I came away from this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, TX thinking about “wearables” in meaningful and different ways.

Wearable technology — devices that you wear on your wrist, head, or elsewhere — is the latest technology trend, but it’s still in the nascent stages of development. While it’s all the rage among early adopters, wearables have yet to be embraced by the mainstream. This will take some time, of course, but a couple of other things need to happen first.

Above all, consumers require a greater understanding of what wearables mean and how they can positively impact their life. Currently, wearable technology seems only to exist to create a new need, rather than fulfill an unmet one.

Wearables As a Means to an End

Wearable Happiness

It’s not hard to imagine facial recognition technology identifying a customer who is more likely to make a particular type of purchase. This would allow sellers to tailor their sales messages to drive a transaction. This is an example of wearable technology with an eye toward a functional benefit. But it’s equally interesting to consider how wearables can be used in pursuit of a different end benefit — happiness.

Someone once said that “if you’re healthy you’re happy and vice versa,” but this was long before wearables entered the equation. Imagine the benefits if you could measure your happiness by measuring your health. Isn’t that what recent arm band wearable technology products are all about?

However, while companies are busy monitoring such activities, they don’t quite grasp the impact of these activities beyond healthier behavior and positive outcomes. As a result, the positive outcomes that I would call “happiness” are being wrapped up in a “healthiness” bow.

What all this wearable technology suggests is “wearable happiness,” with happiness as the true endpoint. If people knew that these wearable devices were actually “wearable happiness,” would the adoption of wearables be swifter? I’d have to argue yes.

Three Ways to Wear Happiness

Wearable Happiness

  • Arm bands and bracelets: Many wearables are cool-looking activity trackers you wear on your wrist. The Shine, created by Coca-Cola partner Misfit Wearables, can even be worn as a necklace or a clip-on. With these wearables, you’re tracking your steps, your stats, and the quality and pattern of your sleep. But most interesting is what this activity or behavior represents. If you are active, you are raising your endorphins, which makes you feel happier. So while they are a means of tracking activity and health, this technology ultimately helps to drive happiness
  • T-shirt tech: There was much talk at this year’s SXSW about a new wearable cloth with woven-in technology that can sense your mood by the fabric’s connection to your skin. Consumers could increase their happiness as they watch these shirts change color. Call it a happiness mood shirt!
  • Enhanced eyewear: Upcoming eyewear could help you spot your Facebook friends on the street with facial recognition. But take it a step further: perhaps it could also see when these friends are most happy and likely to make a purchase. This future would be about feeding them personalized advertising that speaks directly to the things that trigger their happiness.

A Happy and Wearable Future

Technology is now something to wear. And so is happiness, as people wear smiles on their faces. It won’t be long before tangibles like technology and intangibles like happiness intersect. I can see a day when Happy Fuel, the microblogging network I founded, works as a wearable technology, so you could identify the things that make you happy and share them in real-time. Happiness will be more contagious than ever.