Through a special arrangement, what follows is an summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research's weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
One of the joys of being an analyst at RSR is the ability to draw your own line. There's no corporate line to toe of any kind, so what I might think is cool, one of my partners might find an egregious violation of privacy. One may see a useless technology, another the wave of the future. We're quite vocal about it.
As it relates to the Wearable Tech Expo that I attended at NYU's Kimmel Center in New York in late July, much of what I saw was way over my line.
The coolest demonstrations were those that provided aid to people who have been disabled. This included one company working on bringing sight to both those who have lost theirs and — even more challenging — to those who have never had it. The most freaky of the technologies demonstrated were those designed to be worn in the workplace, where employees don't have a choice.
Around consumer applications, I quickly found my line. We often use the term "a hammer looking for a nail" here at RSR, and the majority of what I saw in the ways of consumer-grade wearable technologies is summarily categorized as such. Allow me to provide an example. On day two, Peter Travers, CEO of Vuzix presented "Amazing Advances in Wearable Tech and Augmented Reality." His company is working on a glasses-based augmented reality (AR), which is far beyond anything Google Glass sets out to accomplish. His goal is designer quality frames that seamlessly integrate into daily life, with full panoramic view, and here's how one of his partner-based videos played out:
A single guy wakes up in his Manhattan high rise apartment and puts on his fashionable frames. He looks out his window and it scans the city skyline. The glasses show him the weather report and, because it's nice out, his car automatically retracts its convertible roof.
His drive is chock full of constant information streaming at him about which lanes are available, which pedestrians to watch out for, where the police are, which turns not to take — we're talking about absolute information overload while driving.
He arrives at a pool hall and slaps down a huge wad of cash. Every shot he makes goes in because his glasses are providing him with the perfect angles and power required for guaranteed success. He approaches a stunning female bartender. Facial recognition pulls up her Facebook profile and personal blog. "You seem like you might be a Gemini," he says. She's astounded. And when she replies, voice pattern software tells him she's intrigued. He invites her over.
The video concludes with her showing up at his apartment, and when his glasses have prompted him to suggest her favorite bottle of wine, she is smitten. Fade scene.
Have we found your line yet?
Are you more optimistic or pessimistic about the potential around wearable technology applications for retailers now versus a year ago?