The weekend brought a couple of articles about wearables from central journals in geek and fashion culture: Wired and Black Book. Interestingly, they agree: if the wearables revolution is going to take off, product designers had better think hard about the physical form of the technology.
Intuitively, this makes sense — and it’s something that the tech world is hearing a lot these days. Wearable tech is an intimate thing. It’s with you all the time. If it’s worthwhile, you’re relying on it. It needs to be pleasing, the way and iPod was and a a Rio MP3 player wasn’t. Don’t remember the Rio? That’s why.
Right now, a lot of wearable tech isn’t very appealing. The Fuelband is nice, for instance; the Fitbit Flex less so. I think if you looked at their respective development processes, you’d find that an industrial designer was in Nike’s process a lot earlier than in Fitbit’s. That certainly fits Nike’s DNA; design is important to them.
That mindset, I think, will be a determining success factor for a lot of wearables. There’ll always be a market for interesting new stuff that’s boxy and requires a lot of user interaction and has wires hanging out of it. But that market will not be mass, or even especially large. And those companies will not succeed.