A Blog by Jonathan Low


Feb 2, 2015

Why the Future of Wearables Is Not a Connected Watch

We have the sense that this - this wearables trend - is coming, but we're not quite sure how or why.

Our phones are already pretty functional - and small - so the act of nano-ization, unless its really radical, holds no special attraction.

But maybe we're just not being imaginative enough. Maybe we're thinking about efficiency rather than that other powerful human imperative - accessorization.

We wear different clothes and jewelry for separate occasions, so why not treat our electronic devices the same way? Instead of same size fits all, it will be unique elements for distinct environments or situations. Sounds like a hassle - and an expensive one at that - but it may be that form does have to follow function after all. JL

Mat Honan comments in Wired:

Wearables will suit discrete situations rather than peeling off multiple functions from your phone—it’s use-case engineering.
At Intel’s big Make It Wearable competition in San Francisco late last year, the theme of the day was “no way.” As a parade of entrepreneurs took the stage to promote their Next Big Things, the phrase erupted in my brain again and again. A glove that tracks workers’ movements on a factory floor? No way. A turtle-shaped bionic baby that new mothers, whose premature infants have to stay in incubators, wear on their chests? No way. A drone that attaches to your arm, flies off when you flick your wrist, hovers, and snaps a selfie? I mean, come on!
And yet all of these notes from a sillier future were real—at least real enough to compete for a half-million-dollar prize from one of computing’s Godfather companies. Intel is covering itself in wearables. It bought Basis, maker of a multisensor watch that monitors movement, heart rate, and skin temperature to track your activity and sleep; it rolled out a line of technologized jewelry; and it is rumored that the next-generation Google Glass will have Intel inside. The reason for this push? Intel thinks wearables will be more ubiquitous than computers or phones. And it’s right. You won’t have just one wearable—you’ll have dozens. The biggest mistake everyone makes is assuming we’re going to wear the same one all the time.
That’s because, traditionally, wearables have done bits and pieces of what our phones already do. Aside from tracking movements, what are these bands and glasses besides proxy screens for our phones?
Well, wearables are about to explode into an array of novel, single-function devices. They will suit discrete situations rather than peeling off multiple functions from your phone—it’s use-case engineering. Think of activity-specific clothing, like Hexoskin, that monitors workouts. Or medical devices like Vital Connect, a patch that tracks your vital signs and lets doctors access the data. Or earbuds that aren’t quite hearing aids but which you can wear when there’s too much background noise.
We will wear them when we need them and take them off when we don’t. Despite the success of devices like the Jawbone Up or even the limitless hype around the Apple Watch, what we’re about to see will be more like compression socks than Swiss Army knives.
One of the most immediately applicable ideas from the Intel competition was the ProGlove, a device meant for factory workers. Sure, it is supposed to be used on a factory floor, and maybe it’s a little creepy to have a glove monitoring your position at work. But it’s also a pretty great example. Because in addition to tracking your movements, it could also suggest them.
“Suppose you had to change a tire on the car, and in the back was a glove similar to the ProGlove that connects to your iPhone. It knows you have an Audi and it knows where it is in relation to the car and walks you through the steps knowing whether you’ve got the jack in the right place or not,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich says. “You could learn to play the piano with a set of gloves, you can do all sorts of things with haptic feedback beyond just industrial applications.”
Now that is inarguably cool. A glove that trains your muscle memory by monitoring movements would be new and different from anything we’ve experienced before. Contrast that with my junk drawer, full of wounded wearable soldiers: Jawbone Ups, Fitbits, a Basis band, even a Moto 360—little devices whose batteries died and that I never bothered to recharge because they didn’t end up doing anything that my phone can’t already do.
And that’s been the problem with wearables. Too many of them were just new wrappers on candies we’ve already spit out. But these latest task-specific devices are exciting. They are finally ready for us to wear—and take off until we need them again.


Ken said...

Hello jonathan, Your blog is very informative. I too agree with the thoughts is that future of wearable’s is not a connected watch. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful info with us.

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