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Contributor: Ruby Lohman
The wearable tech revolution is here

Have you embraced wearable technology - proudly strutting your stuff in your new Google Glass - or are you still struggling with the digital watch you've had since 1989? As our desire to consume more information when and where we want grows, intuitive wearable technology designs are striding forth in leaps and bounds. So what's next?

We have entered a wearable technology revolution that will see technology design, and our relationship with devices, change dramatically in the next decade.

This is according to Gadi Amit (pictured, right), founder and principal designer of San Francisco-based technology design company NewDealDesign. On 4 June, Amit spoke at Vivid Ideas, part of the Vivid Sydney event that lights up the city every year.

The world is becoming increasingly familiar with wearable devices, or ‘wearables’, with technologies such as Google Glass and smartwatches garnering huge amounts of publicity and interest. But Amit argues that many devices on the market today centre around the technology rather than the human – there’s too much data and interactions are overcomplicated.

“The mentality that everything plus the kitchen sink needs to be on your device is so strong today,” he says. “Eventually, we’ll find that’s not the solution.”

This philosophy of creating simpler, human-centric, ambient devices underpins the work of Amit and his team of industrial, graphic and interaction designers and engineers. 

Founded in 2000, NewDealDesign’s tagline is: “We mix brains, bravery and magic to make people smile.” In recent years, the company has made people smile with groundbreaking designs such as Netgear Platinum II, Fitbit devices and the Lytro camera (the world’s first light-field camera) – and picked up a clutch of awards along the way.

But what, according to Amit, does the future hold for wearable tech?

Smart is no longer smart enough

Smart devices are “done”, says Amit. The future in wearables will be all about ‘wise’ devices that “give humans the command”. Instead of bombarding us with data, these devices will be intuitive, subtly communicating information to augment our lives, rather than dictate our behaviour. 

“Everyone who has ever tried talking to Siri will understand how ridiculous it is, so [developing intuitive devices] is going to take a long time. But next we will see devices that are a bit more humble rather than [asking] for attention. At the next level they will have priorities and the ability to learn what you like. Later on they will get more intuitive and sophisticated.”

Wise devices will use technologies such as sensors, ambient user interfaces and haptics (technology that provides feedback to users through vibrations or motions).  

It’s all about the people 

Amit believes Silicon Valley needs to start talking and creating in a more human way, and eschew the typical technology and business lingo. He says that emotional qualities and human values are crucial but often missing in the design process.

“Technology needs a better relationship with people – and not the other way around.”

As this approach changes, the design of wearable devices will increasingly take into account varying human factors such as size, gender, fashion and self-perception.

Things are getting personal

Over the coming decade, personalisation and customisation will drive the development of personal and wearable devices. 

Enter Project Ara – a game-changing modular mobile phone system designed by NewDealDesign for Google, due for release in January 2015. The Ara phone features an endoskeleton as a ‘barely-there’ base for technological modules to attach to and easily swap in and out from – including the CPU, screen, camera and battery. It’s personalisation like we’ve never seen before. 

Wearable technology is evolving rapidly and has the potential to change everything – from how we exercise and take photos to the ways we communicate and do business. It also poses a new range of issues, such as privacy and a decrease in human-to-human interaction. But the key takeaway is that wearable devices are here – and they’re here to stay.

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