If you are someone who enjoys going to the gym or taking long walks, then you can probably relate to this sequence of events.
You wake up and decide you're going to go out and train. Before leaving home you would need to grab your iPod or similar mobile device. Other important items would be a pedometer or some machine that would help track your pulse rate or temperature. Perhaps you would want to bring along headphones to block out annoying sounds, especially if you were walking past heavy traffic areas or construction sites.
Sound like something you can relate to? If so, you wouldn't be alone. The use of mobile devices is part of a trend called wearable technology. Although that trend has been with us since the days of transistor radios, it has come a long way in the past few years. If you're wondering what exactly a wearable is, a website to check out is Vandrico Inc.,an expert in wearables that gives an interesting breakdown of the market. According to the site there are 267 devices in the wearable tech market, with an average price of $364 each. These devices range from gadgets for entertainment to complements to fitness routines to gaming, lifestyle and medical tech. There's even a category for pets and animals.
Everyday companies seem to develop new wearable technologies. Daily Mail UK reports that South Korean tech giant Samsung has unveiled a flexible battery that can bend back upon itself and can even fit around your wrist or a cup. Forbes says Microsoft plans to launch a wearable device within weeks. The gadget is a smart watch that will passively track a wearer’s heart rate and work across different mobile platforms. It will also boast a battery life of more than two days of regular use, sources close to the project say.
This trend may sound exciting, but for some users it's creating "wearable fatigue." While several of the devices are quite ingenious and intriguing, many people are tired of having to carry around things in order to listen to music, count their steps, or get onto the Internet.
But if carrying the technology on your body isn't an option, what is? In an article called “Wearable Fatigue? Stick It In Your Ear,” Wired.com says companies left and right are hopping on the wearables bandwagon with very limited success. Wearables aren’t sticking because consumers are not willing to alter their behaviour to accommodate the product. Smart ear devices, or “hearables,” are the new horizon, and these devices have the potential to make a lasting impact in the wearable space. The brilliant thing about placing a wearable device in the ear is that the ear provides a clearer gateway into brain and body activity.
Venturebeat.com says the same thing, while specifically addressing fitness wearables. The market for fitness wearables is strong, but is still niche. Pedometers that once only measured footsteps, now have many features to estimate sleep quality and even determine one’s ideal activity type (running, walking, cycling, etc.). However, the sales of activity trackers, while growing, only hover around a few million units per year.
Venturebeat.com writes: The opportunities for hearable products are not limited to the fitness industry. Consider the enormous gaming industry, where headsets are also commonly used. Earbuds with biometric sensor technology could potentially allow gamers to transform the state of a character or play in response to their physical mood. For example, a state of relaxation may improve the gamer’s shooting accuracy, or a state of anger may increase the gamer’s strength. Biometrics could also play a role in shaping a user’s avatar in more social gaming environments.
And that's also true for hearing aids and other devices that enhance hearing capabilities. Fair or not, hearing aids are often seen as expensive, intrusive, cumbersome and difficult to use. For people who need to think about getting them, it can also raise feelings of fear and denial. Connect Hearing Canada has written extensively about people who choose to live with hearing loss rather than face the issue, even though the organization offers free hearing tests at their clinics across Canada.
It is estimated that nearly half of adults ages 75 years and older have hearing loss, and with 76.4 million baby boomers moving into their 50s, 60s and 70s, there is about to be a massive influx of elderly people in the market for a hearing device. While people may need hearing aids, many don't get them. Of the 35 million children and adults in the U.S. who would benefit from a hearing aid, less than 25 percent actually use them.
The push is to continue to make technology less bulky and more discreet. With hearing aids in particular, there may be a day when these devices actually enhance people's lives beyond hearing. For example, a hearing aid may also help an elderly person turn on a computer and navigate the Internet with voice commands, or help an individual with mobility issues make a telephone call — all through technology worn in the ear.
Here is a quick video talking about the future of Hearables:
M.J. DeSousa, Connect Hearing’s Director of Professional Practice, says new advances in hearing technology are being made every day. She believes these new advances can only be a benefit to people who are dealing with hearing loss.
“In my mind, anything that brings attention to the ear is a wonderful thing,” says DeSousa. “For so many Canadians, there is still a bit of a stigma attached to the ear, but what these studies show is that companies are investing heavily into creating technology that will make life easier for everyone — not just those dealing with hearing loss.”