First published on http://www.washingtonpost.com/
It may not be the definitive signal that wearable tech has finally arrived, but Amazon.com’s announcement that it has added a separate section on its Web site just for wearable technology does show the category is gaining visibility.
The Amazon section is designed to educate as well as move merchandise, according to a release announcing the new online department. “We’re thrilled to bring our customers a store with the largest selection and great prices that helps eliminate the guesswork when deciding which wearable devices best fit their needs — whether that is tracking activity, staying connected through smart watches or capturing their next adventure with wearable cameras,” said John Nemeth, Amazon’s director of wireless and mobile electronics. (Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.)
Wearable technology has become a prime focus for many major tech companies, from Google to Microsoft and (at least in rumor) Apple. In fact, Mashable reported on Tuesday that Apple was recently awarded a new patent for a head-mounted display that appears to resemble the virtual Rift goggles made by Oculus, the firm Facebook recently bought for $2 billion.
But while there’s been a lot of attention paid to what Google is doing with Glass or whatMicrosoft is planning with its big push into the Internet of Things, it’s easy to forget that there are a slew of smaller companies devoted to making specialized, wearable tech. And all are fighting for visibility. The dedicated online store offers a wider look at that world, showing the products that are already on the market and highlighting more than just the fitness trackers that have, thus far, been the category’s biggest standout. The site arranges health-care devices, wearable cameras, trackers and smart watches into principal sub-categories. It also features explanatory articles, educational videos and buying guides to help customers navigate through the new products.
With the new section, Amazon has positioned itself as a platform for introducing the latest pieces of wearable technology. To kick off the site, for example, the retailer is offering an exclusive deal to pre-order the Misfit Bloom necklace, an $80 necklace that works with the Misfit Shine fitness tracker.
While tech companies appear pretty excited about wearables, consumers have indicated that they need a little more convincing. In a survey published by Nielsen last month, 70 percent of American respondents said they were aware of wearable tech, while only 15 percent said they currently use some form of wearable tech in their daily lives. Nearly half of those who responded to the survey said that they were interested in buying a piece of wearable technology but that factors such as price and aesthetics — 53 percent said that they wanted the tech to look more like jewelry — were in the way.