Apple, Google Creating Wearable Computers for iOS/Android

With laptops, smartphones and tablets of nearly every shape, size and design available on the market, you have to wonder — what will be the next big mobile fad? Apple and Google are reportedly in the midst of attempting to answer that question with wearable computers.

According to The New York Times, Apple and Google secretly started working on the wearable devices separately over the past year.

Apple has already created prototypes of its wearable device. A small group of Apple employees are working with the gadgets to make them as useful and mobile as possible. One of the ideas for the wearable Apple device is a curved-glass iPod that can be worn around the wrist like a watch, and its user could communicate with it using intelligent software assistant Siri.

The iPhone would also play a critical role in the device’s existence. The wearable gadget would collect information for and about the user and share it with the iPhone.

Apple won’t be the only one to offer what could be the most innovative new gadget of the future, though. Google has been working on a wearable device as well in its secret Google X Labs, and it apparently hired some outside help from Apple engineers, Nokia Labs and engineering universities.

Like Apple, Google’s wearable device will relay information to smartphones as well, but only Android devices.

The devices are not only expected to boost smartphone sales for both companies, but also bridge the gap to the future of electronic gadgets. According to Michael Liebhold, senior researcher specializing in wearable computing at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California, these devices will take the next necessary step before we receive electronics of the future like glasses/contact lenses with full virtual displays.

“Kids will play virtual games with their friends, where they meet in a park and run around chasing virtual creatures for points,” said Liebhold.

Personally, I don’t see myself getting overly excited about a new wearable device — especially if its only purpose is to talk to my smartphone. I’ll just carry my smartphone, which is never too far away from me or inconvenient to carry.

Also, it sounds like Silicon-Valley based WIMM already created watch-like computers months ago, and they didn’t seem to take off. However, it’s not for certain that the wearable gadgets Apple and Google are creating are restricted to the wrist.

My biggest concern is the kind of information the wearable gadget would relay to our smartphones. Would we even be aware that it’s sending some of the information it’s collecting? And what kind of information is it collecting? These are questions that will likely take some time to answer, since both Apple and Google are still working on the prototypes. But given recent history where smartphones were used to track users (sometimes unknowingly) I’m not sure I entirely trust the intentions of these gadgets.

Aside from trust issues with the devices, I just don’t see the point. It might be cool for instances like working out, where carrying your smartphone would be a pain, but it’s not really something I’d use outside of that.

I couldn’t help but think of the study that Underwriters Laboratories released last week, which described the fact that gadget companies are creating a variety of devices with only slight differences. This was referred to as “gadget fatigue,” where consumers don’t feel the need to update to a device that isn’t all that different, especially for the prices that some companies want — and I think that’s where I stand with the wearable tech, unless it performs some dramatically different functions from current smartphones/tablets.

What do you think?

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