"I love that phrase you used, it was very clever - 'Revolution not evolution'.
"No, it was the opposite. 'Evolution not revolution'.
If you're an Alan Partridge fan, then right now you're probably relaying to yourself the rest of that scene in which Alan sits down with Tony Hayers, director of programming at the BBC, orders a bottle of Blue Nun and doesn't get a second series.
It's this scene and this exchange that instantly jumped to mind when I heard that wearables were going to have a quiet year or are in fact as some say, dead. CES, or Consumer Electronics Show for those not in the know, is the tech expo in Las Vegas that sees hordes of journalists descend on the City of Sin to find out what we'll all be talking about (and buying) over the coming months and years.
This year, big names like Sony, LG and Huawei didn't give much airtime, if any, to wearable tech. Fitbit was present but didn't have anything new to talk about as it pushes on with its smartwatch and health tracking ambitions. Apple never turns up to the show because it simply doesn't need to. It's the same with Google although it did manage to slap its name on everything - including the monorail. We can only imagine this was to remind everyone that Alexa is not the only smart assistant to answer your daily queries.
It's been a show dominated by Alexa and Google Assistant-packing smart speakers, more smart home tech than you probably know what to do with, giant TVs you're never going to be able to afford (or have room for) and there is of course always the robots.
There were wearables there too and this brings me back to the the evolution not revolution Partridge reference. It was a CES that proved hardware along with the sensors and components packed into them are being pushed to their limits. Now it's about how software can unlock their capabilities to do more.
Take HTC's new Vive Pro headset, which arguably offers the best virtual reality experience right now of all the high end headsets. How do you make it better? In the Pro's case, it's to improve resolution, cut the cables and upgrade its audio capabilities that help ramp up the immersive feeling inside of VR. Tweaks that will ultimately make this the headset to beat.
Outside of Apple and Fitbit, Garmin is making the biggest strides with its sports and fitness tracking wearables and now it's about trying to match and catch up with what its rivals can offer. On this occasion, it was about delivering a wearable with music storage, which came in the shape of the Forerunner 645 Music. Nokia continues its rebranding and revamping process after acquiring Withings absorbing all of its great connected health and fitness devices in the process. For Nokia, it's now about improving those software smarts.
For those who might not consider what the likes of HTC, Garmin or Nokia is doing to be all that groundbreaking, there's been plenty of innovation elsewhere, just maybe not from the names you'd instantly recognise or necessarily associate with wearable technology. Cosmetics giant L'Oreal unveiled a UV sensing patch that fits onto your fingernail and can notify you when you've been exposed to too much sun. Startup Mars is making the real-time language translation buds we wished Google's Pixel Buds had turned out to be. There's even a mouthguard designed to help detect concussion for athletes involved in high impact sports.
With Apple and Fitbit both declaring their intentions to make greater strides with how its wearables can offer serious health tracking, there's been plenty of examples outside of the big two on how wearables are ready to dramatically change lives and maybe save lives in 2018. Crowdfunding success story and smart earbuds maker Bragi is among a host of company looking at how it can develop technology to benefit those with hearing impairments. Omron is awaiting FDA approval to launch a smartwatch that can track blood pressure from the wrist, while Samsung's experimental C-Lab has developed Relumino smartglasses that aim to aid the vision of people who are partially sighted.
They might not grab the headlines like the smart speakers and robot dogs will, but there's reasons to be positive for the future of wearable technology, even if some of the big companies have seemingly backed away from the space in recent years. Whether you care about a serious sport tracking smartwatch, want a more immersive VR experience, or you want an upgrade on your hearing aids. These are no longer pipe dreams or things that we talk about happening one day. They are happening now. It's evolution and not revolution and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. The face of wearables is changing, but it's definitely for the better.
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