Wearables were at the forefront of CES 2022, with immersive technology driving the revolution.
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Showing off the Wearable Revolution
At CES 2022, wearables again played a significant role at the show, which this year was staged as a hybrid virtual and in-person event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The show had 276 fitness and wearables exhibitors, 56 more from the previous year, although not much had changed as wearable gadgets are still mainly focused on healthcare monitoring and hardware improvements. Some of the main changes across the wearable sector this year were with earbuds, smartwatches, and Extended Reality (XR) and Augmented Reality (AR) glasses. The technology focus for earbuds was on tiny low power architectures, personalized and immersive sound experiences, and wind noise protection, while smartwatches were presented as being more complex with lighting technology, sensors, and cellular connectivity. XR and AR vision was mainly focused on immersive gaming experiences, comfort, and aesthetics through 4G/5G solutions, and AR glasses were showcased as becoming more lightweight, thin, and portable, with some using interchangeable front lens.
Some of the Most Exciting Wearables Tech Announcements from CES 2022
This year, the main wearables categories presented at the show were earbuds, smartwatches, AR/XR glasses, and on-body sensors. The reason behind the attraction towards these device types has been driven by the increasing attention to health, fitness, and mental well-being as well as the need to improve and create a more immersive consumer experience.
Listed below are some of the main wearables launched at CES for the major categories.
- CEVA announced a software enhancement, Bluebud HD, to its Bluebud wireless audio platform that includes all the audio, voice, and context-aware software required in premium True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earbuds, gaming headsets, hearables, wearables, and other smart audio products.
Additionally, CEVA revealed its SenslinQ software framework that enables Bluebud customers to consolidate all audio, voice, and Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU)-based contextual awareness workloads onto the CEVA-BX1 DSP. This will allow a smaller die size and lower power consumption. CEVA TWS earbuds are expected to reach 1.3 billion of shipments by 2026 and to be mainly used for more advanced use cases like gaming, AR/VR experiences, and 3D sound.
- Mimi Hearing Technologies announced a new category of smart audio wearables called Hybrid Neckphones. Mimi Hearing Technologies will partner with Circulr Sound to combine its Mimi Sound Personalization to the latter’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) audio device. Mimi Sound Personalization allows Circulr Sound users to tailor the audio stream to their hearing capabilities. The Hybrid Neckphone is expected to be launched in Q1 2022.
- Jabra's new Jabra Elite 4 Active true wireless earphones are the newest edition to Jabra's Elite range, with an IP57 rating for water and perspiration resistance. The earbuds, which cost US$119, are a budget-friendly alternative for people searching for a wireless solution. They have a battery life of up to seven hours of playing (up to 28 hours with the charging case) and support quick charging. The Alexa Built-in or Spotify Tap playback experience and Google Fast Pair are unique for a gadget in this price range. In addition, the Jabra Elite 4 Active earbuds have Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and an equalizer for a more immersive music experience. They also have four-microphone technology shielded by a unique mesh covering for enhanced wind noise protection.
Smartwatches and Hybrid Watches
- Fossil announced a new Razer model to add to its flagship Fossil Gen 6 Smartwatches. The Razer x Fossil Gen 6 is one of the first smartwatches to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus processor with Wear OS 3.0. In addition, it includes watch faces that enable Razer's Chroma RGB lighting, a lighting effect to provide a full-blown immersive gaming experience, in addition to normal health and fitness tracking. The Razer x Fossil Gen 6 costs US$329, with black or bright green strap choices.
In addition, Fossil also announced the Skagen Falster Gen 6 smartwatch, which is similar to the Razer x Fossil Gen 6 and comes with the same Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus chipset and Wear OS 3 software. The Skagen Falster Gen 6 has a more traditional smartwatch design, and it comes in six distinct models with varying case colors and strap options. The sensors extend to use of a blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) measure on the back, with health and fitness tracking. The Skagen Falster Gen 6 is available for US$295.
- Garmin released the Garmin Venu 2 Plus, an update to its Venu 2 but with voice control via the phone's digital assistant and the ability to make and receive calls. With 24/7 heart rate tracking, on-board GPS, SpO2 measures, all-day stress tracking, sleep monitoring, and women's health features, it has many similarities with the Venu 2. The Venu 2 Plus is available directly from Garmin for US$449.99, which is higher priced than the Venu 2, and has three color schemes to choose from.
Additionally, Garmin’s new Vivomove Sport is a hybrid watch that displays information such as step count, calories burnt, and other essential statistics on a concealed digital display that becomes visible when needed and shows phone notifications on the watch face. The battery claims to last up to five days, and a benefit of not having a completely digital display is that it can go longer between charges. The Vivomove Sport is similar to Vivomove 3, but is positioned at a cheaper price point of US$179.99.
Extended Reality (XR) and Augmented Reality (AR) Vision
- Panasonic unveiled the new Fantasy XIV Online Edition, SC-GN01 SoundSlayer Wearable Immersive Gaming Speaker System (WIGSS). The GN01 allows gamers to play in the same immersive manner without the discomfort of a headset. It includes special sound effects—"Power On" Sound, Switching Sound and Cinema Modes, and true MAGESS (Majestic Augmented Gaming Environment Sound System) with four-channel full-range speakers—that deliver enhanced listening and watching experiences. The SoundSlayer WIGSS will be available in February 2022 for US$249.99 on Amazon and BestBuy.com.
- TCL Electronics unveiled the TCL NXTWEAR AIR, the latest version of its wearable display spectacles. They are lightweight, thin, and portable, with a focus on comfort and aesthetics. The NXTWEAR AIR will provide a better experience than its previous generation of wearable display glasses thanks to an interchangeable front lens and considerably reduced body weight. The price tag is around US$700-800.
- During CES 2022, Mojo Vision announced partnerships with Adidas and reported that it had obtained extra investment for its augmented reality (AR) contact lenses that will display data directly onto the user’s eyes without the need for glasses. Although Mojo is not yet ready for commercialization, these collaborations suggest that professional athletics may be one of the company's initial target markets.
- Abbott announced the development of Lingo, a new category of consumer biowearables that will analyze necessary body signals such as glucose, ketones, and lactate. These devices convert a body's unique language into actionable data to track and assess overall health and wellbeing. The Lingo Keto will be the first biowearable to be launched in Europe later this year.
Wearables Technology will Evolve in Various Applications and Use Cases
Wearable technology continues to evolve in various applications like clothing thanks to sensors that gather and deliver data to improve the user experience. However, while most wearable technology is developed for entertainment purposes, such as smartwatches and AR glasses, corporate use cases for wearables are becoming more common, and consumer use cases will eventually leverage the same technology. What's more intriguing is that wearable technology is now created by small and medium firms (SMBs) and huge digital corporations for consumer and commercial applications.
Despite this, there were no fundamental changes or innovations at the show compared to product announcements made at CES 2021, as wearable devices were still primarily focused on healthcare monitoring and hardware upgrades. However, there is more to come in wearables throughout the year. Leading scientific and technology businesses have concentrated on nurturing corporate innovation and bolstering the deployment of sectors like metaverse, AI, big data, and 5G. For example, the metaverse's entire premise is for users to virtually experience realism, and VR wearables that support this experience are going to be one of the key drivers for this to be achieved. Therefore, there is a need to continue developing and integrating current hardware and software to support diverse activities in the virtual metaverse. Mini-LED lighting technology, which is a more effective way of backlighting an LCD screen and already available, is the key to creating more realistic and immersive experiences.
In addition, the development of AI in wearables enables the creation of new complex algorithmic models that can help improve the user experience. The interaction of machine learning, computer vision, and logical thinking with wearables are tools that AI can employ and will be utilized to optimize consumers experience and collect more data. As wearables develop the capacity to gather and analyze rich, heavyweight data in near-real-time, their potential for more precise, connectivity-intensive tasks will improve, which could also be enhanced by the addition of 5G connectivity.