Wearable Tech: Apple, Google Contemplate Computing Couture
Many of us have no issue with carrying around a smart phone, but what about wearing one? What about wearing a ‘smart watch’ or a piece of digital jewelry that augments your existing reality and life? Would you sign up? Apple and Google seem to think so, which is why rumor has it they’re both working to develop such devices right now.
You may be familiar already with the iPod Nano “watch.” The tiny square touchscreen iPod Nano has spun an entire (successful) industry around wrist bands that make the Nano a perfect wearable gadget. Podcasts, music and interchangeable digital watch faces, all on your wrist. So beloved are these accessories that Apple stores now carry a wide selection of these third-party watch bands for the Nano. That’s a strong endorsement from Apple that it likes the way its products are being used. Google hasn’t released a similar device, but Motorola has gotten into the game with the MotoACTV, an Android-based pedometer and fitness tracker that links with your Motorola Android phone.
In the same vein, both Jawbone and FitBit have released advanced pedometers with other capabilities. Jawbone’s UP wristband offers workout tracking and vibration alerts, and can wake the user during ideal sleeping patterns. FitBit’s device provides similar information, but without vibration alerts. But all these devices are still relatively impersonal. That, however, is about to change.
A recent New York Times article suggests that both Apple and Google are developing more advanced personal wearable devices that would complement existing smartphones by offering the user at-a-glance information. Think of these devices as an extension of our existing smartphones, providing specific user information to enhance the overall gadget experience.
These devices have the potential to immerse users deeper into the technological world, while also turning people into bits of technology themselves. These devices could continuously monitor heart rate, blood glucose, location information, maybe even detailed caloric expenditure. They could be the first steps to bionic integration — a veritable heads-up display. The Times article suggests Apple and Google are working on voice-activated watches or wearable gizmos that essentially are smartphones, but could also become fashion statements and status items, much like existing devices already are.
The question is, Are you ready for it? According to The Times article, most users today are no more than three feet away from their smartphone at any time and smartphones have, for the most part, replaced traditional alarm clocks. So what’s the big deal if it sits on your arm and not in your pocket? That slippery slope will have to be traversed when the time comes, but I fully expect the next five years to lay the groundwork for wearable interactive technology that permanently augments our lives.