Death To The Smartphone: Wearables Could Soon Render Them Obsolete


ADOTAS — Microsoft has finally done what has long been rumored, elbowing its way into the smartphone business by purchasing Nokia’s mobile device division for $7.7 billion. But Bill Gates & Co. could end up being a day late and a dollar short, considering that Samsung seems poised to unveil its Galaxy Gear smartwatch this week – a move that some see as the beginning of the end for the smartphone.

The wearable trend has exploded over the last year, made popular by the beta launch of Google Glass, GlassUpMeta, thefitbit flex and the Nike Fuel Band. Market researcher HIS iSupplipredicts that 124,000 pairs of smart glasses will ship this year, mostly to developers, up from 50,000 last year. IHS expects the figure to climb as high as 434,000 next year.

MassiveImpact CEO Sephi Shapira (pictured) recently predicted that the smartphone will go the way of the dinosaur within 5 years.

“Wearable mobile phone technology is now progressing from the binocular to the glasses stage, and vertical devices like Google Glass, iWatch, and Google voice-enabled devices will inevitably replace the smartphone,” said Shapira. “Being close to the body, these devices will monitor vital signs, emotions, and activities. Fitness bands already monitor our actions, our sleep, calories burn and so on. The medical implications alone are mind-boggling — how about keeping an infant or child safe? A recent report from BI Intelligence conservatively forecast a $12 billion market for wearable devices in 5 years, led by wrist-worn gadgets.”

In particular, there seems to be a lot of movement in the form of wearables for your eyes — permutations of Google Glass. GlassUp is a pair of glasses with second-screen output for smartphones that connects via Bluetooth with a monochrome projector to display text updates, helping to extend the battery life of the device. Meta is creating a set of goggles called Space Glasses that integrate 3-D imagery and virtual reality capabilities, ideal for gaming.

In an interview with MIT Technology Review about the wearable market, Meta’s Chief Scientist Steve Mann said, “I think it’s a really good time to enter into this world.”

But Ken Hess of ZDnet doesn’t feel like the world is ready to wear its wireless heart on its sleeve. “… Realistically, the only ‘wearable tech’ or wearable computing market, for the foreseeable future, is probably for the military,” said Hess. “Those guys are so loaded up that they need some lightweight, unobtrusive wearable tech.”

Cost is an alienating factor for many; Google Glass, priced at $1,499 for the developer version, isn’t accessible to all but a select few. But competitor GlassUp will be priced at around $299if it ever gets to market.  And with price points for exercise wearables right around $99 for the fitbit flex and $149 for the Nike Fuel Band, these are not gadgets that only rich people can afford.

With the popularity of wearable gadgets, what about the potential for advertisers getting into the game? While it may becreepy to think that brands would have direct access to our eyeballs, businesses are purring at the opportunity. Even though Google claims it won’t allow advertisers to tap into its Glass screen, the goggles will undoubtedly be used to view webpages, social media sites and Facebook’s News Stream, where ads already have a strong foothold. Also, there could be talk about eye-tracking research conducted through Google Glass as well as advertisers gaining access to my exercise data and eating habits tracked through devices like the fitbit.

“When we all inevitably start to wear Internet-connected devices, advertising will change,” Shapira hypothesized about our impending future. “Why not, for example, charge advertisers for what we see and how it makes us feel?

“Google was recently awarded a patent for a head-mounted eye-tracking system that could enable ‘pay-per-gaze advertising,’ charging advertisers when a user views images online or in the real world. … A user walking in the street looks at a billboard and the advertiser pays — this means media can now sell real-world impressions. By measuring pupil dilation, at least in theory, the system also could determine the wearer’s ‘emotional state’ at the time of viewing. Further, the inferred emotional-state information can be provided to an advertiser (perhaps for a premium fee) so that the advertiser can gauge the success of their advertising campaign, as the patent summary explains.”

Talk about grabbing people’s attention.



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