SINGAPORE (Nov 18): Two weeks ago, search giant Google acquired fledgling fitness device maker, Fitbit, for US$2.1 billion ($2.9 billion). In mid2015, Fitbit was listed at a US$4.1 billion valuation, with its stock soaring to US$51.90 within six weeks of its IPO, or a peak valuation of more than US$13 billion. Indeed, until rumours of Google parent Alphabet’s impending deal first surfaced a month ago, Fitbit stock was languishing around US$3.40 a share, or a valuation of US$1 billion.

The global smart wearables market is huge and growing fast. It is expected to nearly double to more than US$54 billion by 2023 from US$23 billion last year. Already, 2019 is turning out to be a banner year for wearables, with annual sales forecast to grow 35% as holiday shoppers make smart watches, fitness trackers and earbuds their year-end gift of choice.

Tech firms from Apple to Facebook, Google and Microsoft are expected to launch an array of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality glasses, smart rings as well as wearable sensors over the next two years, catapulting wearables into a major market not far behind the now-maturing smartphones. VR headsets immerse people completely in virtual environments whereas AR devices let people see their physical surroundings while presenting digital imagery that augments those surroundings. Apple is expected to roll out a combined VR and AR headset with a focus on gaming, watching video and virtual meetings within the next 18 months and a lightweight pair of AR glasses by 2023.

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