Alphabet, the parent of Google, has a plethora of wearables either on the shelves or coming in the next few years, showing a big commitment towards this new category of technology.
Currently, most wearables attach to the wrist, but in the future there should be a wearable for every part of the body, and for every sort of exercise, profession, or interest. Alphabet already has a few of those areas covered, including virtual reality, eye-care, and augmented reality.
Google has been the main provider of wearables in the Alphabet umbrella, launching Android Wear, Google Fit, and Cardboard VR.
Android Wear has not been a great success, with none of the OEM providers in the top five for wearable sales. Google might need to address this problem with a Nexus smartwatch, to lure in the Android fans and tell third-party providers the necessary formula for a successful watch.
Google Fit on the other hand has seen a lot of downloads, between 10 and 50 million, though we haven’t got any details on daily usage. Like Apple Health and Fitbit, the services are not allowed to offer health advice or track illnesses, which could put them above and beyond the current crop of fitness and health devices that offer minimal analysis and goals.
Alphabet’s affordable VR an entry point
Cardboard VR is definitely Google’s biggest success, the inexpensive virtual reality headset has captured millions who want to experiment with VR without spending a fortune. The Expeditions app, available on Google’s VR store, is being used by hundreds of schools to take students on tours of the world.
To get these Expedition tours onto the Web, Google has developed in collaboration with GoPro the JUMP camera, a 360-degree VR recording rig for videographers that want to upload VR content.
This is only the start for Google’s venture into virtual reality. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the Project Aura team — who previously worked on Google Glass — launch a VR headset to compete with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR, but with less of a focus on gaming.
Project Aura also has the second version of Google Glass in the works. The team is getting help from Tony Fadell’s Nest to design the device, removing some of the kinks that made the original version unappealing to most consumers.
The second version will supposedly feature two models, one for consumers, one for industry. Not much is known about the design of the two models, but we expect the industry version to appeal to medical, construction, education, and law enforcement.
Google has hedged its bets on augmented reality, in case its own products fail to achieve market share. GV (formerly Google Ventures) was the lead investor in a funding round for Magic Leap in 2014 and Google CEO Sundar Pichai has a board seat.
Moving away from commercial products, Alphabet launched smart contact lenses two years ago, capable of tracking blood glucose levels for people with diabetes. Pharmaceutical giant Novartis has licensed the product from Alphabet and we might see them go on sale next year.
The reason wearables seem lacking in the health department is because the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) block most attempts from providers to add health services and analytics. To get around the hump, Alphabet is supposedly developing a slew of health-focused wearables, including wearables that can detect cancer and perform drug tests.
While Alphabet has plenty of avenues for success, the next few years will be a test to see if the company can choose the right paths and avoid oversaturated markets.