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Does Wearable Tech Have Legs?


Technology might be the next big thing to hit the runways at Fashion Week in New York - bracelets and rings that can notify you you've got a phone call or track the calories you've burned. Industry analysts predict that nearly 20 million new so-called wearable devices will adorn customers in 2014. That's three times as many as last year.

Rachel Arthur is a Senior Editor with WGSN - that's the fashion forecasting company. And she joins us now from New York.

Thanks very much for being with us.

RACHEL ARTHUR: Thanks very much for having me.

SIMON: So what do these devices do?

ARTHUR: All sorts. We're seeing lots of different options out and being released this week, which is very exciting. From notifications on the kind of communication side, through to the more health and fitness-based things. So activity trackers, heart monitors and so forth.

SIMON: That you wear.

ARTHUR: That you wear, exactly. So I mean, historically we've kind of seen, over the past couple of years, lots happening in the sports-based. And those largely have been wristbands. But it's become a lot more feminine in the last month or so. There's been a huge flurry of releases from the fashion industry. Things like necklaces, some rings, different pieces of jewelry, largely that all have these notification devices inserted in them.

SIMON: And do they look geeky or chic?

ARTHUR: Depends on your opinion. (Laughter). There is a mixture. I mean, there's definitely some new ones out there that are working their way - it's much further towards that chic look. I can give you an example. Opening Ceremony has just announced one that they're calling MICA, which is My Intelligent Communication Accessory. That's done with Intel. So they've got semiprecious gems in them and a kind of snakeskin pattern to them as well.

But, there's still, you know, certainly a big geek element to them. You know, there's technology embedded, that's the whole point. And I'm not 100 percent sure we're entirely there, in terms of things that I think everybody would want to wear. But they're moving in the right direction.

SIMON: Have you seen a device there that you would actually pay money to buy and wear?

ARTHUR: So I think the price tag of things makes it a very interesting discussion. I mean, Tory Burch did a collaboration with Fitbit. She has a bracelet that encases the device within it and there is also a necklace that does the same thing. Now, it's $195 for the bracelets and that's before you've got the Fitbit device, which is another 99 something dollars. So you know, we're talking about not small money here to be able to have this device. And technology does always start out a lot higher and prices do come down, inevitably. But I do think that that's going to be, for the time being, a bit of a barrier.

SIMON: Rachel Arthur, Senior Editor for WGSN. Thanks so much for being with us.

ARTHUR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.