Dec

21

Will 2014 Really Be the Year of Wearable Gaming?

Mark Stephens

We all know how mobile gaming has taken off in 2013. But if many industry people are to be believed then next year this could be taken to a new level: everyone will be wandering around wearing gaming bracelets, clothing, glasses and headsets – for 2014 will be the Year of Wearable Gaming!

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The Rise of Wearables

Venturebeat in a recent article covered the top technology trends of 2014, as predicted by Juniper Research, and wearables were high on the list. It predicted a proliferation of wearable devices and said:

“Google has Glass, and Samsung has a smartwatch, but Apple’s iWatch and many other smart wearable technologies are coming out soon. Juniper says 2014 will be a ‘watershed year’ for wearables.”

This slideshow on Trendhunter lists thirty different ways you can wear game controllers. It includes fancy heat-regulating gauntlets, mood-monitoring smartphone bracelets, luminous gloves, super-sleek mixed reality headsets, sound-activated wrist bands, wearable air texting gloves, gaming armour, wrist-phones, musical gloves, game controller tights and more.

Likewise, Pocketgamer recently ran an article that called 2013 the “year where wearable computing came of age.” It goes on to say:

“From sports trackers like Fitbit Force and Jawbone Up to smart watches from Samsung, Pebble, Adidas and Qualcomm, people are now strapping and clipping specialised devices into their lives.”

In the article they talk about the start-up called “Awear”, formed by an ex-OpenFeint/Gree engineer, which will provide tools that allow developers to intelligently operate their apps on wearable devices.

Much Ado About Nothing?

Have we heard it before when something gets hyped up and then falls flat on its face? 3D television was the next big thing not so long ago. But are wearables the real deal?

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This time last year, people in the tech world were already talking about how wearables would take off in 2013. We had innovations like the wearable gaming platform called Woven, where a sweatshirt included an RGB LED screen, speakers, shake motor, bend sensor, heart rate sensor and other technology; it was wearable and washable and talked to your smartphone via Bluetooth. A game designed especially for Woven was Spooky: a ghost game where the wearer was randomly attacked by “ghosts” during the day and had to fight them off.

How many people do you know with a Woven shirt? Ahem…it didn’t exactly catch on yet, did it?

However, big investments from the big tech companies like Google, Samsung and Apple mean that they believe the technology is here to stay – and they are feeling around to make the real big breakthrough that will bring it into the mainstream. What we see now may just be the start of it; wearables probably have a whole evolution to go through like the tablet and smartphone, before they reach the populous en masse.

Jakob Wilkenson, founder of the above mentioned “Awear” start up, puts it this way:

“The wearable market today is not unlike the pre-2007 smartphone market, with devices and applications that give a glimpse of the technology’s potential but that miss broad market appeal.”

The Privacy Issue

In the Venturebeat article quoted above, they add a small caveat at the end of the section on wearables:

“Privacy will be an issue as cameras go everywhere.”

This is reminiscent of the recent Buzzfeed article that pointed out how, with all the hullaballoo about invasion of privacy in the wake of Ed Snowden’s revelations, that gaming networks represent the biggest social network around. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are part of these networks nowadays. The article points out that the revelations in the Guardian newspaper in the UK, that National Security Agency spied on major games and gaming networks, are not that surprising given how big gaming has become and how easy, technically, it is to monitor these days.

The privacy issue is one we will see more of in the future if wearables do indeed become more widespread, as seems likely. In the meantime, everybody seems to be waiting for the big breakthrough with this technology – the “iPhone moment”, if you like.