Woman looking at Google GlassThe 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is currently underway in Las Vegas and media reports indicate that wearable tech is one of the hottest topics at this year’s event.

Wearable technologies are clothing and accessories that incorporate computer and advanced electronics. They can come in a variety of forms—smart watches, fitness/lifestyle devices, glasses/heads-up display, smart fabrics, pills. Some people are developing programmable make-up, while others are designing temporary tattoos that can monitor pregnancy.

Many wearable technologies are focused on personal health and lifestyle, and grouped together as “quantified-self” (QS) devices. These more specialized devices—like the FitBit, Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone’s UP—will help individuals produce content. But that content will be fairly limited in scope.

Other wearables—like the Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch—allow for both the production and consumption of content. These devices have a wider range of content capabilities than the QS devices, but compared to mobile devices and personal computers, that scope is still fairly limited.

Just how the interaction between wearable technologies and content will play out over time remains unclear.

As a content producer, manager, publisher, whatever—should you be thinking about wearable technologies? Well, given that “the market value of wearables is expected to reach $10 billion by 2015”, the answer is probably yes.

How Do Wearables and Content Interact?

Producing Content

Some wearable technologies lend themselves to a limited amount of content production.

You can use a Google Glass to take and share photos, or record a video. The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch also allows you to take photos, record short 10 second videos, and track fitness information. Specialized fitness devices allow you to record exercise, health and wellbeing data.

Google Glass probably has the best content production potential, which might be why Ozzy Farman from Weber Shandwick developed wpForGlass—the first WordPress app for use with Google Glass.

wpForGlass is designed to help WordPress users “become storytellers” by taking photos, speaking captions and then sending back to their WordPress blog. You can read more about wpForGlass on Torque.

Overall, the ability to produce content on wearable devices is fairly limited at this point. You won’t be using your Glass or smartwatch to publish an in-depth, text-heavy analysis for example. But you might use them to post a picture or short video, to send and reply to tweets, or to publish your quantified self data.

Consuming Content

What about content consumption on wearables?

The Google Glass is the most obvious candidate for content consumption. You can ask Google to find you a YouTube video for example, and watch it on the small screen above your right eye. You can do a Google search and scroll through small amounts of text.

There is also a service called Wearably, which allows people to access their RSS feeds from wearable devices—including Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear. Three major content producers already use Wearably—NPR, Atlantic Media, and National Geographic. As noted in a Wearable Tech News article:

As Silica Labs’ Marvin Ammori put it, companies are interested in Wearably because it helps them keep up with the ever-changing digital content space, while avoiding unpredictable costs that may pop up in the future.

So for those of us in the business of producing content, it seems there is already a nascent audience for content consumption on wearable devices.

As wearable devices become more mainstream and acceptable, it is probably safe to assume that people will want to digest at least some of their content on their heads-up display, smartwatch, or some other nifty wearable device that we haven’t yet seen.

Content Suitable for a Wearable Device

“Apps must present content in context.” – Himanshu Sareen

If we should all be at least thinking about content for wearables, what will that content look (or sound) like?

We’ll need to adapt to the challenges of the limited screen while still publishing engaging and valuable content, as explained by Himanshu Sareen:

It is a definite challenge to display troves of information on the iWatch or Google Glass display, which is equivalent to viewing a 25 inch screen from 8 feet away…

Content creation within apps as well as via websites and social media will have to adapt to offer worthwhile information that is readable and consumable. Without engaging and readable content, apps built for wearables will provide little value.

Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic agrees, stating that content is going to be the “wildcard” of wearable devices:

To me, in the extremely attention-limited environment of augmented reality, you need a new kind of media. You probably need a new noun to describe the writing. Newspapers have stories. Blogs have posts. Facebook has updates. And AR apps have X. You need people who train and get better at and have the time to create perfect digital annotations in the physical world.


To sum up:

  • Current wearables can help content people produce a limited range of content—photos, videos, and data.
  • Certain wearables can also be used by audiences to digest content—including videos, sound, limited text, and images.
  • Content publishers should start thinking about producing content for wearables.

Whether the preponderance of wearable devices showing at CES 2014 means that they are about to hit the mainstream remains to be seen.

But it’s fairly safe to assume that we’ll be seeing more of wearable technologies. Many of these devices will present content production and consumption opportunities.

Those of us involved in publishing and content (WordPress is a content management system after all) need to start thinking about the content wildcard—including figuring out just what the “perfect digital annotations in the physical world” will look like.

Have you started thinking about content for wearables? Share your predictions below.