The next item on our Christmas lists is set to be wearable technology. Apple and Samsung has revealed its new watch range which links to your phone, to give you all of your notifications that are usually in your pocket, on your wrist – whilst Google is making its ‘Google Glass’ which is in essence a head display for our everyday lives.
The media is in a frenzy as to whether they should get behind or discard the next step in our technological integration. An article on the Guardian website makes a mockery of the technology. Many ask the question, Is this really needed?
I remember growing up with that fascination for the latest mobile-phone. They were our accessories and the better the Nokia, the cooler you are perceived to be. So much so that I remember the elite range of Nokias which had the same functionalities as the basic ones except they used exotic metals for the cases (8800). In fact, the steel used in the case not only made it far heavier than other less expensive Nokias but also drained the battery life to such an extent that they had to include two batteries when bought new (smart-phones then had a bad rep in terms of their limited battery life).
What I am hoping to conveying is that we saw mobile-phones as a status symbol not for their functionality, but for their looks.
Wearable tech is Round Two for technology in terms of becoming a status symbol in society. However tech manufactures are not the most stylish companies in the world, relying more on functionality than style in order to win us over.
What drove me to write this piece was that I was speaking to three guys who were wearing an incarnation of the Samsung watch coming out soon. They were talking about how functional it was;
‘You don’t need to take your phone our of your pocket!’, they cried as one of them had given up on the conversation and was texting a friend using their phone.
‘Look you can see all of your notifications on your wrist!’, at that moment his wrist lit up to show that he had a Facebook notification.
‘Look at that! And that’s not all, I can view all of my pictures that are on my phone on the device!’ I gather round the 3.1 inch screen to see some holiday snaps on his wrist.
‘Why not get your phone out?’ I ask.
‘Well why would I? I can do everything on my wrist! I can even make calls and take pictures on it’. At this point he regales me of a phone call he had whilst holding his watch up to his face and his wife walking in confused as to why he was talking to his hand.
I am yet to be convinced.
I can see it awoke the child like innocence in him. I couldn’t help but be reminded of James Bond with his watch that did everything a spy would need that we only wish we could have. Yet he had it on his wrist. He was enthralled with its functionality which did everything, but not as well as the device in his pocket.
The Psychological Impact
Whether wearable technology will be a commercial success is not really my concern. What I get from the marketing of wearable technology is that it will fulfil a need in us which mobile phones and other technology has started but can only go so far. The need to be updated, informed and connected all the time.
Those Nike wrist trackers and the Samsung 5 health-checker is a prime example of how people feel the need to wear them and tell everyone how many calories they have walked off over the course of the day.
When we put our phone in our pocket it is out of sight out of mind. If we have a watch attached to our wrist, bleeping at every text and showing us a call, we will never escape the constant barrage of connection we have in our lives. We will no longer need to check out phones every 5 minutes because we will be checking our wrists every 5seconds instead.
Now let’s go onto Google Glass. A device now, that would be with us at every waking moment. We would be inundated with not only information from our phones but notifications of where we are and where to go and what to look at. We use our phones as a mirror into the virtual world but Google Glass would integrate the virtual and physical into our lives in a way which, on one hand fascinates me, but on the other hand scares me. Google will tell us what is important to see in our lives. It doesn’t seem right and makes us one step further removed from living our lives, not experiencing and interpreting what is in front of us. A true artistic expression of our lives rather than one filtered through a digital medium.
I could just imagine a scenario in the future. We put our phone in our pocket, ahh freedom. At that moment our watch bleeps to tell us we have a message, it flashes up on Google Glass which interrupts the satellite navigation and we respond by holding the microphone on our watch up to our face and speak to dictate a response. All whilst the richness of life experiences pass us by.
This is a start to something much bigger. From my limited research I have identified four areas in which I feel wearable technology will exacerbate an already growing problem in our society which include:
1. Constant stimulation by our virtual world and identity
2. A barrier to experiencing any physical connection as we’ll be filtered through a digital medium.
3. A neurotic need from constant knowing and connection to our virtual self which will lead to,
4. A greater integration of virtual and digital self.