Key Highlights

  • Google Research’s Interaction Lab developing collaborative projects with universities around the world that center around wearable devices
  • Efforts center around wearable hardware and putting sensor packed devices onto consumers to provide even more data for even more ad targeting
  • Currently, Google generates $160B/year from ad targeting

Ever ambitious and looking for the next best thing, Google is extending its tentacles into the world of “wearables.” Already wearable devices such as watches, rings, earbuds and clothing from Google, Apple, Amazon, Samsung and Facebook will generate some $370M in sales and shipping this year, the research firm IDC forecasts that wearable devices will generate more than $525M in two years.

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All of the companies mentioned in the above paragraph are interested in more than “just” selling hardware. Data about the owners/users of these wearable devices is the real bottom line. Huh? you might ask. Data produced from these devices, just like the data produced from you smartphone, tell these companies your preferences about everything so these companies can better target their ads to you about everything appropriate to you. Just know that all by itself, Google makes more than $160B (that’s billion)/year via its targeted ads that are informed by the personal data of people using its products and services.

Here are a few of the “wearables” or “touchables” Google is developing and/or already putting on the market:

  • I/O Braid lets the user start, stop and control the volume of music on a phone just by twisting/pinching the fabric wire of earbuds.
  • ID Eyewear display 16 different holograms that are projected onto the glass frames by using laser beams. Each hologram is to have a specific function such as volume control for a speaker or a phone. Another functions is a navigation app that points you in different directions, a calendar reminder, or one as a Gmail notification.
  • Grabity goes over your thumb and index finger so the user can simulate the feeling of grasping and picking up objects in VR by emitting vibrations to your hands via two small motors called voice coil actuators.
  • SkinMarks uses rub-on tattoos that turn your skin into a touchpad. The tattoos are loaded with sensors the user triggers by touching or “swiping” them.
  • SmartSleeve and StretchEBand are fabric products that have sensors woven into them. SmartSleeves look like something a basketball player might wear and they can “read” 22 different types of gestures. StretchEBand weaves sensors in other fabrics like a watchband, cellphone case or the interior of a car. Both came out of the company’s Jacquard initiative that developed internet-connected fabrics such as a denim jacket created in partnership with Levi’s. Lately Google partnered with Adidas and Electronic Arts to create a smart shoe sole.
  • Hybrid Watch User Interface is a watch with a digital screen on an analog watch that can be “repurposed” as cursors for different commands such as texting.

Who knows what, when and how Google commercializes any of these wearable devices and who knows how “useful” or “successful” they’ll be. Remember Google Glass? That didn’t work out so well BUT it definitely got people’s attention, right? Whatever Google’s doing gets people’s attention and eventually, like most of its evolution as a company, Google’s products tend to be successful at worst and life changing at best. Just take a look at the value of Google’s stock.


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