Wait, when did wearable tech stop being geeky?
RAYBANS The Stories glasses can record videos, hands-free, and boast Facebook technology. They can also play music through speakers and respond to basic commands. (“Hey Facebook, write this article,” unfortunately didn’t work.) But here’s their most notable attribute: They look like glasses. Released last month, the Wayfarers Stories weigh just five grams more than an analog pair and if not for a little white light that shines when you shoot, they look identical to the Techless Wayfarers – a seminal mount worn by Muhammad Ali, Madonna and countless others.
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The novelty of Ray-Ban digital frames is their normality. In 2013, Google released its $ 1,500 drink, which made the wearer look like such a Silicon Valley cyborg that innovation has been ridiculed to obsolescence. Glass still exists, but have you seen anyone wear it lately? With cameras with obvious yellow edges on either side, the $ 130 bezels from Snap, a Gen Z favorite social media app, didn’t fare much better in 2016.
Ray-Ban Stories glasses are part of a new generation of wearable accessories that minimize their technicality and prioritize aesthetics. Take the $ 400 ring from the Finnish healthcare company Oura. Released in 2018, the second generation of this sleep tracker is small enough to pass for a golden ball. Last month, Whoop, a Boston-based wearable startup, released the fourth iteration of its screenless activity tracker which is 33% smaller than the previous one. (Subscriptions, which include a bracelet, start at $ 324 for 18 months.) Earlier this year, Milan-based fashion label Prada partnered with American Express to present the most designer concept yet: an elegant bracelet. in black leather with silver buckle with a payment chip superimposed inside. It is exclusively available to Centurion cardholders.
Apple Watch is changing the landscape
The rush for modern portable devices began in the late 2000s with a surge of devices capable of calculating your steps and measuring your energy expenditure. These blocky options, like the Fitbit and the Nike + FuelBand, wrapped around the wrist like a rubbery black snake and had frenzied, pixelated displays reminiscent of 1980s calculators.
Their “clumsy” was a problem, said Elizabeth Wissinger, professor of sociology at the City University of New York, who studies wearable technology. In 2013, a Forrester Research survey titled “Fitness Wearables — Many Products, Few Customers” found that only 4% of Americans wanted a wearable device. Ms Wissinger said: “In the end, no one wanted to walk around blinking.”
The landscape changed in 2015 when Apple released its first Apple Watch. Getting Apple, the high-design tech temple built by Steve Jobs, to launch into wearables has validated the market. The watch looked exquisite, with curved edges, a glossy square display, and interchangeable straps, including a popular leather option from French luxury mainstay Hermés. The Apple Watch presented wearable technology as fashionable, not just functional.
As the Apple Watch has caught on, spotting a wearable object on someone’s wrist no longer seems remarkable. At a recent meeting, New York fashion designer Jeff Staple noticed that the other 10 attendees were wearing some sort of wearable bracelet. “These are people who probably have Rolexes and Pateks in their closets,” he said. “But they’re sitting there collecting dust because the news [wearables yield] is just too important.
Data is king
This rush for portable heart rate monitoring and calorie calculating devices has coincided with a modern health awakening. Just think of the number of times you have been asked to drink eight glasses of water or take those 10,000 steps a day in recent years. “People, in general, [want] to improve their health if given the right direction to do so, ”said Will Ahmed, CEO of Whoop. When he founded Whoop in 2012, Mr. Ahmed, a former varsity squash player, initially focused on professional athletes, but found that average people are just as interested in their health data. About 99% of Whoop consumers are non-professionals who just like to know how well they are recovering from a run or how tired they got from biking a day ago.
But healthy sleep, not exercise data, might be the most compelling reason to adopt a wearable device. We are at a time when fanatic zzzs like Arianna Huffington are a constant reminder that a good night’s sleep is vital for health. With that in mind, almost every device on the market today also has sleep tracking. Few do it as solidly as the Oura ring which tracks your resting heart rate, changes in skin temperature, and hours of sleep and displays all of this information through a corresponding phone app. One way to improve your nap? If, depending on the ringtone, you only get three hours of deep sleep, you can adjust your bedtime. If privacy is important to you, beware: Oura, Whoop, and other clothing companies collect your personal data tracked on these devices. The onslaught of data can, of course, be overwhelming. In a recent appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Jennifer Aniston showed off the sparkly ring on her middle finger and proclaimed, “It ruins my life because I’m so obsessed with the Oura ring and looking at my sleep patterns and how I sleep badly and it makes me ashamed every day. Yet she hadn’t taken the ring off. After all, as she told the host, “I’m addicted”.
No matter how compelling the data on a portable device is, the coin has to be something you actually want to wear all the time. In the past, many models missed this mark. Harpreet Singh Rai, CEO of Oura, noted that the main thing he heard from consumers when he joined the company in 2017 was that the original ring, which looked like a well-fed beetle on the finger, was too big. People wanted a discreet device that they could wear every day. The company listened, shrinking Oura’s second model so that it could “fit right in, so you can wear it with a suit, you can wear it with a t-shirt.”
For some users, this goal has been achieved. “I can wear it without telling the world I’m doing CrossFit,” said Martin Romero, 32, a photographer in New York City. He had just spent a few days photographing people outside of New York Fashion Week catwalks and said he never took the ring off, even though it was a constant reminder that he was working too much and getting too little sleep. . “I feel like it’s the hottest wearable accessory on the market.
Wrist-connected objects like Whoop take up more body space, but come with interchangeable straps that give them a stylistic edge. “You can change the bands to match whatever you’re wearing,” said Francis Ahrens, 28, who works in college recruiting in Dallas. Whoop sells over 60 different bands for the device, ranging from brown vegan leather to spooky neon yellow. Mr Ahrens alternates between gray and black stripes, but said both are “quite inconspicuous”.
Whoop 4.0 becomes even more discreet. It can be completely removed from the strap and placed in compatible t-shirts, bras and underwear. Currently, tracking on the body can give different readings than if you are wearing a Whoop on your wrist.
The incognito nature of some recent technologies, particularly Stories, has raised privacy concerns. In Joanna Stern’s Stories review in the Wall Street Journal, she found that the small indicator light wasn’t enough for people to recognize they were being filmed, especially in well-lit outdoor spaces. Rocco Basilico, director of wearable devices at Luxottica, Ray-Ban’s parent company, defended the product, saying the shoot light is “more than what smartphones do.”
Fashion in the foreground
Not all data junkies want their wearables to be invisible. Some members I’ve spoken to have noted that they like it when people can see the device and ask, “Hey, what is this? When Mr. Staple spots a large gold ring on someone’s finger, he often asks if it is an Oura. Sometimes he’s wrong, but when he’s right, it opens up a conversation between two sleep tracking freaks.
Technology, especially something new and little seen, can be a status item you want to show off like a Cartier watch or a pair of Gucci loafers. It should be noted that on Instagram, some people who had purchased Ray-Ban Stories did not post videos or photos taken with the sunglasses on, but rather dizzying selfies of themselves wearing the glasses. Oura’s Singh Rai noted that he had had conversations with fashion brands about the collaboration (he wouldn’t reveal which ones) and that those brands might well want a bigger, more bling-bling ring.
A successful 2021 laptop doesn’t come across as something stolen from an episode of Star Trek, but as something you might find on the Nordstrom sales floor. Take, for example, Prada’s tasteful American Express bracelet. While the tech is undoubtedly cool, the real value of the device may be the reactions it elicits when you flash it to pay for your next latte.
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Write to Jacob Gallagher at [email protected]
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