SXSW: send for Louis Vuitton (and a bigger battery) if you want ‘wearable tech’ to be the next big thing

Alongside cyber-security, genetics and grumpy cats, wearable tech is one of the hottest topics at SXSW this year.

We’ve had everyone from MIT educators to NBA stars on stage talking about it. And it’s clear as to why – as Qualcomm GM Rick Valencia said in his session yesterday – “this is an industry in its infancy. It’s breaking through, but we’re not quite there yet.”

From the various discussions and panels on the subject, it seems that there are four areas in which wearable tech needs to evolve in order to help it really break through.
A model with Google Glass at New York fashion week.

The first two are pretty obvious – they need to be smaller, and they need to be cheaper. But don’t worry, judging by the amount of wearable tech start-ups trying to sell their offerings out here, there are more than enough people working on that.

The other two issues still seem to be a bit of a way from being resolved. That is to say, I’ve not heard a convincing answer just yet.

Firstly, these products and devices need to be less demanding when it comes to being charged. On a number of occasions yesterday panelists mentioned that too many people are giving up on their wearable devices because they simply can’t be bothered to charge it every single day.

Secondly, there’s the fashion issue. As you can imagine, there are a fair few people walking round Austin this week wearing Google Glasses. And they all look like idiots. There’s certainly something very disconcerting about someone heading into a public toilet wearing one.

So how can we make these devices appear more attractive? That’s the big question. The technology can be as clever and revolutionary as you like, people aren’t going to fully embrace it if the device looks cumbersome and ugly.

Maybe next year’s SXSW needs representatives from Chanel and Louis Vuitton sitting alongside the geeks.

unnamed-4Matt Williams is content editor of Engine and a former Close-Up editor of Campaign.

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