Writing for Reuters, Jeremy Wagstaff says ‘disappearables’ could very well be the next big thing in mobile.
“The pace of innovation and the tumbling cost, and size, of components will make wearables smaller – so small, some in the industry say, that no one will see them,” he explained. “Within five years, wearables like the watch could be overtaken by hearables – devices with tiny chips and sensors that can fit inside your ear. They, in turn, could be superseded by disappearables – technology tucked inside your clothing, or even inside your body.”
As Kow Ping of Well Being Digital Ltd points out, chipmakers have invested heavily in reducing the power consumption and size of sensors. To be sure, an accelerometer, which tracks position, motion and orientation, now measures 1 square millimeter.
A depiction of an accelerometer designed at Sandia National Laboratories. Image Credit: Wikipedia
“A few years ago it was two or three times as big and two or three times less refined,” he told Reuters. In five years, says Ping, “there will be people building sensors into every existing wearable device or apparel.”
Nikolaj Hviid of the Munich-based Bragi GmbH – who refers to such devices as ‘disappearables’ – envisions a wide range of use cases for the technology, including those related to the medical and fitness market. “It’s more like a butler … [Disappearables] do some basic stuff that you really want, but there are deeper experiences in there.”
Eliott Jones, VP of User Experience at Rambus, concurred with Hviid’s assessment.
“There are lots of people who literally have drawers filled with discarded wearables. Ultimately, quite a few of the devices have failed the most important market test: do they make our lives easier or are they mere distractions with limited long-term value? We are clearly in the early phase of an emergent technology, where the tendency is to explore what’s possible rather than what really is meaningful. Frankly, despite the recent excitement, I think most of the products we’re seeing aren’t going to be around in a few years,” said Jones.
“Quite a lot of the current buzz around the wearables market can be attributed to pent-up interest based on the promise of wearable devices, but they are being powered by technology that is actually still evolving in size and performance. And, to be able for them to succeed, wearables will need to command less of our attention. Wearables will likely only reach their full potential when they reach ‘disappearable’ status. Simply put, next-gen wearables will have to be capable of effectively extracting meaning from a vast amount of captured data with a minimal amount of (active) human input.”