It doesn't matter that Apple tantalizes with the promise of an iWatch or Apple Shoes. Or that right now, people are working on T-shirts that can hold an electric charge to power tablets and cell phones.
It doesn't matter because the next wave of wearable tech is already here, it's extremely cool, and it's only going to get cooler.
From Samsung Galaxy phones that measure your heart rate and Body Mass Index to Google Glass on the fashion runways of New York City, the digital devices formerly carried in pocket or purse are becoming a part of personal style.
More people are embracing the concept of "quantified or quantitative self" -- using gadgets worn on the body to track personal data on everything and anything from calories burned to the quality of their sleep. This interaction of body, lifestyle and data is driving the market for such devices.
In the case of Pittsburgh-based company BodyMedia, 24/7 monitoring via its CORE system can result in health insurance discounts. Its devices -- worn mainly on an armband -- cost about $150 before various discounts. Online subscriptions to analyze the data cost $5 to $7 a month.
"Why not have my sensor data off a BodyMedia device feed directly to my iPhone, and then have it feed to my health plan?" BodyMedia CEO Chris Robins said.
Everyone talks about "big data" but it's the myriad little numbers that add up to success, she said.
"At BodyMedia, we think of Big Data in terms of what we gather off the body; 5,000 data points a minute are streaming, 24/7. ... You can do the math. If you combine that physiological data with environmental data, how powerful could that be?"
BodyMedia (www.bodymedia.com) was founded in 1999 and established itself in the health care field. It has partnered in more than 150 studies covering a variety of conditions, from childhood obesity and diabetes to cardiac rehabilitation.
In 2008, it launched its first mass market device: "Essentially the same hardware, the same intelligence, just a different application geared toward consumers," Mrs. Robins said.
Other companies followed with their own versions, including Nike+c Fuelband and FitBit devices such as the One and the Zip.
San Francisco's Jawbone has a $130 device, the Up, which tracks activity levels and sleep patterns. Last month it acquired BodyMedia for a reported $100 million.
"The get-up, get-going consumer space, that was never kind of our direction," said Mrs. Robins, describing the marriage. "There is very little overlap. The synergies they bring to the table, the sophisticated design capabilities ... those things we'll see brought into the BodyMedia portfolio."
Big Mother is watching
"Quantitative selfers" want more than just data. They want it to make sense. A digital pat on the back or the virtual scold might help as well. There are apps and programs that encourage you to eat well, run more, keep steadier sleep hours.
It's as if "Big Mother" is keeping an eye out.
In the case of the Andrew Chang, chronic back pain led him to co-found a company that encourages better posture.
With colleagues Monisha Perkash and Charles Wang, he helped invent the $149 LUMOback sensor (www.lumoback.com). It's an 8.55 mm-thick sensor worn on a belt around the waist that wirelessly tracks movement and activity.
A record of activity is registered via smartphone app, and the device vibrates if the user slouches.
"Our key customers are people who are sitting for long periods of time at a desk; they're reminded not to sit as long, or to sit better," said Ms. Perkash, LUMOback CEO.
"But we're also finding it really spans the spectrum. ... The same woman who says she wants it for her [slouching] teenager will want it for her aging father, or for herself. You're hitting upon so many needs."
LUMOback was a Kickstarter project. Its goal was to raise $100,000 but it raised double the amount and manufactured an initial 1,600 orders last summer.
Ms. Perkash said that her group began with three goals: to make the device as invisible as possible, as frictionless as possible and as close to the body as possible for more accurate readings.
"Our team embraced this notion of 'failure early and failure often but failing forward.' So we were not afraid to prototype and look like fools."
An early version explored using an adhesive to keep the sensor in place. It "collects gunk, it collects lint," said Ms. Perkash, laughing. "Then we moved on to try a clip factor."
Attaching the clip to underwear worked really well: "in terms of accurate readings and, you almost forgot you had it on ... except we had a couple of times where it fell into the toilet."
"So we thought well, maybe that's not a great association for the product."
Hence, the belt.
"People love this idea of being able to possibly track their movements and get all sorts of fascinating insights into their behaviors," Ms. Perkash said.
"At the end of the day, our mission is to help people live their lives, only better."
The beauty of tech
Deborah Laun is an industrial designer who lives in central New York. She describes her lovely pendant flash drives as "a combination of my mechanical and my artistic interests. It just clicked, plus, I like to work in 3-D."
She came across little flash drives at Staples one day that had peel-off strips: "I thought 'I could put my own thing there' and it just became a platform for me to wear tiny pieces of wearable art."
Correction: They are functioning, wearable art. Buying the flash drives in bulk from China, Ms. Laun uses Precious Metal Clay -- a powdered silver that mixes with polymer and water and is striking when shaped and fired.
She sold them for around $100 apiece last holiday season, including 19 to one buyer who planned to give them out as Christmas presents.
It's fun to walk into a business meeting with information stored in the jewelry.
"It does create a bit of attention," she said. Although, some people fail to realize it's more than just a pretty necklace.
Ms. Laun said she has discovered there's really only one downside to creating artistic tech: "I'm wondering, 'How long are flash drives going to be 'a thing'? What's the next big thing?"
About that Apple watch ...
The Internet was abuzz with speculation earlier this year when word leaked that Apple was at work on something akin to Dick Tracy's two-way wristwatch. Or not. When Steve Jobs threw away the stylus to prove that hand-held tech doesn't need anything more than lifting a finger, that was revolutionary.
In the case of the "iWatch," as some have dubbed it, the speculation sounds a bit doubtful it will be anything special. So, we'll see.
Not so, however, in the case of Google Glass, which has been building buzz since last year. Celebrities and everyday folk have been given the chance to try these red-hot tech specs. Models on the runway at Diane von Furstenberg's spring/summer show in September were decked out in the glasses, which are sleek and shiny and come in a variety of colors.
The specs allow wearers to experience augmented reality, to "see" computerized projections in the real world around them. They also will allow photos to be taken with a blink of an eye or emails to be read, with physical motions or spoken word.
At least one lawmaker, Rep. Gary G. Howell of the West Virginia state house of delegates, has introduced a bill to amend laws that already limit functions such as texting while driving: no driving while wearing Google Glass.
Google is hardly the first to test the waters of such glasses. Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show this winter, and the U.S. Department of Defense reportedly is working on a combination of high-tech glasses and contact lenses that would deliver everything from map coordinates to real-time conflict information to the wearer.
Then there is Canadian Steve Mann, a pioneer in wearable computing who has been viewing the world through various forms of his EyeTap Digital Eye Glass for more than 30 years. Mr. Mann's glasses-like device projects images onto the retina of his right eye, is connected to the Internet, and can only be removed with a special tool.
Unlike augmented reality, Mr. Mann has developed a form of mediated reality; images are not so much added to his field of vision as they are filtered.
It makes him resemble a cyborg, which, he posted in a blog last summer, might be the reason he was physically and verbally attacked by employees at a McDonald's in Paris. He carries a doctor's note with him when he boards airplanes to explain why he cannot remove the device.
Xiaodong Li is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of South Carolina. His idea of wearable tech might someday come in S, M and L.
Mr. Li and Lihong Bao, a postdoctoral associate, can, according to a science journal "convert insulating T-shirt textiles into highly conductive and flexible activated carbon textiles for energy-storage applications."
They made a T-shirt that stores power.
"We will soon see roll-up cell phones and laptop computers on the market," he told the university's magazine. "But a flexible energy storage device is needed to make this possible."
When Christiaan Ribbens was a postgrad student in the Netherlands, he and a partner came up with Woven. They built a prototype: two fully working sets of clothing (sweaters and jeans) that were studded with sensors.
Two speakers were integrated into the collar of the sweaters, which were connected to mobile phones. Then they designed a pervasive video game that incorporated elements of the real world around them.
In theory, the user might someday change the look of the shirt with the wave of a hand, or remotely control devices such as TV sets.
Mr. Ribbens currently seeks employment as a game designer, which has put Woven on the back burner.
"Maybe we develop something in the future, but it will look pretty different than the prototype," he said. "Also combining the concept of Woven with other hardware like Google Glass, [virtual reality display] Oculus Rift or other platforms could result in a better product."
But at least one high-tech adopter isn't eager to outfit himself with Google Glass or anything along that line. Fantasy-sci-fi author Neil Gaiman recently said at a press conference that he would refrain because the device looked "very, very silly."
More important, he said, life doesn't need more distractions: "I think trying to learn to be present while you're present is a really good thing to do."
Correction/Clarification: (Updated May 15, 2013) An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect amount that Jawbone spent to acquire BodyMedia.
Maria Sciullo: email@example.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG. First Published May 15, 2013 4:00 AM