Wearable’s Period of Messy Cross Convergence

Wearable technology have fascinated their way into engineers and developers minds, and have not surprisingly stirred strong interest in the market. Perhaps we are all heavily influenced by Back to the Future, The 6th Day and  “The Jetsons”. Although we may not quite have achieve human cloning, a lot of sci-fi technology has arrived a lot sooner than expected; self-driving cars, house-cleaning androids, global video conference calls, all at the push of a button.

Now the future is here, like the Google glass, a headband to scan your brain, Atheer Mobile 3D interface and Oakley Airwave Goggles. Although we have a million and one things to look forward to, what kind of problems will we face with the advent of wearable technology?

Imagine if we reached an abundance of wearable technology, as standard as today’s smartphone: You wake up to an alarm synced to your wristband that has been recording your pulse and breathing and wakes you up at the ideal time after your last REM cycle. You put on your glasses, see the morning news update on your lenses, eat breakfast with your ‘smart-tooth’ tracking your calories and managing your diet,  get ready for work, and pick up your smartphone – the center of your universe of technology (Or maybe everything is synced to the cloud).  As you drive to work in your self-driving electric car (possibly a Tesla), your glasses’ head-up display updates you on the weather as you browse today’s schedule on a screen in your car. Some would argue this is the super cool world we would want to live in, and some would argue it removes all the control in our lives. Over 80% of people today feel that always being connected and having technology integrated has improved their lives. But of the people that disagree with cloud tech the biggest barrier for adoption remains privacy. Lets go back to that morning scenario – how many opportunities are there for privacy intrusion? A pulse-check will be able to tell when you’re sound asleep, your glasses might update private pictures and videos to the cloud, and a self-driving car would give data about your travel habits and destinations.  Will 2020 be 1984?

The other day I got my hands on Sony’s smart-watch. From a technical standpoint it works well. I can access my Facebook and my Twitter, check texts, look up the weather and download and install more apps, but from a design thinking perspective, there are some big issues. Why would I need to check the weather on my watch when I can check it from my window and see a 7-day prediction forecast on my smartphone. Do I need to check my Facebook messages on a small screen, why not simply take my iPhone out of my pocket and message back? A lot of usability issues that need to be worked out.

The pattern of rapidly shifting innovative revamped concepts has overtaken upgrade ideas. The Google Glass is another take of visual immersion and connection that the Recon Jet and Oculus Rift also aim to produce. Yet there are a hundred problems that wearable tech needs to conquer from a technical perspective like battery life, connectivity, processing power, durability. But there are a hundred and one problems that wearable technology faces from a design thinking perspective: Wearable tech needs to look socially-acceptable – no one is going to wear something that makes you look strange; it needs to provide a solution to a problem – will wearing a watch that can access my Facebook make it easier or harder?; is it necessary from an over-evolved standpoint – are we overdeveloping needs that really don’t need solutions?; is it sustainable at a consumer usage level – will they keep using it or will they drop it like yesterday’s old toy, and does it create larger problems?; And one of the most important questions – is it absolutely necessary? Will creating an integration of our technology and tools and social media help us, or will it just add to the increasingly cloud-cluttered lives we already face?


the author

Jaraad Mootee

Jaraad is a technology analyst at Idea Couture.