No Surprise: Fitness Trackers Leading Wearable Tech

New report shows smartwatches and AR glasses have their work cut out.

If you needed further proof that the wearables space is dominated almost entirely by heartrate monitors and activity trackers—despite the buzz surrounding Google Glass and Oculus Rift—here’s the latest data.

According to a report released Thursday by ABI Research, the most popular device functionality in the wearable tech market is heart rate monitoring, with nearly 12 million such devices shipped in 2013. Pedometers and activity trackers accounted for a combined 16 million shipments over the same period. All these figures dramatically eclipse demand for smartwatches like the Pebble and AR glasses like the Epson Moverio.

“The market for wearable computing devices is driven by a growing range of wireless connected wearable sports, fitness and wellbeing devices,” said Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at ABI Research, in a statement. “Heart rate and activity monitors will outpace shipments of smart watches and glasses for some years to come and they will also provide the essential foundation for the development of the broader wearable market.”

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Indeed, at this year’s CES, fitness trackers were a dime a dozen, with what seemed like every exhibitor offering some kind of activity monitor—with few differences between them. While all the hype has centered around glasses and watches, the stylistic sensibility of these devices are often not up to snuff—a major obstacle for an industry that has little experience with popular fashion.

Of course, many of the trendiest products in the wearables space—gadgets like Google Glass, Oculus Rift, and Avegant Glyph—haven't even been released to the general public yet. Until they are, you can expect fitness trackers to dominate the market.

According to ABI, wearable gadgets will also increasingly elbow their way into the health industry, with sophisticated health monitors like the Scanadu Scout.

“The interplay between health monitoring and wearable devices will be crucial in the development of both these markets,” Collins added.

As sensational as some wearable tech gadgets are, we’re most excited about health monitors, as they hold the most promise for revolutionizing life across the globe. Imagine owning a device that can perform complicated medical examinations, including blood tests, urinalyses, and saliva inspections—like a real-life Tricorder. Such capabilities would save millions of dollars in medical costs, while also bringing effective healthcare to developing countries.

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The latest design of the Scanadu Scout.

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