With a Wearable Technology Show taking place in London this week, David Manners says the trouble with “Wearables” is that the debate around them is led by technologists who think that wearable technology is all about integrating computers into the devices.
Wearables get an absurd amount of attention these days. There is even a Wearable Technology Show taking place in London this week.
The trouble with Wearable Technology is that the debate around it is led by technologists who think that wearable technology means integrating computers into your wearables.
The obvious example is Google Glass which integrates connected computing into spectacles to deliver such a personally intrusive product that Americans call people who wear them “glassholes.”
A particularly salient point is made by Sonny Vu, CEO and founder of Misfit Ventures. “To be really wearable, an object needs to either be beautiful or invisible.” Google Glass is neither.
Nor are that other class of wearables – smart watches – which have, so far, been the bulkiest, ugliest things you ever saw.
But there are much more useful things than computing that technology can bring to clothing, e.g:
- Find out why walking is tiring and manufacture shoes which make it less so.
- Make clothes which adjust to keep you dry and at a desired temperature whatever the ambient weather conditions and whatever physical exertions you indulge in.
- Make clothes which change colour to suit the circumstances or just to suit your mood.
- Self-cleaning shoes which scrape anything unpleasant off the sole and polish themselves.
But the debate, as technologists see it, is about computerising everything. Speaking at the Wearable Technology Intel Futurist Steve Brown said that, in ten years’ time, everything from shoes to coffee cups could be a computer.
This, of course, is completely missing the point. No one wants their shoes for computing.
It’s a pity because Brown half gets it when he says: “Wearables will only be successful when they do things that people really care about.”
But then he loses it when he says: “We need to ask what this technology connects people to.”
Clothes don’t need to connect and they don’t need to compute.
Which is why the debate about wearables is mostly bollox.