This is undeniably a nerdy reference, but in Looking Glass Studio's famous steampunk video game series, Thief, the eponymous cut-purse Garrett sneaks through the shadows with the aid of a light gem that lets him know at a glance how much light he is exposed to. It's hard to imagine that such a fanciful gadget would make the spring to reality, but now it has. Meet the June, a bedazzling, Bluetooth-connected bracelet that tells you how much sun you're getting. But don't dismiss the June just because you're not worried about the SPF. This is the future of wearables.
Introduced at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, the June may look like a bracelet you'd buy at Claire's, but it's actually a fashionably designed wearable that measures exposure to the sun. Made by Netatmo and designed by Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston collaborator Camille Toupet, the June syncs over Bluetooth to a paired iPhone, where an app tells you how much sun you're getting based upon readings from the bracelet's photovoltaic gem, and then recommends sunglasses, a hat or a specific sunscreen based upon the measurements. It costs $100, and will come in platinum, gold, or gun metal when it becomes available for sale later this year.
Skin cancer is a real problem, yet it's easy to dismiss the June a a wearable that few people actually need, a gadget looking for a problem few people have (those who worry about the sun tend to wear sunscreen all the time anyway). But I think this sort of misses the point. Although many are looking for the next iPod, iPhone, or iPad to emerge in the wearable market—one device to rule them allold or gun—the truth is that the wearable revolution is far more likely to result in a democracy of devices. Except you won't even think of them as devices.
We shouldn't think of wearables as gadgets, so much as the kinds of things that we already wear—watches, glasses, jewelry, even clothes—becoming smart. As sensors and wireless chips become cheaper, your smartphone might be able to tap into your sneakers to tell you how far you walked that day, keep track of your blood pressure through a ring, or even (like the June) measure your UV exposure through a bracelet. We won't think of these objects as gadgets, per se. They'll still be shoes, or clothes, or jewelry, or whatever else, and cost about as much as they did before. We'll just take for granted that we can extract data from them if we want to.
So while Netatmo's June might seems like a gadget for outliers, it actually represents an important step forward. It's wearable tech that someone might buy for looks alone, not giving a damn about how "smart" it is. And that's significant, because forget the iWatch. The true future of wearables is forgetting entirely that what you're wearing is a gadget at all.