Recently in…Wearables

Speculation over why Apple is acquiring Beats Electronics hovers around the volatile Wearable technology market. Will an investment in wearables pay off? To quote the SOLIDWORKS 8-ball, “Reply hazy try again.” Some pundits predict a $30 billion industry by 2018, while naysayers point to Nike’s departure from the fitness tracker business as a sign of a dying fad. At this point, only one thing is certain: Dr. Dre is the first billionaire in hip hop.

From the design challenges to world-changing advances being made by connecting humanity and technology, this week’s edition is all about wearables.


Why wearable technology is a bad fit

Value and design are two big factors keeping wearables out of the mainstream. Most will agree that the best wearables become an unobtrusive extension of the wearer – easier said than designed. Fitness trackers were the first to achieve high levels of usability; however, their applications are limited in scope so they only attract a limited user base. Google Glass is on the other end of the spectrum – seemingly limitless value, but highly noticeable. Glass augments life with the Web’s information, but it’s hard to fly under the radar while wearing them. Whether it’s value or design, modern day Wearables seem to only hit 50 percent of the equation. The designer who can master the remaining 50 wins.

Oh, baby: wearables track infants’ vital signs

Wearables could make first-time parent freak outs a thing of the past. Being a new parent, I will admit to constant worry about how my child is sleeping in her crib. Countless times I would stare at a video monitor and think, “Is she breathing?” before running to her room to check in. Maybe I’m just a Nervous Nellie. Fortunately she was fine, but more often than not I would wake her up which is another great parenting fear – albeit on a much lesser scale. Several baby monitoring wearables, measuring breathing and heart rate, are hitting the market. Not surprisingly, safety concerns are emerging alongside – stressing the importance of product testing.

FDA approves robotic prosthesis controlled by muscle contractions

DEKA Integrated Solutions’ “Luke” prosthetic arm is the first mind-controlled prosthetic arm approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Named after the fateful Star Wars lightsaber duel, Luke is controlled by sensors placed on the remaining portion of its human’s arm. The prosthetic performs tasks based on muscle movements read by its sensors and helps users perform tasks unimaginable with current prosthesis, such as using keys and locks, preparing food, feeding oneself, using zippers, and brushing and combing hair. While prosthetics are far from the wearable technology most people use, this example demonstrates the human/computer interaction needed for wearables to truly change our world.

Wearables will make up a portion of the estimated 26 billion connected devices that will be in existence by 2020. The Internet of Things is changing the way designers and engineers think about their projects. Electromechanical design is one area undergoing rapid evolution thanks to more and more devices connecting to the Web. For a look at the new dimension of electrical design and the increasing need to produce complex electrical systems, check out our electrifying history of AC/DC design infographic here.

What breakthrough do you feel will bring wearables to the mainstream?

Mike Fearon

Mike Fearon

Senior Manager Brand Offer Marketing, Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS. Video game world champion and whisky advocate. I like turtles.