By Louise Law, Global Communications Manager, Welocalize
The Wearable Technology Show 2015 took place in London this week. There were over 100 innovative wearable technology companies exhibiting at this show and unlike some of the more established technology trade shows, chances are many of the new generation products that were exhibited would not have existed five years ago.
Wearable technology is being cited as the next big must-have gadget and possibly a sign that the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected living really has arrived in our everyday lives.
According to CCS Insight global forecasts, shipments of smart wearables are expected to grow from 9.7 million in 2013 to 135 million in 2018, wrist-worn devices accounting for 87%. By 2018, 250 million of the world’s population will be wearing technology.
Wearable technology is simply a tiny computer device you can wear:
- On your wrist – Smart watches or smart bands
- On your face – Intelligent glasses
- As jewelry – Aesthetically pleasing ear buds
- As clothes – Smart fabrics, e-textiles
Wearable technology for your face is already out there. Sony, Google, InterAxon and Lyte all have products on the market for intelligent eye wear. Intelligent eye wear is something that will become a significant part in industries, like healthcare, certain engineering and manufacturing sectors and for extreme sporting activities. I could not help but secretly covert a pair of Oakley Airwave goggles, which provide the ultimate wearable experience for keen skiers and snowboarders. The smart goggles display the skiers speed, location, altitude and distance travelled and can also connect to an iPhone or Android phone or tablet, transmitting incoming calls to an earpiece. Pretty impressive although I don’t know whether I would like all that distraction if I was speeding down the slopes.
Smart watches or smart wrist bands are probably the area of wearable technology that will be first to become part of our everyday lives. Over the past couple of years, wearable wrist technology in practice has been limited to maybe telling us how many steps we’ve taken or calories we’ve burnt. I’m a keen trail runner and use a Fitbit to track my fitness levels and progress. Products from Samsung, Motorola and Pebble have been sported on early adopter wrist technology.
Many of the analysts, media and zeitgeists have pinpointed 2015 as the year when wearable wrist technology really takes off. This has been escalated by the fact that the Apple Watch is expected to go on sale this spring, which will bring smart wrist bands from fitness fanatics and early adopters to the general public and middle majority.
Wearable Technology for a Global Audience
These tiny computers that you wear on your wrist will allow you to access data and communicate with other devices. So will global consumers like an even smaller screen? Today they may be more comfortable with the sized screen in their pocket in the form of a smart phone or tablet. As screens get even smaller, then this has implications for those who are working on user interfaces and developing apps for wearable technology. Any interaction and communication must be able to be translated and localized to reach a global audience in their local language.
For any developer workings on wearable technology, the interface must be uncluttered, keeping any content short and sweet. If content is interactive, then it is worth remembering that one too many touch points can confuse one small thumb! The less text you have on these smaller screens, the less the impact of language expansion for localized versions. Some wrist devices literally have a minimal one-line display with limited character space. Before the source content is developed, every language must be considered to prevent localization problems later on.
Many smart watches and wrist bands use touch screen, icons and images as the main navigational tool for the user interface. Religious and cultural factors have to be taken into consideration for product and app iconography. Any icons used for a global product have to be culturally neutral.
Voice as a User Interface
One of the coolest things about wearable technology is the fact many contain voice-activated devices. A lot of us already use voice recognition on our smart phones like Google Voice Search and Apple’s Siri. As wearables become more adopted, voice as a user interface will become pushed into the mainstream. This will create more challenges as voice recognition technology itself will have to become smarter if these products are to be distributed to similar market saturation levels as the smart phones. It will create a growing demand for creating more multilingual voice translation memories (TMs) that also need to capture language nuances, dialects and possibly even slang to ensure good voice recognition accuracy for localized versions of product and any app that runs on the device.
If we witness a rapid adoption of wearable technology this year, it will certainly impact future localization methods and approaches and also determine where we invest in technological innovation. Similar topics will probably feature heavy in the discussions at Localization World 2015 in Berlin where the theme is the Internet of Things and where Welocalize will be actively taking part in the conversations.
Maybe this year will be the make-or-break year for wearable technology as another status symbol. I think the key driver will be whether smart watches will be cool, aspirational and the latest gadget must-have for consumers. Clever global marketing and brand campaigns from the big players will certainly play a key role is whether this latest #nextbigthing takes off at an international level.
Louise Law is Global Communications Manager at Welocalize