Wearable technology and our future

April 12, 2013
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Google Glass

Google has Glass, and maybe a watch on the way. Apple is reportedly working on a watch, and the Pebble Smartwatch is already in the hands of consumers. Technophiles everywhere seem to be eagerly awaiting all this new stuff, but where will it lead us? Perhaps we shouldn’t put so much stock into things that are unproven, or have a proven history of failure.

Watch this

Smartwatches have been done before, and from all kinds of sources. Sony recently updated theirs, probably in anticipation of the alleged Apple/Google offerings. The Pebble is fairly popular, and had a great kickstarter campaign. It’s a cool concept, the smartwatch, but may have seen its time come and go.

Cell phones got us away from Smartwatches. We have devices that can tell time, so why wear a watch? Even though a smartwatch does much more than tell time, it’s not a standalone device. A smartwatch currently needs to be tethered to a cell phone, or other device. An accompaniment item with limited functionality won’t appeal to most people.

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It’s easy to call this new technology, but it’s not. The smartwatch has been around for some time, and been a flop throughout. Even the newest addition, the Pebble, seems to have no idea what to do with itself. The benefit with Pebble is its open platform, giving the development community reason to be involved. That’s a definite plus, but the watch can only do so much. Its size and power limits it a great deal, and is a step backward in a time of rapid progression. Even if all the power and functionality of a cell phone could be shoved into a watch… the screen is still only about two inches big, at best.

Glass

Google Glass is highly anticipated, and much maligned. The recent #ifihadglass contest lottery left many with a negative feeling about Glass, and the surge of crowdsourcing by winners for their Glass experience is just insulting to all those injured egos. Glass looks like fun, but to what end?

If we take a look at the Glass website, we’re promised quite a bit. Videos, pictures, navigation… it’s all pretty cool. The concept of having a headset take pics adds depth to our lives we haven’t quite had yet. I can stop telling stories, and start linking to videos. A first person account of life is a thrilling concept, but is it needed or even widely desired?

google glass

We’re also not clear on whether or not Glass is meant to replace phones or not. Currently, Glass is an accoutrement to a cell phone… and an expensive one to boot. If Glass is meant as little more than this, we’re being asked to drop upwards of $800-1,000 (an admitted guesstimate of retail value) on something that provides a fraction of what a cell phone does. I think you can see the issue, here.

Is Glass a cool concept? Definitely. It has a long way to go, though. The negotiation of internal dialogue is whether or not we want to wear technology, as opposed to continue down our worn path of cell phones and such. Forget the aesthetics for a minute and decide if wearing tech is the right decision for you. Is the inability to remove yourself from your technology important? Glass has one interface, and that’s on your face.

Benefits

Wearable technology is debatable, but the promise it holds is not. Even if Glass ends up completely tanking, the innovation that come from it are valuable commodities. Glass will operate on Android, meaning the entire ecosystem is being pushed forward. Developments for Glass have may reach into the “home” version of Android, giving the platform a needed shot in the arm.

It’s a bit like asking why we go to the moon. We go for research and to learn about our universe, but the side effects of all the development that go into space exploration are what affects our daily lives. It’s easy to get complacent, especially when Android is so popular and the competition so far behind. Glass may assist Android in a big way, when we assume it will be the other way around.

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Who will care?

The smartwatch has a lineage of falling flat, so we don’t expect a lot there. We can hope for the best, as we’ve not seen companies with such resources as Google and Apple get involved before, but the concept in general fails the public. With Glass, the nerd stampede to get into the explorer program yielded interesting results, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to success.

As die-hard tech fans, we are enamored with Glass. We see something new, and different, and we want in on it. The question is, will consumers care? Google operates on dollars and sense, and having something for a small audience is not going to work for them. If you doubt that, try to find our articles on Google Reader after July first.

A finite audience also doesn’t bode well for development. Developers want to reach a broad audience, and unless Glass can provide that, they’ll have no reason to continue supporting it. This is not a consideration for 2013, but a discussion about what happens after launch and beyond. Even if the API for Glass was released, developers need a reason to dedicate time and effort to the project. Android is just now making developers consider it over iOS, so Glass is tentative new ground for Google and developers to tread.

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Conclusion

These two technologies may only have one option for success, and that’s each other. A smartwatch could handle settings and “back-end” operations, but also come with radios built in. Glass would then be our interface, and how we utilize the technology.

This all, however, comes at a steep price. Consumers at large aren’t interested in that, as is evident by Gingerbread continuing to have a strong foothold on Android. Gingerbread represents the average consumer, one that just isn’t interested in the latest technology… or spending for it.

What if Google told us they were building a helmet? Would you want that? Style is subjective, but usability is not. Much more could be crammed into a helmet than a pair of Glass frames, making that option much more viable as a standalone device. If, as a Glass fan, that doesn’t interest you… you’ll understand how the average consumer will probably feel about Glass.

We like to imagine a world where the cell phone is dead, and Glass takes its place. It just won’t happen, though. Glass may provide a new wrinkle to mobile technology, but the world simply won’t adapt to wearing technology. Having technology is a lot different than being technology, and many of us are happy with having the outside world in our pocket, and the real world in our face.

 

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