Five Crowdfunded Wearable Tech Devices to Watch

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We are witnessing — and taking part in — one of the largest shifts in product development of our time. Crowdfunding has completely reinvented what it means to create a product, reducing the time to market and bringing a more complex and innovative set of goods to the marketplace.

Even a cursory look through the popular crowdfunding platforms shows that there are some very interesting products being developed, very quickly, in the wearable tech arena. Here are five.

1. Fin: A ring that makes your hand a gesture based control for common actions (Funded, 4 days left)

Fin is a small ring, fitted for the thumb that turns your hand into a numeric keypad; it also uses gesture-based controls such as hand waving. It’s designed to be connected to smartphones, smart TVs, automobiles and home automation. One can imagine tech like this becoming commonplace for every day use. Plus, it has the very altruistic benefit of helping people with limited mobility or visual impairment.

2. Atlas: Nike Fit Band on steroids, with a Strava-like competitive facet (Mega-funded 18 days left)

As an owner of a Garmin, I was blown away that my device could figure out when I was doing freestyle versus breaststroke. Atlas makes this look like child’s play – it knows a bicep curl from a hammer curl, and even tells you if your form sucks. And, you can teach it new tricks (cross fitters, rejoice!). Oh, and it builds in a Strava-like community that lets you measure your activity against your friends.

3. Haloband: A wristband that controls your smartphone (Funded, pre-ordering now available on Indiegogo)

Perhaps the simplest on this list, Haloband could be a very common device in the very near future – because it is simple to use and can pretty immediately address common problems. An extension of your smartphone, it uses NFC (on NFC enabled phones) to perform tasks, without having to dig your phone out of a pocket or bag. These tasks could include switching songs on your media player, or even taking the place of your office pass card.

4. Atheer One: Google Glasses with a 3D angle (Funded)

Google Glass has spawned all kinds of me-toos. Antheer One does a better than average job of doing so. With a depth sensor, it gives a three dimensional immersive view. And, it combines what appears to be a more complex set of gesture-based controls. Watch the video, it’s hard not to see how these glasses are paving the way for immersive user experiences.

5. Angel: Blood Oxygen Sensor (Funded)

An open API will really give this product an interesting future. Yet, even off-the-shelf, Angel is pretty powerful. Worn on the wrist, it monitors pulse, temperature, activity and blood oxygen level. With funding, the company plans to transfer and integrate that data into smartphone apps, laptops and even treadmills. The device has great potential for not just athletes — who are the obvious first-users — but also for those with medical conditions that require regular monitoring.

http://vimeo.com/74271995

[Originally posted on the Proving Ground blog]

The Evolution of Digital Reality: Augmented Gaming

Over the last several years, the online world has steadily crept closer to real life. Most of us reading this blog can scarcely imagine a life without Facebook. Many of us have friends that we only know via Twitter. Then there’s the intersection of the Web and toys. This really made a splash a few years ago with the success of Webkinz – a stuffed critter brought to life in the digital space. My own son was an addict for a while, sleeping with the plush Rufus at night and during the day building his virtual “room” while connecting with other Webkinz kids for games.

Yet, for anyone who also monitors the gaming industry, it has always been clear that this was but the very beginning of what is possible … and certainly of what people of varying ages will connect with. Virtual spaces like Second Life never really connected with a broad audience and certainly didn’t incorporate the reality of something like a real life object.

Games consoles like Wii and Kinect are bringing even more layers of technology – body movement meets gaming. But what about augmenting our real life toys (or even the objects we interact with every day)? This turns objects into the center of the game.

AR

A friend Tweeted a link to a website that detailed Suwappu – a toy-meets-AR concept that uses your mobile device to augment a simple plastic toy with a virtual environment.

When I see stuff like this, my inclination is to be excited; because every little innovation is progress. And this was certainly complex to build (or I least I would expect so, given my little grasp on the actual technology behind something like this).  Still, I can’t stop myself from thinking that it seems primitive. This isn’t really gaming. Is it? It’s a plastic toy, but hold your phone to it and it’s now a toy PLUS a colorful environment. It also meets with my biggest argument about the validity of AR as anything truly exciting: this kind of AR is but a snapshot of something slightly more interesting than what you already see.

The future of gaming and technologies like AR will create experiences that expand what we see in the gaming world. It will be something that carries you along a storyline, sets you on a mission and takes you away into a narrative or a mission. Something that engages your senses and immerses you somehow deeper than existing gams can.

And because this is a digital marketing blog, I have to say – this is where brands can really get creative. Like Red Bull, brands can create experiences that use their product to engage audiences in game play. They created the Red Bull Racing Game – which, through a mobile app, lets you use AR to create a virtual track. From the app, you can then race your car on that track. It’s a little clunky, but you get a sense for the possibilities. More advanced version that brands undertake would likely eliminate some of the upfront effort and hopefully be tied to a greater brand initiative or promotion.

* Image credit: http://berglondon.com/blog/2011/04/05/suwappu-toys-in-media/

Are You Reaching the Immersive Consumer

Take yourself back 15 years. How many of you could have predicted that near everyone you know would be connected to you on the Web – sharing pictures of their kids, their parties, blogs they wrote, birthday wishes. In 1995, the term “social” was generally equated with ones ability to interact in person (e.g. she’s a social butterfly!). Today, that term better defines a marketing channel, or simply your ability to interact with people online. You’re not on Facebook? Then, you’re not social.

Now, most reading this are connected people. Marketers. Technologists. You work in the space; so even if you don’t have all the gadgets, you know what they are. Certainly, the average person outside of my industry wouldn’t be able to answer, “What do you think of Rockmelt?” But I still argue that the average person is more connected and ready for technology-driven marketing than ever.

Here we are: a society of people tethered to our phones, empty without our computers. Mostly, happily. We love our connected lives. We crave interactivity through technology. We want the things we love to be digitally accessible. The average person on the street is connected in much the same way we marketers are – as buyers of things, as consumers of entertainment and media.

At Band Digital, we’re talking a lot about immersive experiences. By that we mean, in the digital space nobody is satisfied with a flat experience – one that chains them to the computer or doesn’t let them take the wheel. It’s why we click furiously passed pre-roll, ignore banner ads and never stay long on a brand website. It’s also why social does so well – it’s where people engage, start and extend dialogues and drop in and out where they please. “Traditional” marketing doesn’t let you do this. And, by the way, that can also apply to many forms of digital marketing today.

Still, a gut reaction by many might be that to react firmly to this as marketers is premature. Nope. The market is ready for digitally-driven and immersive experiences now. Need proof?

  • Reach out and touch someone: right now on your TV. Face-to-face video conferencing has made it to the home (Umi by Cisco).
  • People want what they want when they want it, sans USPS. Netflix started a streaming-only pricing package (Ahem. 20% of broadband usage at peak hours is from Netflix streaming in North America).
  • You can – and thousands of people do – buy shoes on their phones. Steve Madden posted half-million dollars in mcommerce sales in 6 months.
  • 3D has left the theatre. You can buy a 3D TV at Sam’s Club.
  • Talk to P!nk, tell Meijer what you think. You can literally join a conversation with your favorite TV show, band and brands on Facebook. (shameless plug: Meijer=client)
  • Which ad do you want, this one or that one? How about not at all? YouTube is introducing new ads that let people choose from three or SKIP the ad all together.
  • Fishing where the fish are. Sears is selling gift cards … on Facebook.

So what’s a marketer to do? Certainly, digitally focused behavioral research. That’s a necessary guide to meeting needs and interests. Pair that with data that abounds about customer buying behavior within large brand organizations and real magic can happen. Suddenly marketing is solving problems, creating easier, smarter connections and reaching people where they should, not where last year’s budget dictates.

And channel your inner-geek. There is NOW and there is LATER. How do you interact, communicate, shop and discover now? How do you wish you could now? What about later? Be the change that turns marketing into a part of people’s lives, not a barrier to it.