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Top 20 Wearable Tech gamechangers for 2016

1. VR- Virtual Reality

It's a make or break year for virtual reality in 2016. Oculus Rift is arriving in full consumer edition glory in Q1, but there are almost countless other headsets, games, films, apps and experiences to follow. There's Wareable favourite HTC Vive, its partnership with Valve, and Sony's behemoth-in-waiting PlayStation VR. Add to that Razer OSVR, Fove VR, plus all the peripheral gloves, suits and rigs we've yet to meet and things are about to get hectic.

Movie studios, games publishers, sports, music, art, gambling and just about everyone else is trying to figure out how they can use this astonishing tech, finally set to emerge, as a phoenix from its early 1990s flames.
 

2. Xiaomi

Massive in 2015 and even bigger in 2016 is what we say. The Chinese juggernaut was second only to Fibit in wearable sales but, with its move across to the West timed to coincide with Fitbit's assault on Asia, it's going to be fascinating to see who turns up trumps.

2016 will see the heart-rate monitor-toting Mi Band 1S, a ceramic tracker known as Amazefit and, surely, fruit from the long-standing rumour that Xiaomi will unveil its very first smartwatch. That will begin a shake-up like no other.


3. Women Wearable's

Yes! Is it because there's an unusual amount of female top brass in the wearable world or just that the gap in the market is so utterly cavernous? We're not sure. Either way, we've seen a hint of it already, but 2016 will be the year that women get wearable. Why? Because companies are actually starting to cater for them in both style and size.

The Moto 360 2, the Apple Watch, the Pebble Time Round have clued up to it, plus there's the growing availability of the smart jewellery, smart clothing products and the quantified fertility sensors.

4. Stress detection

What can fitness trackers record after steps and sleep? Well, 2016 will see your Fitbit keeping tabs on your stress levels as well as your activity.

A trend towards clever coaching platforms piecing together our different biometrics - our sleep patterns, our heart-rate, even our galvanic skin response - and send users both warnings of stress levels and ways that, perhaps, we can try to reduce them.


And stress is the focus for a number of companies. Fitbit is working on it, and Withings revealed that it had found stress metrics in its sensor data, which could feature on forthcoming devices to be announced at CES.

5. Fitbit

Fitbit has some work to do. The newly-IPO'd incumbent of the fitness tracker castle was the biggest selling wearable in 2015, but there are pretenders plotting against it. From the far cheaper Xiaomi to the more innovative coaching style of Moov. Just in the nick of time for the Wareable 50, we've word from the company CEO, James Park, of what to expect for 2016.

The answer to that is a three-pronged protection of the crown: more advanced sensors to pick up the likes of stress and blood pressure, more insights from the gathered data for more specific coaching advice and, perhaps key, where other makers will struggle to match Fitbit, is bigger and better partnerships with fashion brands. Thought Fitbit was finished? Think again.


6. Wearable Payments

The infrastructure is here but people aren't paying from their wrists – yet. But wearable payments are set to become the norm in 2016. A few million Apple Watches in the wild, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, bPay, plus MasterCard backing the likes of Ringly and Nymi mean that there are going to be more ways to pay, and more securely than ever. With so many of the big players behind it, it's sure to be the year for wearable payments.


7. Magic Leap

Google Glass totally put you off AR but Magic Leap is here to get you extremely giddy again. We still don't know how we're going to actually access it, all we know is that we want it in front of our eyes ASAP. Everyone from Google to Qualcomm has invested in the augmented reality startup which reportedly uses light field displays to achieve the trick of overlaying 3D visuals seamlessly on top of your view of the room around you. Billed as an "operating system for reality" by its zany creator, Rony Abovitz, Magic Leap will get its moment of reckoning in 2016.


8. Smart home platforms
The smart home is here, but tying all these disparate gadgets together is still a challenge. Technologies like Zigbee, Z-Wave and Thread are now ready to sit in the background while the major players fight for control with their entire platform solutions.

As we enter the ring in 2016, Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit and Google Brillo will slug it out while the nimbler and more specialist Nest, Hive, Canary and co. will squabble over whose is the system to trust.

 
9. Invisibles

We've been talking about it for years but the rest of the world needs to catch up on invisibles. Sensory tech is far easier to design when you don't have to worry about it looking great, so there are tech tattoos in development from Chaotic Moon, New Deal Design and more which might only need power from your movement or the current across your skin. And what they could learn from your sweat, we're sure to find out. You might be wearing an invisible in 2016 but, then, we'll never know.


10. Medical grade consumer tech

Digital health is an enormous opportunity for both the private and public sectors. More accurate, more constant and better respected measures of individual's biometrics mean both money- and life-saving. If you're the NHS, you can axe millions from your costs by ensuring that people are compliant with drugs. If you're an insurance company, you can price your premiums accordingly. If you're a tech giant you can capitalise with your health platform and data sales. Whomever you are, it's a winning situation. The only haunting figure is the spectre of possible identity theft; no small deal but perhaps no big problem.


 
11. Gesture control

Gesture control is nothing new but it's only just starting to get good enough to enjoy. Forget the TV magic remotes, it's wearables that are embedding to make navigating your smartwatch, smartphone and everything else a whole lot more intuitive. Android Wear has introduced a few simple gesture controls, VR is going to need them to keep the experience natural and immersive and there are devices like the Myo armband looking to stake their reputations on it. Move over touchscreens. It's all about gestures.


12. Mind reading tech

Wearables have more or less bested the body, now it's time for them to master our minds. There have been only tentative steps with the likes of Thync and Muse but, with an interesting bunch of crowdfunded brain training start-ups ready to ship in 2016, it's going to be a fascinating time as we begin to get an idea of exactly what's going on inside our noodles.


13. Youtube 360

YouTube's 360-degree videos are set to get a whole lot bigger in the coming 12 months. With cheap virtual reality headsets flooding the market, there's going to be an awful lot of people looking for something to watch and there's no bigger name in that field than YouTube.
 

14. Kids wearable toys

Disney is leading the line with making children's wearables and its Playmation wearable toys are set to be hot for 2016 with Iron Man first out of the blocks. The idea, much like The Void, is to turn everyday place spaces like homes and gardens into virtual game environments that you can change with every update and purchase.

15. Verily

The newly rebranded Google Life Sciences already has some ambitious projects including its glucose-detecting contact lens. Google's also set to use tech to target cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health problems too.
 

16. Life-saving Wearables

Wearable's unique position on the body make them more personal than ever before, and offer the chance for them to become real life savers. Crowdfunded Athena smashed its goal thanks to its promise to protect women via an alarm and GPS alerts. Cheaper sensors also help tech companies build for the developing world. From storing medical records or even warning people about floods and earthquakes, wearables are set to make a difference in 2016.

17. The Void

If gaming were any more real, then it would no longer be a game. The Void is a real-life VR theme park built in Salt Lake City. In beta phase at the moment but opening soon, it's virtual gaming experiences are superimposed onto a blank maze-like space. The upshot is that all your other senses buy into the vision of your adventure as well as just your eyes.

18. Xmetrics

Xmetrics is the hottest swimming wearable in what is otherwise a fairly tepid pool. Designed for pros and enthusiasts, it sits on the back of your head to minimise drag and measures a broader set of bio-mechanics than any other swimming wearable. Between kick-turn times, breath counts, stroke efficiency - plus all the usuals - all fed back to you in real time audio; it's a far more detailed and complete platform than anyone's made before. It should sell big.



19. Project Jacquard

When it comes to connected clothing, there isn't a bigger partnership than Levi's and Google. The two giants teamed up in May to develop a way to take the physical interface away from your devices and onto your clothes, and the fruits of the marriage should be seen in 2016.


20. Nuzzle

Part pet tracker, part insurance company; Nuzzle is the GPS collar that goes the extra mile when it comes to looking after your furry friends. Activity monitoring and GPS mapping feature alongside data on favourite walks and wellness stats in the companion app. Fetch.

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