The Palace of Fine Arts was home to the Wearable World Congress expo this week so I made the drive to the city to look around. It was a smaller expo than I expected but I had several interesting conversations and saw a few interesting products and platforms. Wearable World recently became part of the ReadWrite media organization and is one of my go-to sources for news.
1. Muse – they’ve been shipping their brain sensing headband since last summer and I had an interesting chat with Andrew Parr, a pro golfer who works for Muse to take the capabilities of the device to the golf course to improve mental focus during competition. I’ve long been interested in the nervous system as the next great frontier in sports training and we are just now getting the devices and data in place to be able to push this forward. Combined with an understanding of breathing patterns, HRV, and muscle activation patterns there is really a lot of progress to be made here.
2. Nuheara – billed as the world’s first “adaptive augmented hearables”, they are building out a software + hardware platform for a slick looking, wireless set of earbuds that are smartphone controlled and offer a ton of features. They really want to more seamlessly merge your physical, digital, and auditory experiences. The device is still about a year out from production, and the team is based in Perth, Australia. Surely they win the longest plane flight prize for the conference.
3. Panasonic – GoPro must be watching out as the cameras Panasonic showed off were incredibly small, light, and immaculately made – three things the Japanese still do as well as anyone. They had a new one that’s not yet released which weighs 45 grams including the battery and built in WiFi. Here’s the wired older version that’s already on the market. Having raced mountain bikes through the night in many 24 hour races with a headlight on my helmet, I can tell you that small & light wins the day in helmet mounted devices. If I were shopping for one, I’d definitely give Panasonic a look.
4. Ayo – Anyone who has read the Four Hour Body knows about blue light as a way to regulate energy and sleep patterns. Ayo’s product looks like the top 2/3 of a pair of eyeglasses, but with little blue lights to stimulate your eyes and bump up your energy and help you regulate melatonin production and fight jetlag. Assuming you don’t already wear glasses (like I do), you can wear these while working or doing household chores, so you needn’t be stationary with a blue light shining at you.
5. The Wearables Store – pretty simple, a e-commerce shop devoted to wearables. Some new stuff there but there were enough important brands missing that we can’t call it a superstore just yet. Speaking of webstores, at the Muse site I found the mindTec store which is focused exclusively on bio and neuro-feedback products.
6. Strap – Unfortunately I did not get to speak to anyone at their booth, because these guys are going after exactly the problem I wrote about a few weeks back – namely, how do companies extract the massive marketing value of all these wearable devices to drive better customer engagement. The goal of their platform is to make wearable data accessible and meaningful to marketers, although the list of compatible devices/services they identify on their website is pretty short and I did not see any talk of an API for developers to use to leverage their capabilities. Definitely one to keep an eye on though.
7. meMINI – another take on the wearable camera. The idea is that you video your whole life and tap the device to tell it when something interesting happened, so that snippet of video gets sent to the cloud and everything else is erased. Seems pretty handy for skiing and other outdoors events where you need a small camera (their device was a bit bigger than a matchbox) and don’t want to comb through hours of video when you’re done having your fun.
8. Amby – a watch for your kids to wear so you can keep track of them and interact with them. It’s a wearable designed for the kids to wear but give the parents piece of mind.
Beyond specific devices, I was reminded of the importance of crowdfunding in driving wearable innovation forward, and of how great it is to live in San Francisco or Silicon Valley. Several international companies had only one employee in the US, and they were almost always located in Northern California. This event was obviously no substitute for CES and its more comprehensive set of vendors, but if you want to keep an eye on what’s new and not yet on the market, it’s worth it.