Science fiction writers have been conjecturing for decades about a future where man and machine become one, spawning essentially a new race of cyborgs. Rarely, however, did they put forth the idea that our clothes would be the catalyst for this evolution. Usually the change came about with cybernetic implants and prosthetics, progressing from the likes of the Six Million Dollar Man (stronger, faster, better) to the complete assimilation of humans into the Borg.
It looks as though we're pretty close to the first step in combining humanity with technology with the advent of wearable tech. For now, let's leave the Skynet/Terminator possibilities in the hands of the writers and Hollywood and talk about how the next evolution of social media might look in a year or two. Before we do that, however, let's have a short discussion about wearable tech in general.
The Dipping of Toes in the Wearable Tech Waters
You have a smartwatch, right? No? Well, surely you've acquired a set of Google Glass. No? Really? How is it that you're not on the wearable tech train yet? Tell me you have a Pebble, or at least a Fitbit. C'mon, man! You're missing the boat! Before you start to feel any shame over this, let me put your mind at ease. You are still way in the majority, despite what any tech blog might imply.
So why is it that we and all of our friends, who like to think of ourselves as tech-savvy if not bleeding edge tech groupies, aren't sporting the latest and greatest in technology? There are three reasons, and two of them are excellent alibis. First of all, many if not most of these innovations aren't available yet to the public at large. You have to be a Robert Scoble type to get first dibs on the stuff. Second, they're very cost prohibitive to most of us. Even the more accessible category of smartwatches will set you back a couple or three hundred bucks. Why would you pay that much for an accessory for your smartphone? Which brings us to the third reason.
Most people don't see the point. Why would they pay $200 or more just to keep from having to pull their phones out of their pockets to answer a call or check their incoming messages? This might be the best reason of all to hold back. However, as soon as the price drops to somewhere around affordable, you can bet that the shelves will empty as fast as they are filled.
Truth, Still Stranger than Fiction
Now let's consider for a moment just how fast this train is picking up steam. Smartwatches and other, similar "accessory" items have been around for 30 years. It's true, look it up. The idea dates back at least to the Dick Tracy comics that were first published 60 years ago. It's only in the last year or so that they have gained momentum, however. And just so you understand, this isn't a trend that's going away.
For instance - moving away from phones and watches for a second - that super-cool, "futuristic" technology that Iron Man wears as a suit in the comics and movies? Yeah, that's already been surpassed in some ways. DARPA (or as I call them, our evil overlords of technology) already has a working prototype of a "soft exoskeleton", material as thin as your clothing that will imbue the wearer with superhuman strength and stamina. Too much? Well, how about the Flame Base Shirt, a fully funded indiegogo project which is a shirt that will keep your body temperature at a toasty and regulated level, even when the weather outside is frightful.
And it's not all black ops and high-tech organizations either. Ralph Lauren (no big name in technology) just released the Polo Tech shirt on first day of the US Open. The second-skin shirt reads the biometrics of the player and allows them to adjust their form in real time. This follows a wave of high-tech shirts that want to replace wrist-wearable biometric readers like the Fitbit. Under Armour and others have hinted at "smart shirts" that will actually have LED screens built into the sleeves, for things like Facebook of course.
Which brings us back to the topic at hand, of course - how do these advances in wearable tech relate to social media?
Watches and Glasses and Social Media, Oh My!
Google Glass has had more scoffers than supporters, I think it's fair to say. That doesn't mean the scoffers are right, however. At least Sony doesn't think so. They have now demonstrated a prototype of their own version, called SmartEyeGlass, of all things. It's nothing more than Google Glass from a different developer, of course. How will these glasses fit into social media? The correct answer is, perfectly.
What do we do with Facebook and Twitter? We share quick thoughts, pictures, and videos primarily. When our glasses can snap a pic or record a video and send it to the social site of our choice in a fraction of the time, how cool will that be. What about getting your notifications and messages tight in front of your eyes as you go on doing whatever you're doing? It might sound obtrusive from the description, but take my word for it - you will be using it before you know it.
Smartwatches are already gaining traction, and there's hardly a tech company out there that isn't already producing one or that has one in the works. Once that price drops, watch out. The secret is in apps, of course. Mobile browsing via apps jumped 52% from June 2103 to June 2014, while regular mobile web browsing only increased by 17%. So it's no surprise that even with limited sales, social apps such as Snapchat have already developed their product for the Samsung Galaxy Gear and others.
What Does it Mean for Business?
If you're in the technology field, this obviously means that the world will be your customer if you find the right niche. For the rest of us, it means that all of the admonitions about proactively and purposefully integrating social media into our business plans and strategies have been vastly understated. The coming wearable tech revolution will take us from staring at our phones all day to check our social media accounts to having them fed to us without very much, if any, effort on our part.
This will increase the ubiquity of social media in everyday life exponentially. So all of that advice you've been ignoring about being online and doing it right just got even more important. The best course you can take as a business is to fully embrace what will inevitably come, and start today. Things like managing your online reputation through social media monitoring become all the more vital in light of what the near future is likely to look like. Looking through your Google Glass, of course.