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Wearable Tech: Fashion Will Rule

With wearable tech, first impressions matter more than features.
8 Gadgets For The High-Tech Home
8 Gadgets For The High-Tech Home
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

"Fashion is not necessarily about labels. It's not about brands. It's about something else that comes from within you." — Ralph Lauren

Wearable tech is ugly. Period.

But, but... THIS one is "different" because it can track heart rate and steps. 

But, but… THIS one is "cool" because I can see who is texting me -- on my wrist without taking my phone out of my pocket.

But, but... THIS one is "neat" because it has an impedance sensor that measures fluid levels in tissues.

But, but... THIS one is "a winner" because when I wave my hand over it, a hamster appears and does a song and dance. 

Give me a break. Besides the technorati who fawn over every new "wearable" concept appearing almost daily on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, most people could not care less. Wearable tech has not caught on because it lacks one simple and basic ingredient.

[For more on wearable tech, see Google Fit: Another Try At Health Data?]

I've been on a lot of first dates, attended lots of business meetings, and participated in many recreational sports leagues, ranging from hockey to beach volleyball. In all those settings, first impressions matter in determining whether you have a second date, a business deal, or a good teammate.

We're taught growing up not to judge a book by its cover, but then human nature rears its ugly head, and I judge. And so do you. The outcome is determined in the first 30 seconds during the greeting. People look at how you are dressed, how you are wearing it, what shoes you have on, whether you're married (or not), and -- if you live in Los Angeles -- what car you drive.

Two years ago we started developing our wearable device, Wellograph, originally called Swoof. Our team wrote illustrious plans on our whiteboard for what our wearable would do, and how it would beat the features of all other wearables. The sky was the limit! Though we started to notice more and more wearable devices appearing on the pages of eBay and other sites like it. Weird.

I asked my parents, who are in their sixties and moderately health conscious, if they would wear our device in its current form -- which at that time was a piece of plastic that did all kinds of amazing things.

Me: "Mom, it has notifications, heart rate, steps..." 

The blank stare said it all. Her words were kind and (of course) encouraging, as I am their son after all.

Mom: "Sure, maybe when we go for our evening walk."

Me: "So you wouldn't wear it all the time, knowing what it can do?!" 

Mom: "No, it's ugly." (Apparently running out of motherly encouragement.)

Well, they're old. What do they know?

Et vous, cool kids?
I started wearing the prototype on dates, to business meetings, and while I played volleyball. I'd show people the watch and explain why it was so awesome.

They proved as clueless as Mom. But these were the cool kids! The people in the know; the iPhone carrying; Bruno Mars/Pharrell Williams listening; health-conscious people who do CrossFit, Body Combat classes, Yoga, Pilates. At work or at play, they always looked great. 

Click.

We erased the whiteboard in our office. Functionality mattered, but not as much anymore. Fashion and style would now become our focus. Functionality would come later. We would endeavor to create a wearable that would sell well based on its aesthetic value alone. We were no longer creating a "wearable" but a beautiful piece of jewelry that could be worn for any occasion. 

Everything we wear makes a statement about us as a person. If I look great, I feel great. If I dress to impress, the people I meet will be impressed by me. I don't care what's inside "that book" -- if you aren't enticing me to read more than the cover, I may never find out how great you are.

So, make those first 30 seconds count because you may never get another chance at that second date, business deal, or great teammate. And when it comes to wearable technology, the only viable approach is K.I.S.S.

Keep It Stylish, Stupid.

Hear Nick Warnock and other top speakers at Designers of Things, the new event in wearable tech, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things. It happens Sept. 23-24 in San Francisco. Register for Designers of Things with marketing code EBDOT and save.