Consumers have adopted a lot of technology over the past few years. Most of us have ditched our feature phones for smartphones, transitioned from paper books to pixelated ones, and happily thrown tablets into our backpacks.
Maybe that's why some findings by the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian magazine last year come as a surprise. According to their nationwide survey, 53% of Americans don't think wearable technology will be good for their lives.
While the respondents were optimistic about technology in general, wearable technology got lumped into a negative future where drones pervade the skies and the elderly are only taken care of by robots.
"53% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if most people wear implants or other devices that constantly show them information about the world around them," the study said.
Sure, implants seem a little odd right now, but "devices that constantly show them information about the world around them" will be bad for us?
It's an interesting study to be sure, and it speaks to a very normal perception that many people have toward technology. A Harris poll back in 2013 found similar skepticism toward wearable tech.
If these ideas prove true, wearable technology plans for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF), and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) could be seriously derailed -- but only if consumers maintain their initial views.
The problem is that, so far, major tech companies haven't given consumers a real reason to doubt their wearable tech fears.
Close, but no cigar
Two of the best examples of where wearables have tried and failed are Google Glass and Samsung's smart watches. Of course, there are plenty of other wearables out there, but let's focus on the biggest technology companies, here.
Just last month, Google halted sales of from its Glass Explorer program and said it's resetting the project, which will be headed by Ivy Ross and former Apple executive turned Nest Labs founder, Tony Fadell (Google purchased Nest last year).
After initial fanfare, Glass suffered a series of setbacks with public places banning the device, drivers being pulled over for wearing it, and the overall social awkwardness many experienced by having a head-mounted camera constantly pointed at friends and strangers -- not to mention some internal problems in the Google Glass camp as well, recently reported by The New York Times.
Meanwhile, Samsung's smart watches have experienced an equally-disappointing yet different story. The first Gear smart watch was met with some optimism, only for it to fall short in battery life and substantial features.
David Pogue, then writing for The New York Times, said of the first Gear, "Nobody will buy this watch, and nobody should."
Samsung followed up shortly thereafter with the Gear 2, Gear Fit, and Gear Live, and now the cellular-connected Gear S. But none of these have been a home run for wearables -- or even tilted the technology toward widespread adoption.
Which leads us to the Apple Watch. Despite the missteps of Samsung and Google, Apple is pressing forward with its Apple Watch, set to go on sale in just two months. First-year sales estimates vary from 10 million up to 40 million, and altogether, most analysts are optimistic that the company has a true wearables winner. Apple has a proven track record of introducing new devices into nascent markets -- and seeing amazing results.
But investors may still be wondering whether the Pew study will prove true. After all, Samsung and Google know how to create and sell products people want, yet their wearable devices have fallen flat so far.
All in due time
For those investors, I'd say there's one simple fact we haven't talked about yet: Consumers are often wary of new technology, and then they usually come around.
In that same Pew study, researchers had this to say about technology adoption:
Many Americans are also inclined to let others take the first step when it comes to trying out some potential new technologies that might emerge relatively soon.
That's pretty relevant, considering we're still at the early stages of wearable technology.
And it points to an integral step of technology adoption: time. Citing an influential piece of about technology adoption by Nathan Rosenberg, researchers Bronwyn H. Hall and Beethika Khan wrote in their "Adoption of New Technology" report back in 2002:
...one of the reasons for the slow but eventually complete diffusion of new technologies was their relatively poor performance in their initial incarnations. That is, the behavior of the suppliers of these new technologies both in improving them and in lowering their cost over time was essential in ensuring their eventual acceptance.
Meaning that despite initial lackluster adoption of new technology, consumers typically come around if the technology is improved upon.
So, while there are seemingly plenty of reasons wearable technology will ultimately fail, it appears the underlying research shows we need to give wearables just a bit more time.
And with the Apple Watch launch just two months away, we won't have to wait long.
Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google (A shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google (A shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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