Where beauty and technology meet

Washington - The discussion surrounding smartwatches this year is all about aesthetics. Who can make a smartwatch that people actually want to wear? And as these and other wearable sensing devices proliferate, the tension between looks and performance is intensifying.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the June bracelet, which was announced at the Consumer Electronic Show.

The June Bracelet has a photovoltaic gem at its centre that measures a user's sun exposure and suggests protective measures like a hat, sunglasses, or sunblock with a certain SPF. Picture: Netatmo. Credit: SUPPLIED

The device tracks a user’s sun exposure and syncs with an app on iDevices via Bluetooth to monitor UV intensity, recommend appropriate SPF, give skincare advice based on how much time a user spends in the sun, and even give warnings when a user has caught too many rays.

June exemplifies tradeoffs in form and function. The device was designed by Camille Toupet – a veteran of Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston –and it has a photovoltaic gem centrepiece which can be either worn as a bracelet or taken off the band and clipped on to clothing. It comes in platinum, gold, and gun metal. It’s an attractive piece that looks like statement jewellery instead of a piece of technology.

But it really only does one thing: it measures sun exposure. It’s a single-use device syncing to a single-use app.

Perhaps it foreshadows a world where we each customise our array of wearable sensors by picking and choosing among single-focus gadgets from day to day. Which sensors we want and how we want to look would both play a part in dictating how we dressed. Wearables certainly would be a lot more attractive if they weren’t crammed with maximal functionality.

But this is also wildly inefficient, and previous technologies haven’t evolved this way. Cameras, MP3s players, calculators, notebooks, calendars, phones, and everything else eventually collapsed into smartphones: one device.

No matter how attractive a sensor-turned-bracelet is, there’s a limit to how many wearables one person can actually, you know, wear. – Slate/The Washington Post News Service