The future of wearable devices is one of the hottest topics at the 2013 Innovation by Design Conference, but according to Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman and designer Yves Béhar, there is no one iWatch to rule them all. In fact, as they told a live audience at a Q&A panel moderated by Fast Company's Austin Carr, the wearables revolution might largely end up to be an invisible one.
It all boils down to the difference in people's minds between tech and fashion. "Unlike a smartphone or an iPod, it's not cool to wear the same watch as everyone else," said Rahman. Consumers expect fashion to do more than look good. They expect it to set them apart, to personalize them not just in the abstract, but from moment to moment. According to Béhar, this problem is what makes designing wearables like the Jawbone Up "the hardest products I've ever worked on."
Consumer expectation is so much higher when it comes to actually wearing tech, which is why there won't be just one or two wearables that ultimately dominate the entire market, a la Apple or Samsung. People will mix and match wearables, just like they mix and match clothing, changing what they wear according to where they are going, how they are feeling, and more. "There just won't be a 'one size fits all' product that works the way there is with smartphones or tablets," says Rahman.
In fact, the wearables of the future may not look much different than the clothing of today. Both Rahman and Béhar stressed that, for all the hubbub surrounding iOS 7, it was but an evolutionary interface. "The interface of the future is invisible," asserts Béhar. "We already spend enough time looking at screens."
What this all means is that when wearables take off, it won't result in a world of Stephenson-esque tech gargoyles. There won't be an iWatch on every wrist, or Google Glass on every face. The future of wearables looks much like the present of fashion, only every piece of clothing you own can record data about what you're doing and the world around you in various ways.
"The beauty of wearables like the Jawbone Up is that the data generates incredible human stories," says Béhar. To Jawbone, this is the future of wearable technology, and indeed, fashion as a whole: not glowing screens strapped on your wrist or hovering in front of your eyes, but clothes and accessories that are your autobiographers.