Hot off the heels of Apple’s Spring Forward press event in San Francisco to launch the much-hyped Apple Watch, in London this week we welcomed the 2015 Wearable Tech Show. The show – now in its third year – featured future-focused technologies across a broad range of areas and applications including communications, augmented reality, virtual reality, health and fashion. We spent several hours checking out the companies and products on show – so here are the top 5 things that stood out for us…
1. Octagon Studios, based in Ireland and Indonesia, showed off its fun and interactive app for children and adults that uses augmented reality, an iPad and some playing cards to create a world of moving 3D giraffes and elephants popping out of the screen. You can also swoop around and interact with complex renderings of buildings, from the fantastical to realistic, and we thought that Octagon was the most impressive company in terms of AR and VR at the show (in our opinion). We can see this providing solutions to alternative education and development in the future, much the way that 3D printing has quickly made its way into schools. www.octagon-studio.com
2. Infinity Augmented Reality comes all the way from Israel, and it demoed a world of interactive play using basic and affordable software and tech including 2D stereoscopic cameras to interact with 3D environments and characters. We took the opportunity to play with the quirky characters, shoot targets and fly the Landspeeder from Star Wars in an AR environment without the feeling of motion sickness that you can often get from VR headsets. Another clever addition to Infinity’s Augmented Reality meant that two different users could look at the same object from different positions and still interact with objects separately. At the moment, it’s still a work in progress but certainly a lot of fun. www.infinityar.com
3. Fablab London specialises in helping anyone to create 3D printed designs from their lab in the City of London. We’re actually lucky enough to share a building with them so have more intimate knowledge than most! Its Lab space is open to individuals who can bring their own designs, and we saw this first hand with a part for a model train set that was long discontinued, so a gentleman in his 80’s decided to 3D print it himself. Fablab’s space in the ground floor of the City Bathtub building is a cornucopia of tools, laser cutters, milling machines, sewing machines, 3D scanners and traditional hand tools. Of course, if you don’t know what you’re doing then they’ll help out with design and production- because the truth is most of us may want to print off an entire Star wars Stormtrooper costume but wouldn’t have a clue where to begin. www.fablablondon.org
4. Cogito is what we’d describe as ‘the halfway smartwatch’. It brings the design and function of a normal watch and incorporates notifications from the wearers phone such as messages, phone calls and emails into the display. It even has the ability to shuffle songs on the users phone, and can interface with the full Android catalogue of apps, as it is built on Android rather than the cut-down Android Wear. www.cogitowatch.com
5. Jawbone are already very well known compared to many of the other exhibitors, and were showing off the latest iterations of its UP wristbands. Whilst the functionality isn’t massively different from other big players such as Fitbit (or even what can be done with most smartphones) its devices are still stylish and will be massively popular with people looking to use wearables as part of shifting to a healthier lifestyle.. www.jawbone.com
It’s also worth give a notable mention to some other products such Glofaster’s smart clothing range for cyclists and runners, which tracks your exercise activity and reports back by using light, sound and vibration to let the wearer know they’ve reached their target. Equally impressive was MyZone’s sports chest-strap smart-system, which provides an active monitoring system to encourage effort during physical activity. https://www.myzonemoves.com and www.glofaster.com.
Overall, much of the focus at the show fell on smart watches and VR – the two hottest areas of wearables for the past 6-12 months, and probably the most mature areas of technology. Journalists and industry experts are currently predicting that the newest (fast growing) trends, will be the rise of the Smart Car but for now, the market is being dominated by consumer friendly wearable tech that should enhance someone’s lifestyle rather than hinder it. Maybe next year, there will be even more exhibitors specialising in different sectors for us to get our teeth into.