Wearables are the new buzzword, and many are claiming it’s the “next big thing” in Consumer electronics. These devices, effectively computers attached to your body (often wrist-based), offer a whole raft of functionality – from notifications to health tracking. But it’s only recently that there has been an explosion of wearable devices vying for consumer cash. It’s undoubtedly a growing market, although everyone is remaining tight-lipped about just how big of a market it is. Current forecasts put it as approximately $6B in 2016, according to IMS Research – that’s a big pie and only expected to keep growing as both more players enter and the overall quality and utility of wearables continues to evolve.
On the eve of the heavily anticipated but theoretical launch of the Apple iWatch, and following a release of a number of wearable devices such as the Moto 360 and Galaxy Gear, it’s probably a good idea to investigate how these wearables could influence our home theatres and media consumption.
Wearables Foundations: The Smartphone
So let’s start with the smartphone, the near-ubiquitous device permanently glued to everyone’s hand, head or thigh. How has this device shaped our home theatres?
There are two key categories to really consider: interaction and media consumption.
Smartphones have changed how we interact with our home theatre systems dramatically, often becoming another gateway to our devices. It’s rare to see a home theatre component that doesn’t feature some form of smartphone connectivity, with many such as the WDTV or Samsung devices featuring app-based remote controls. Our favourite frontend Kodi (formerly XBMC) even offers support for remote control via iOS and Android applications.
Media consumption is another element – watching videos on the go or on the couch used to be reserved to laptops but now any smartphone can become a media center. A search on iTunes or Google Play for “Video Player” will return hundreds of applications that will play almost any video format out there, and from wherever you have it – whether it’s on Youtube, your SD card or your Network Attached Storage (NAS).
So how does this relate to wearables?
Well, just like the modern smartphone grew into the cornerstone device that it is now, wearables are still at this embryonic stage, with everyone trying to decide how they can best be used. So we’ve seen fitness tracking, notifications and alarms incorporated into their feature sets to see what resonates with consumers. The inevitable outcome of this: remote control applications for your home theatre components.
Imagine being able to tap your wearable to pause your movie as you grab a drink, or swipe it to skip that song that you hate. This is convenience at its finest, with no need to awkwardly get your phone out of your pocket get to the remote app. We are already starting to see this emerge, with Yatse, our favourite XBMC remote for Android, having integrated Android Wear support, allowing remote control and viewing “Now Playing” information. This is where I see wearables integrating into our living room.
There is also the possibility of using wearables for location tracking. This is something that Bluetooth devices have been used for for some time. As your wearable is always on you, it can be used to work out where you are. For example, your HTPC could automatically pause your movie when you leave the room. This sort of technology is already being implemented in Smartphones, with devices such as the Moto X disabling the lock screen if specific Bluetooth devices are within range.
Media playback is a definite possibility, and I’m sure there will be many attempts at doing so. However, wearables rarely last a few days of regular use so adding multimedia playback, a known battery-killer, is out of the question. Until battery life of wearables is improved dramatically, native media playback will continue to remain in proof-of-concept territory. Furthermore, this is so neglecting any ergonomic issues associate with staring at your wrist for hours.
These are just a few use cases that I’ve hypothesised but, like everything technology-related, only time will tell how wearables can be used fully. With app stores being available for both Android Wear and Pebble, and the rumoured iWatch offering a similar app marketplace, I’m sure developers will create some fascinating use cases, leveraging wearables in ways that are currently unfathomable.
Wearables are a growing market that consumers are starting to take interest in. It won’t be long before wearables replace some of our smartphone functions, and the idea of a wrist-based media hub is definitely appealing for this author.
Where do you see the wearables market heading? What use cases can you think of? Let us know in the comments below. And don’t forget to like and share this article!
Photo Credit: Watch by SplitShire /Cropped from Original