"We might be able to develop a high-power suit in the future," Ukai said. "Within 20 years, we could make more energy-efficient electronic suits that produce enough energy for charges devices like an iPhone."
Many Japanese companies have been focused on the next few years because of the 2020 Olympic Games, which Tokyo will host. The expected influx of visitors has caused companies like mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo to roll out Japanese translation apps for smartphones that are more sophisticated than Google Translate.
Kobe Digital Labo, though, has a different approach. At the wearables expo, it was showing off a smartglasses app called WearAssist that, among other functions, recognizes Japanese text on a restaurant menu and offers English translations. Demoed on a pair of Epson Moverio smartglasses, it displays options such as "soba noodles" in basic green text. Touching a linked smartphone calls up more information on the dish.
The problem with the concept is that it presupposes that Olympics-going tourists will be sporting Google Glass or other head-mounted displays in five years. It also requires the target text to be registered in the app beforehand. Asking for help with a foreign menu the old-fashioned way, through basic conversation, seems far easier.
"We would like to implement this during the Olympics but the data has to be input first," said Makiko Kawamura of Kobe Digital Labo, a website development and IT consulting firm.
If anything the expo -- which has drawn thousands of people to Tokyo Big Sight -- has shown that if wearables are going to get off the ground, they'll have to make life easier, not more complex, and not try to meet a need where they may not be one in the first place.
Sign up for MIS Asia eNewsletters.