The Future of Wearable Tech in 2016 and Beyond

For gaming geeks, parts of everyday life can feel like an unbearable snooze. We dream of games taking over our reality. We picture how awesome it would be to use Star Trek’s holodeck to get through our morning commutes. And we imagine wearing clothes that are as badass as Kiera’s skintight suit in Continuum.

Good news. Wearable technology is bringing gadgets into even the most mundane parts of our lives, bringing us ever closer to making these visions a reality. Two years ago, we were all talking about Google glasses and Apple watches. Then we were talking about the next hottest wearable in fitness. That’s all yesterday’s news. Now more than ever, wearable technology is being built to augment life overall, not just specific activities. It’s moving away from accessories and into the mainstage of clothing necessities. If shopping has always been more of a chore than a delight, it’s time to get a bit more excited. Clothes are getting a whole lot cooler, and not just for gym rats. Companies including Samsung, Google, and HexoSkin are all focusing on making normal clothes as connected as your smartphone.

Samsung’s Welt, which stands for “wellness belt,” took January’s Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show by storm. The smart belt looks like a normal belt but its buckle is packed with sensors that analyze everything from your growing waistline to your physical movement and eating habits. Let’s be honest: having a step-tracker on your wrist or smartphone isn’t really giving you a great sense of the steps you take. It’s not such a practical choice when it comes to measuring your vitals.

Something sitting directly on your waist, however, is going to catch every movement. The belt works with an app that lets you know how long you’ve been sitting, how many donuts you’ve overeaten, and how many inches your waist has expanded since your last set of gaming all-nighters. If you’re spending way, way, too much time geeking out over Minecraft, your belt is going to let you know. Right now, the Welt is a Creative Lab project so there isn’t any pricing information yet, but look for it on the market soon.

Belts aren’t the only sensor-packed clothing item in the works. Google’s Project Jacquard is spinning conductive yarns that can bring touch controls and gesture interactivity into everything you come into contact with, from your blue jeans to your favorite gaming chair. The yarn looks like a normal synthetic yarn, but it’s interwoven with thin metallic alloys which can connect to tiny circuits that are no larger than a button. Together, Google and Levi’s are aiming to make wearable technology indistinguishable from normal clothes. The only difference between regular Levi’s and Levi’s made with Jacquard yarn will be that the latter is much smarter.

While connected belts, jeans, and even connected socks and underwear will keep you geeking out 24/7, there is also a ton to be excited about in the future of virtual reality headsets. 2016 is going to be the year that Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive Pre (2nd Generation), and PlayStation VR (Sony’s Project Morpheus) all go mainstream. For a pretty penny, you can grab them all in stores starting as early as April 2016.

From belts and jeans that are connected, to smart socks and virtual reality headsets, the future of wearable tech is all about following the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid). This should be thee future of all user interface design, but it matters most for technologies we plan to wear as a second skin (or a second set of eyes). What’s so exciting about the wearable technology being built is that it aims to improve your entire day, not just your fitness routine or your gaming session. Every action can be connected. With that, life becomes so much closer to the science fiction books you still have under your bed.

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