Google Glass proved that bad aesthetics can hurt a product’s success as much as poor performance can. In January 2015, after long months of beta testing, Google halted commercial production of its smart eyewear product, announcing that it was returning to development for a redesign. Privacy concerns were cited as a factor by some industry watchers, but others wondered if the widespread consensus that Google Glass was ugly played a role. After a year of wearing the glasses, beta tester Mat Honan concluded that people shouldn’t wear Google Glass because of the negative responses the ugly appearance triggered from other people.
Fortunately, most technology designers pay more attention to aesthetics. Here are four technology trends that show style and performance can be combined.
Smartphones have come a long way aesthetically. When smartphones first came out in the mid-1990s, they looked like clunky bricks with big antennas. The 2007 advent of the iPhone, with its emphasis on touchscreen simplicity, heralded a new trend toward sleeker designs. Screens grew larger, plastics gave way to glass and metal, and casings tended toward a uniform, streamlined design.
Today’s best smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge combine beautiful, simplified designs with high-resolution graphical displays and superior performance. Today’s smartphone users also can select from a wide range of case designs or choose their own customized looks.
Even though Google Glass illustrated the wrong way to do wearable fashion, smartwatches are pointing in the right direction. Smartwatches have gone from being bulky plastic eyesores to fashionable accessories, with designers such as Guess entering the market. The Guess Connect comes in a range of models that include a rose gold color with a crocodile skin strap.
In addition, the Tag Heuer Connected has the sporty look of a luxury watch, and the Apple Watch comes in two sizes with fifty models that aim to satisfy a wide range of tastes.
Smartwatches aren’t the only fashionable wearables. Startup Ringly has designed a wearable high-tech ring. Sporting a range of semi-precious stones, such as emeralds and sapphires, Ringly syncs with your Android or iOS device and vibrates and lights up to alert you when you receive phone calls, text messages and emails. It also works with popular apps, including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. It even supports MasterCard contactless payments.
Ringly also makes smart bracelets that do everything the rings do as well as step and fitness tracking. Semi-precious stones available for Ringly’s bracelets include labradorite, lapis, rainbow moonstone and tourmalated quartz.
Technology is transforming fashion itself. This summer Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is featuring a gallery of high-tech clothing designs. The exhibit includes a kinematic dress consisting of 1,600 interconnected pieces that can be customized to the body of the wearer by using a 3-D scan. Another dress is embedded with thousands of LED lights that can be used to display tweeted messages. Another interactive dress changes its appearance in response to input from the wearer’s environment; for instance, it displays waves in the fabric in response to nearby voices. A leather jacket coated in reactive inks shimmers with iridescent colors in response to changes in wind and heat patterns.
Such designs are still in the experimental stage and will undoubtedly become more sophisticated and widespread as the blending of fashion and technology continues to unfold.