Monday, October 13, 2014

Wear To Now

I was in line at the supermarket and at the counter was Marie Claire magazine with the headline 20 beauty hacks. While normally I would be upset about how badly the word hack is being used - 20 beauty hacks is something a serial killer would do - I was more amazed by how much technology has wandered into lifestyle.  The world’s runways are lit by cell phones.

It is going to get more intrusive.

Two of the biggest tech companies, Apple and Google, over the last year or so have announced their plans for wearable computing. While normally there is convergence in the tech world, this time each has their own idea about how to chain you to their ecosystem.

Google’s is to extend the computer screen to your permanent vision by making the wearable be eyeglasses. Their ideal is the movie Terminator in which given a situation a list of options can appear. The eye glass will know where you are and what you need. The price is that Google gets to know everything about you.

Apple’s is to wrap a pager around your wrist as a watch. Their ideal is Babylon 5 in which everyone communicates by tapping their hand. The watch will monitor your health and ring your friends. The price is that it is going to be expensive.

The differences mirror their approach to mobile apps. Google has built out Android to mimic the flow of webpages being downloaded from the server. Central to its navigation is the back button which is similar to the back button on a web browser. Google wants you to surf ideas. They want you to wander.

Apple wants you to live locally. There isn’t a back button or any distracting widget, there is only the app you are currently in, and they want to make those as powerful as desktop applications. They have added rich database support to locally store your information and deep libraries that take advantage of the phones sensors. Apple’s truth is the bird in the hand, not the cloud. They tend to mess up when they go to the server and the launches of Maps, MobileMe, and Ping were all problematic.

The question for wearables is what do you want to see when.

I do like Apple’s philosophy of self inspection more than Google’s world awareness since I would rather have less intrusion than more. But there those times, say a job interview, where getting the answers you need immediately would be useful. At some level using Google Glass to assist driving would be great, but there is also the danger of paying more attention to an incoming text than a pedestrian. Perhaps Google will figure out the right balance of when to update, but this will take time.

My main issue with watches in general is that I break them all the time; their faces are patchworks of scratches. I go through watches at a far faster rate than glasses. When I purchase a $30 Casio, that doesn’t matter as much, but with these things coming in at over $400 the effect will be brutal

But to be able to signal my wife it is time to leave a party or that I love her could be great. Still we already have our silent language of nods.

I am aware that I am too old for their target audience just as I was too old for text messaging, and that was a decade ago. But I do feel someday soon I will get announcement on a wearable device about a company’s upcoming hackathon. All I will be thinking is that they really meant the word overtime.