Story 2014-05-07 3K4 Wearable Computing: Boom or Bust?

Wearable Computing: Boom or Bust?

in mobile on (#3K4)
story imageIs wearable tech the next big thing, or has it already come and gone? Either way, it's the hot topic of 2014.

Blame Google, whose Google Glass eyewear got everyone excited about something newer and trendier than an expensive smart phone (and made at least some people into instant glassholes ), or blame Samsung's Galaxy Gear watch, the Pebble , and the Nike Fuelband . It's easy to believe wearable computing is the next wave of tech innovation. If so, we're not quite there yet, judging by reviews of current products. In fact, some pundits believe innovation is already beginning to run out of steam .

Wearable tech is being attacked from all angles. While the techies wonder if Google Glass can pass the ACID test , everyone else is just having enormous amounts of fun parodying what a family full of wearable computer users might actually look like.
Reply 11 comments

Boom (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-05-07 22:20 (#1FE)

If you include peripherals like Bluetooth headsets, then "wearable computing" is a boom. Of course, there a lot more misses than hits, just like in any other industry, sport, lottery, or lightning storm.

Cell phones started out as mostly single-purpose devices, and they evolved into handheld computers that can do almost anything. I think wearable computing will probably succeed better as single-purpose devices like the FitBit. Google Glass tries to do too much too soon. It might gain traction faster if it were just the equivalent of a Bluetooth headset for your eyes.

Eyes (Score: 0)

by on 2014-05-08 09:59 (#1FQ)

That's still going to oblige them to deal with the problem that it's between your eyes and the person you're talking to. It's offputting for most of the world, and it's a good way currently to get punched in the face. Google Glass belongs over the ear or something, which would make it useless in other ways. Someday it will be a contact lens and you'll never have a clue who is filming you and who isn't. Fuck the future - it's going to suck.

Re: Eyes (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-05-08 11:14 (#1FR)

On the contrary, Google glass has a whole host of accessibility uses.

Think of someone who's hearing impaired. Google glass can easily be used to write captions for them so they no longer have to try and read the lips of someone who won't look at them, or if someone behind them is yelling at them for some reason. They can go to a movie and have captions for the movie displayed on the device rather than having to ware the stupid mirror glasses that see the caption device at the back of the theater, only available for some theaters and only for some movies.

Like wise the device can be used for someone who's visually impaired by describing important surrounding events, maybe like when a blind person approaches a stoplight or intersection, it can tell them if it's safe to cross or if they should stop. OCR can be used to read signs and describe the text to someone who can't read it.

There's a whole host of things this device *could* be used for, even in a non-accessibility sense. Unfortunately a few of vocal people are so concerned that someone might be filming them *in a public place* they'll probably have the device killed before it can even be used for anything to improve the vast majority of lives.

Re: Eyes (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-05-08 12:16 (#1FZ)

You've got a good point. Google and devs need to get cracking then to show these alternative uses - your examples are compelling. Currently, the "killer apps" that are being shown and discussed largely involve taking and viewing pictures, which is exactly why people concerned about those things are expressing their concern. Sure, give me a Glass-app that can look at my steak and give a good estimate of whether it's been well-cooked. Give me an app that shows if my friends are nearby. Give me a bearing and distance for the GPS location of my kids. Those things are useful to me. Taking a picture without having to reach for a camera or phone? Not so much.

Re: Eyes (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-05-08 12:39 (#1G0)

Taking a picture without having to reach for a camera or phone?
Very useful for a parent with a two year old that won't stand still for more than a minute. It takes me forever to get my phone out, unlocked and in camera mode when my daughter is doing something cute or is in one of those, "I'm smiling now, but in 30 seconds I'm going to have a melt down", moods.

recording a video and taking pictures would also be useful if you or someone else is being mugged/attacked, or someone merges into you on the highway, gives you the finger and drives off leaving you with a $2500 repair bill because you were somehow in their way, or if you see someone being abused by the police, or impromptu bird watching. Lots of applications for cameras, but from what I've read about the battery life of Glass you'd be hard pressed to get more than a three minute video so it's not like you can just walk around recording everything. You also still have to talk or gesture to take a photo with it and there is a light to indicate it's recording.

The problem is people aren't doing any research and just assuming the device is recording nonstop. Then giving a knee jerk, "I'm a punch you in the face", attitude without thinking about the many relevant useful reasons to use the device, that really shouldn't concern anyone else anyway. At least no more so than a person walking around with a cell phone in their hand. I'd be on the victims side pretty quick if I was at the mall and someone just out of nowhere ran up and punched some kid holding a phone. *We* don't get to decided what other people are allowed to do in a public space and run around punching people when we don't like what they're doing... that's up to law enforcement.

Re: Eyes (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-08 12:51 (#1G1)

Unfortunately, if you start talking about accessibility uses, then insurance companies get involved and the price skyrockets.

Fitness gadgets (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-05-07 22:22 (#1FF)

There are quite a few wearable fitness gadgets (see, ), so it seems like the trend for these kind of gadgets is bubbling up.

Why is it happening now? I suspect that its due to having easy access to funding (through crowd sourcing) makes it so that small teams feel that they can deliver on their gadget. Now that the 'cloud' is accepted by so many people, everyone can just send their data to the cloud to be processed (which means they don't have to develop desktop applications which need to run on multiple platforms, or worry about the algorithm being disassembled from the application). They can jump from idea, to prototype, integrate it with their 'cloud', develop iOS and Android apps, then be ready for final production run.

Re: Fitness gadgets (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-08 12:09 (#1FW)

Why is it happening now? I suspect that its due to having easy access to funding (through crowd sourcing) makes it so that small teams feel that they can deliver on their gadget.
I'd also wager it's because it's an interesting, new platform with lots of room for growth (and lots of room for improvement, as well!). There's probably good money to be made in this new space for innovation.

Smartwatches... (Score: 2, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-08 02:13 (#1FJ)

...are just an extension of a watch, but better. If you wear a watch (like me) then you might think it's great. If you hate would you think you'd like a smartwatch?

I've got a Pebble. I bike to work, my phone safely secured in my bag. If my phone rings, my Pebble tells me if I need to take it, or if it can wait. While driving long distances I stream music on my phone, my Pebble can skip/pause/etc music, all far safer than fumbling with a touchscreen. At work I can discretely check notifications and politely excuse myself from a meeting if I need to take a call. I also work part time at a gym, if I'm coaching a class and want the music to turn down so I can speak, well, guess what, music control is on my wrist. Hell, I can even buy a drink at Starbucks or pay for lunch by scanning a barcode displayed on my watch. Welcome to the future, it's here, and it's fucking awesome.

Now sure, if you don't fit any of those use cases, then don't buy into it. The great part about all of this is you only pay for what you want. If a company wants to waste money developing something you won't use, well, why the fuck do you care?

Re: Smartwatches... (Score: 1)

by on 2014-05-08 09:50 (#1FP)

They've got to do some more innovating then. I like watches. I also surf. So give me a smart watch that somehow does something interesting with my smartphone and gives me a tide indicator (there are all sorts of tide watches for people like me, and there are tide apps too). But that doesn't exist. As far as I can tell, the Gear and other smart watches haven't found much to do other than show me the time, weather, and how many emails/twitter posts I've received. I don't need that. I'm not aware of smart watches having calculator functionality or other things. They're just not that useful.

On the other hand, my next potential gadget is the Jawbone, which looks like a neat health tracker. I'm interested in wearables, just haven't yet found any wearables worth wearing. There's potential here but the app developers are going to have to get beyond Twitter updates on your wrist - boring!

Re: Smartwatches... (Score: 1, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-08 12:09 (#1FX)

Have you considered learning how to develop an app yourself? Like you said, there's a a lot that needs to be done, and if you've got an interest in a particular area, a bit of learning and you could make some money.