A View Into The World Of Wearables
Barb Roth | On 14, Oct 2014
We recently had the chance to catch up with Tom Emrich, founder of We Are Wearables to chat about the upcoming Wearable Entertainment & Sports Toronto event, taking place on October 21. WEST will cover how wearable technology is changing the way we make music, watch movies, train athletes and play sports. It’s a full day of featured speakers, expert panels, announcements, demos and networking for anyone interesting in or working in this space.
What sparked the idea for WEST?
We’ve been planning for a large-scale event since starting the monthly We Are Wearables events. With Toronto being an epicentre for wearable tech, we felt that it was important to host this kind of event in order to echo this. Plus, I had the opportunity to partner with Julian Blin (Managing Director, Gizworld / President & Founder, Smart World Alliance & CEO, Henosis). Julian’s organized events in the sports and health fields before. With Toronto being a major media centre it made sense to add entertainment to the mix.
Why do you think now is the right time to host an event like this, focusing on sports and entertainment specifically?
We’ve had lots of feedback through our weekly events around interest in a bigger event that would bring industry thought leaders together in one place. So, we’re listening to our community. There’s a steadily increasing curiosity and appetite for more information about the wearable tech space – we’ve attracted 1,600 members to our wearable events, for example. On top of that, with the emergence of local start ups like PUSH which builds tools that help measure strength and force in the field of sports to the Canadian Film Centre partnering with TIFF and David Cronenberg on a virtual reality project called Body/Mind/Change which gives the participants the ability to experience what it is like to live inside a David Cronenberg film to the integration of GoPro cameras into the NHL’s play by play action with the new Rogers GamePlusTM features – there are plenty of examples of wearable tech coming to the forefront of media, sports and entertainment.
How quickly do you think we’ll see wearable technology becoming more mainstream in the sports and entertainment fields?
I’d say that it’s already happening. In addition to the examples I gave above there’s a company called Catapult Sports, which has been a pioneer in the wearables space for many years specializing in biometric data and wearable devices to help maximize athletic training programs. One of the panels at WEST is looking at bringing biometrics to the masses so you can train just like athlete Dwayne DeRosario of MLS’s Toronto FC (who will be attending WEST by the way).
What do you think use of wearables in these fields will do for the uptake of wearables in the mainstream market?
It will provide a strategy and blueprint for people in other industries to follow – in the field of sports, in particular, athletes will champion technology for fans and fans will want to emulate those athletes. When celebrities or athletes use this technology, it starts to prove it’s value to the rest of us – once we hear that it actually helps athletes train better, that it prevents injuries, etc. it will become adopted by the mainstream. I see GoPro footage used for the NHL promoting that particular category of wearables, for example.
Who should attend WEST and where are conference attendees coming from?
Anyone who is interested in wearables or the changing environment of the sports and entertainment world. They will learn how it’s impacting marketing, impacting the direction of brands, what other wearable start-ups are doing and get the opportunity to hear from players in the sports and entertainment fields. Right now most attendees are from Canada (Toronto specifically) but we have come people coming from Montreal, the US and from as far away as China.
What are you hoping conference attendees will take away from the event?
The most important thing we’re hoping to achieve is to have attendees understand that this technology is having an impact today – we’re not five years out from wearables influencing our everyday lives. We won’t be focusing on theoretical applications; we’ll be showcasing real life examples and experiences. Attendees will be able to take their knowledge back to their organization to immediately adopt, put on a road map, include in their plans and to drive innovation.
You’ve got a broad and impressive range of speakers lined up for October 21 – who are you most excited about?
I put the agenda together based on the conference I’d want to attend so it’s a difficult question. All our panellists are top notch but if I had to pick I think I’d have to go with our opening keynote speaker Qaizar Hassonjee, VP, Innovations, Wearable Sports Electronics at adidas who will be speaking about how they’ve been helping athletes to unleash their best as well as Brian David Johnson, Futurist with Intel Corporation who will provide a 15 – 20 year view of where wearables are going.
Finally, what’s your favourite piece of wearable technology of the moment and why?
With so many new devices coming out all the time, even I’m finding it hard to keep up. I’m looking forward exploring the new Myo gesture control armband from Thalmic Labs and Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset for 3D gaming soon. I’d have to say a recent favourite has been the Narrative Clip, which is a device that takes pictures every 30 seconds and falls into the category of life logging tools. The things I like about it are that it’s small and the battery lasts a long time. Also, it’s been the most controversial – it generally garners a much more visceral reaction from people than even Google Glass does in terms of people feeling like it might be an invasion of their privacy.
More about Tom: We Are Wearables is focused on fostering adoption of wearable tech through events, education, collaboration and resources. Tom is co-founder of Wearable App Review, the first app review site for wearables including Android Wear, Google Glass, Pebble and more. He writes about wearables, Internet of Things, 3D Printing and other emerging tech for a number of sites including MobileSyrup, BetaKit and Designers of Things of which he is the Editor. He has a background in product marketing, development and strategy and has created many apps for mobile and wearable platforms including Google Glass apps Glass Eats and Stay Glassy, TTC. Tom is also a Google Glass Explorer.