When I came home from CES this year, the one gadget I wanted above all others was an iPod nano with a wristband case. In a world of  3D printers and 4K TVs, you might think me crazy to pine after something so lowly as an mp3 player mounted on a strip of colored silicon. And you might be justified in that assessment. But 2012 is going to be the Year of Wearable Tech, and I want to be ready! So a nanoWatch is the perfect place to start.

From belt-clipped pedometers to GPS-enabled house arrest anklets, we’re already living in the Era of Wearable Tech. We just haven’t yet moved from niche (industrial/enthusiast) use of silicon-laden eyeglasses and necklaces to mass acceptance of connected personal accessories. But we’re on the way there, and I think 2012 will be the year we get over the hump.

In some ways we’re already there, if you consider iPod earbuds and Bluetooth earpieces as part of wearable tech. But even if you disregard these ubiquitous displays of “my far away friends are more important than you who’s right here,” humankind is still marching rapidly towards a reality that prioritizes personal grids over interpersonal connections. Bluetooth, NFC and ad-hoc Wi-Fi have made possible a personal grid within which our shoes can talk to our heart monitors and our smartphones can push Twitter updates out to our wristwatches. And you thought walking and chewing gum at the same time was hard!

Look out for a few trends this year as wearable technology moves to a new plateau upon which style, comfort and function combine to feed your insatiable – if not unhealthy – thirst for on-time information and constantly collected data:

Google Goggles Gets Real

Google Glasses

A few weeks back Google announced they’ll be selling eyeglasses with integrated heads-up displays later this year. The Android-powered specs will connect to the grid via 3G/4G cellular radios, and are meant to be an experiment and not a “business model,” according to el Goog. But if they catch on, a revenue plan – and competitors – will surely follow.

Smartwatches: Fun or Fad?

Folks have been trying to link your wristwear to the cloud for years now, and nobody’s been all that successful (see: Microsoft SPOT). 2012 could be a big year in the smartwatch category, as Bluetooth-powered personal area networks (PANs) combine with hi-res, low-cost touchscreens to power gizmos like Sony’s SmartWatch, and the uber-fashiony i’m watch – both of which are powered by Android OS.

Random Acts of Wearable Technology

Toeing the line between SmartWatch and something else entirely are gadgets like the Fitbit Ultra, which track everything from your sleep patterns to how much distance – and vertical distance – you cover each day in an effort to improve your overall health – or at least to gather lots of data related to your well-being. Competitors including Jawbone’s UP and entries from Motorola and Nike have already jumpstarted the wearable fitness/health tech space; it’ll be interesting to see what other niches emerge this year.

Are you ready to connect your phone to your watch to your eyeglasses? And what’s next? Dehydration-sensing clothing that reminds you to drink more water? Contact lenses that take the Google Goggles concept to a stealthy, wear-it-all-the-time level? Hit the comments and describe your vision of a utopian – or dystopian – future filled with wearable tech.

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