5 things we learned about wearable tech at CES 2015

Lessons learned from gear and clothing in Las Vegas
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Of all the tech shows, announcements and conferences, CES is our single best chance of distilling all the crazy inventions, partnerships and experiments that we see in the world of wearable tech into cold hard trends, lessons and predictions.

CES 2015 didn't disappoint with waves of new health and fitness gadgets, VR devices and crowdfunding projects made good forming a cheaper, smaller and better-looking selection of wearable tech at the start of what should be a very exciting year. Here's five things we learned at the Vegas expo.

1. Wearables are still experimenting


Remember the awkward teen years of smartphones? What fun we had with slide-out keyboards and scroll wheels. Well, wearables haven't graduated from their own product design puberty yet and for now, anything goes.

Time will tell if fashion-conscious women will give the Martian-powered Guess Connect, which simply adds a pager-style notification to an existing Guess design, more of a chance than jewellery-like fitness trackers such as Mira or the Jonathan Adler edition of the Garmin Vivofit.

The line between bonkers and brilliant has never been thinner - if HealBe's pseudo-scientific automatic calorie tracker GoBe actually works well enough to be useful when it ships this month, most people won't care how it arrived at its algorithms. And it might not be devices at all, smart clothing made a small splash at CES motion capture XefleX on show and Intel's biometrically aware dress (below) but expect to see a lot more of it in 2015.

Read more: The wackiest wearables at CES 2015

2. Ecosystems are where it's at


We want to get to the stage that our alarm clock/coffee machine/lights/car (you know the drill) all work by magic because of the location of our smartwatch or intuitive touch or voice controls. We also want all our health and fitness data in one place. And there were hints at CES 2015 that we might actually get there.

Garmin's watches now run third party apps via its Connect IQ platform, opening up the tech to other sports. Sony added support for Withings devices and smart home IFTTT recipes to its Lifelog app which already works with its own SmartWatch 3. And plenty of smaller fitness and wellbeing companies pledged allegiance to one or all of Google Health, Apple Health and Microsoft Health.

Read more: The smart home of the future

3. Intel is in prime position


Qualcomm pointed out that a lot of tech on show at CES was running on its Snapdragon smartphone chips - the Gear VR is powered by the Galaxy Note 4 and both the Gear S and LG G Watch R run on Snapdragon silicon.

But it was Intel that committed itself again to doing everything in its power to promote wearables. It showed off the wearable camera drone Nixie on stage. It announced the tiny Curie module built specifically with an eye on smart jewellery and because its Edison board was too big for most wearables. And it partnered with wacky Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht on the Smart Spider Dress to show that wearables don't have to be all about small screens and charging smartwatches.

4. Hearables are ... here


For the past twelve months, we've seen tech manufacturers show us wrist trees, leather straps and charging docks as they obsess over a few centimetres of arm space. Things are about to get a whole lot weirder as designers and engineers go loony for our lugholes. CES saw plenty of heart rate monitoring buds and headsets including the Bragi Dash, Parrot Zik Sport and Sony's Smart B-Trainer prototype based on its wearable Walkman.

At the risk of being left out, Avegant showed off the final, headphone-like design of its Glyph VR headset and Oculus added '3D audio' that uses head tracking to make its Rift gaming headset more immersive.

Read more: Moto Hint review

5. The heavy hitters are waiting for MWC


Sony gave us a stainless steel SmartWatch 3 and LG teased its mystery smartwatch collaboration with Audi but the big tech names avoided AAA wearable announcements this CES.

That's partly because it's too soon - companies like Samsung don't want to annoy people who have just bought a Gear Live or Gear S. But it's also because Mobile World Congress is just around the corner. What the what? MWC is a rival trade show, held in Barcelona every March and this year running 2 - 5 March. Its popularity has skyrocketed over the last few years as companies like HTC and Samsung have announced or debuted smartphones at the show while CES has to make do with huge OLED TV launches.

Wearables being mobile themselves, it made sense that 2014 saw more smartwatches and trackers in Barcelona and 2015 could be the year MWC cements its place on the wearable tech calendar. We're hoping for something from Samsung, probably a round Tizen smartwatch if the rumours are to be believed, but HTC's first wearable is overdue and Tag might choose the conference to show off its first smartwatch too. Wareable will be reporting live from Barcelona, not long to wait now.

Read more: Stuck on the rumour mill - HTC, Tag and more

How we test


Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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