. Misfit got in on the smart home action by revealing its Bolt connected light bulb. You can change the colour temperature and intensity as and when you need and even control it from your Misfit branded fitness tracker too.

More exciting, though, is that we saw two different companies design apps to drive your car from your smartwatch. BMW has some Android Wear software to let you remote park and Audi teamed up with LG to make an incredibly stylish version of the G Watch R with which the company chairman casually wheeled the Prologue prototype onto stage.

The point here isn’t that we’ll all be piloting our vehicles from the outside. It’s that the world is beginning to understand that these trackers and smartwatches are devices that everyone’s going to be wearing. Why hunt around your house from your mobile phone when you can control your life from your wrist?

Convergence, convergence, convergence

That zone between smartwatches, sportswatches, fitness trackers and mobile phones has gone even murkier. Garmin’s Vivoactive and Epix are case and point. The former is some kind of fitness tracker and golf watch combo that looks mostly like a smartwatch while the latter, on the other hand is a handheld navigator and smartwatch in the form of something more like a sportswatch.

Just take it as read that the definitions of these wearable categories are going to need a big old shake up some time soon. Whatever you want that thing around your wrist to be able to do, there’s going to be something for everyone from now on.

Headgear

The show was awash with VR. The consumer version of the Oculus Rift looks a lot closer to ready than it's ever been and Razer has launched an open source virtual reality platform to ensure that this technology gets the people power it needs to push it over the line. Long before then, though, take a look at these smart ideas to take your senses to a level beyond.

Any pair of glasses can now be smart

Technically just a concept, the purpose behind the Sony SmartEyeglass Attach is to convert any set of frames you own into set of AR spectacles. Until now, you’ve had to go out and buy a dedicated set of Vuzix or Google Glass but the plan here is for a unit that you can clip on and off at will.

The Attach is a 0.23-inch colour OLED single lens microdisplay with a 640 x 400 resolution and a control board with an ARM processor, sensor hub, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity. Got that? It weighs 40g plus the 400mAh battery needed to power it.

Granted, at the moment it doesn’t look too hot. It’s going to instantly convert your designer specs into fairly unsightly Goggles at the same time as bringing in all that functionality. The point, of course, is that you don’t have to look like you’re going to assimilate someone all the time, and it’s a way around the social awkwardness that no one had really designed for until now.

Is it the future of AR - maybe not; but it’s certainly decent workaround until both technology and society get things right.

Smartglasses can stop you falling asleep

The eyes are not just the windows to the soul but also an excellent place to check your state of being. Jins Meme smartglasses are packed with sensors around the frames to use a technique called Electro Oculography which can detect changes in your eye movements. It can track fitness, health and even tiredness. So, if you’re beginning to fall asleep behind the wheel, Jins Meme can set off an alert to make sure you don’t drop off.

Ultimately, EOG might not end up as something we need measured all the time - as in the case of a pair of glasses - but the same technology, say, embedded in your bathroom mirror might be enough for a daily check on your physical condition.

Help is here for your skin

There’s a gazillion-dollar beauty industry out there inventing lotions and potions and scientific compounds to go in them to keep you looking the age you feel you ought to be. Well, now there’s a wearable to help you with that too. We’ve seen all sorts of devices turning up over the last year with skin sensors of all kinds but OKU is the first company to try to turn that data into something meaningful.

The OKU skin coach is a strange looking cube with optical sensors that analyse what’s going on under your epidermis. Touch it to your temple and it picks up on moisture, oils, elasticity, firmness and then gives a SkinScore for which you then get a series of daily goals to help improve.

You'll know what to eat, how to exercise and even what foods to avoid if you want to keep spots at bay.

While it all sounds far fetched at the minute, it's very much the thought that counts. While OKU and the rest might ultimately fail, you can bet the tech giants are looking on with their wallets in one and hand and their notebooks in the other.

What do you think?

Connect with Facebook, Twitter, or just enter your email to sign in and comment.