Week in wearable tech: VR storytelling and Switzerland's smartwatch reckoning

It's all kicking off this week
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The fate of Nokia's health division looks to be, sadly, almost sealed. Nokia Health is in an ironically bad shape, and this week we learned that the company "doesn't see a path forward" for the division. Translation: sell it or it dies.

Of course Nokia's connected health annex was itself a separate company, Withings, before Nokia snapped it up just two years ago for $191 million. It's a sadly familiar pattern in Silicon Valley. Big company buys small company. Big company realizes it no longer needs/can no longer sustain new branch. Big company sells it off or lets it die.

However, there's no guarantee Withings would have survived on its own. Mike spilled his thoughts on why it all went wrong for Nokia - be sure to check it out.

Ok, what else have we been talking about this week?

Switzerland's smartwatch reckoning

Week in wearable tech: VR storytelling and Switzerland's smartwatch reckoning

This week we were in New York for the launch of the new Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture, which fuses a mechanical watch with modern smarts. It's a real beaut, but it also inspired a lot of chat about the state of the industry. I sat down with CEO Peter Stas to talk about how the company is fending off smartwatch rivals like Apple. Times are changing and Stas knows it, with connected hybrid watches now making up 12% of the company's revenue. "Some people are still in denial and think it will come back miraculously," he said. "I don't think so - unless we start to act."

Health and fitness is in the company's crosshairs, and the new watch improves on most other hybrids we've seen with a dynamic coach. The company plans to dive deeper on that in the future, and is looking to bring a heart rate sensor to future watches, but Stas says he still has no interest in putting a screen on Frederique Constant's watches.

Have we got news for you

Week in wearable tech: VR storytelling and Switzerland's smartwatch reckoning

After conquering radio and television broadcasting for much of the last century, the BBC is now looking to pioneer news storytelling in VR. This week Conor looked at how the company is turning to virtual reality with the launch of its new BBC VR app and a a two-part series, Damming The Nile, which will be available for those with a Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR.

As Conor points out, this isn't the first VR project from the BBC, but it is the first serious leap into VR news storytelling which takes advantage of improving technology. "Unfortunately, we're still limited by what the headsets can do," said Zillah Watson, the BBC's head of VR commissioning. "But it's vastly better than what we could do even a year ago.

One more thing...

Week in wearable tech: VR storytelling and Switzerland's smartwatch reckoning

Say what you will about how they look, there's no denying the facts: Apple's AirPods proved to be a runaway success. Naturally we've been expecting the company to give the headphones a big overhauls (technically it refreshed them in 2017 with wireless charging). One of the biggest stories this week came from Bloomberg and details two new sets of AirPods in Apple's pipeline, one on course to launch this year and another in 2019.

The ones set for 2018 will reportedly improve Siri's integration: instead of tapping the earbuds you'll be able to simply say the magic words, "Hey Siri". That would be a marked improvement. I don't use Siri a lot because, well, it's just not very good. And the fact I have to tap on the earbuds, which sometimes doesn't even register on the first attempt, only to have Apple's misunderstand me... well it's not exactly the future I was promised. I bashed the Google Pixel Buds pretty hard, but what they did do right was make the act of speaking to Google Assistant much faster. If Apple can do that with the AirPods, great!

The AirPods for 2019 will be water resistant, says the report, though will only withstand splashes and rain - not a full dunking. That surprises me, and while I'm more than happy to eat my words next year, I'm less confident in this part of the story. Apple has made a big song and dance about how good the Apple Watch is for swimming - and it is! - and if Bragi can make its earbuds swimproof, why can't Cupertino? The AirPods would make a great companion for swimming with the Watch too. Of course before it does any of that, it needs to make sure they stay in all sizes and shapes of ears.

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Hugh Langley


Now at Business Insider, Hugh originally joined Wareable from TechRadar where he’d been writing news, features, reviews and just about everything else you can think of for three years.

Hugh is now a correspondent at Business Insider.

Prior to Wareable, Hugh freelanced while studying, writing about bad indie bands and slightly better movies. He found his way into tech journalism at the beginning of the wearables boom, when everyone was talking about Google Glass and the Oculus Rift was merely a Kickstarter campaign - and has been fascinated ever since.

He’s particularly interested in VR and any fitness tech that will help him (eventually) get back into shape. Hugh has also written for T3, Wired, Total Film, Little White Lies and China Daily.

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