The wearable tech market is evolving fast. It seems like just yesterday we saw products like Google Glass and the Pebble smartwatch unveiled for the first time. But this year’s CES is all about expanding on what wrist-worn gadgets and heads-up displays can do. From a wearable display that lets you create 3D sculptures to fitness bands that actually tell you when to work out, here are the devices that are seeking to keep you constantly connected in 2014.
Proving smartwatches don’t have to look like geek wear, the new Pebble Steel sports an elegant stainless steel design. The $249 device also boasts a tough Gorilla Glass screen and comes with both metal and leather bands. Just as important, Pebble has the competition beat with its growing ecosystem. The company is launching an official app store at the end of January and has announced partnerships with ESPN, Yelp, Pandora, Foursquare and Mercedes to bring even more functionality to your wrist.
While devices like Google Glass simply bring notifications to your face, the $3,000 Meta Pro offers full-blown augmented reality and lets you interact with your environment in a new way. We drew 3D models by extending our hands and manipulating the images projected. Since the Meta Pro is a wearable computer, it can be used in its most literal sense. The Intel Core i5-powered machine can project Windows as an overlay in front of a user's eyes. It will goes on sale in June.
The Nabu integrate smartwatch-like features -- such as the ability to display texts, phone calls and social media alerts -- into a fitness band. It can also communicate with other Nabus to share information. For instance, via LinkedIn or Twitter you could instantly exchange info or follow someone by shaking hands. Also, this fitness tracker has two screens: the Public Display (on top) and the Private Messages Screen (on the bottom). The Nabu will launch in early 2014 and will only cost $49 for developers.
The Optinvent ORA is one of the most compelling Google Glass competitors we’ve seen. The headset offers similar functionality, but comes with a screen that’s brighter, sharper and much larger. The developer kit is also cheaper, at $950, but there’s no word on when it will hit the consumer market. We were impressed with the sharp display. The trailer for “Rango” looked more detailed and colorful than any transparent display we’ve ever seen. The ORA also projects images directly into your field of view, unlike Glass.
Sony’s been in the smartwatch market for quite some time, and at this year’s CES the company unveiled its own take on the fitness band. The Sony SmartBand is unique from other similar wearables in that you can actually remove its sensor module, which Sony calls the Core, and place it in different wristbands. But what makes the SmartBand truly shine is its accompanying LifeLog app. The app is designed to not only provide feedback on your workout, but it can also create a virtual timeline of your entire day.
Epson’s Moverio $699 BT-200 smart glasses that project video and images over your surroundings. Available in early 2014, the BT-200s are designed for specific use cases rather than being always-on. This means you’d put the goggles on to play a video game, but you wouldn’t wear them to walk down the street. We experienced the game "Sky Temple" through the BT-200s, panning around the room to see new areas of our game environment. ENamco Bandai is one of several partners lined up to create apps and games.
LG hits the U.S. wearables market with its water-resistant LifeBand Touch. Like most fitness devices, the iOS and Android compatible band provides such data as how many calories you’ve burned, the duration of your workout and how far you’ve traveled. However, the LifeBand Touch can also display phone calls, texts and social media alerts. And it features a touch screen display. The accompanying app will work with other health apps, such as Runkeeper, when it launches. There’s no word on pricing or availability.