Wearable Tech: Our Folly or Our Future?

Doyle Albee wearing Google Glass

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I had the chance to check out Google Glass last week at Boulder Open Coffee Club. That experience, coupled with the news that Apple may have patented the name “iWatch,” got me thinking about wearable tech. Is this our possible future, or will we look back at these attempts in a few years and wonder what the heck we were thinking?

I only used Google Glass for a couple of minutes, and they weren’t adjusted for me, so I wouldn’t call this a full-on review. I came away thinking these three things:

  • The experience is “OK,” but certainly not anything that would make me run out and buy the device. That said, it’s also in early testing stage.
  • I can see how people could be resistant to both wearing and being around such a device. It’s not difficult to tell if the device is recording video or taking photos, but unless you know how to tell, I can see how it can be off-putting. And, as our conversation at Boulder Open Coffee Club noted, how do you feel if someone wears those into a restroom or locker room?
  • But for all it’s early flaws and social awkwardness, I think I saw the future today.

Let me clarify: I’m not predicting Google Glass or the possible Apple iWatch to be the next smartphone, but I do believe — based on what I saw this morning — that our connected world will continue to morph from something we bring to something we just have. And, I think the paranoia over “being overly connected” is just so much hand-wringing for no real reason.

Why? Because much of what we do when we’re connected is simply replacing an analog and far less efficient version. Here are some of my favorite examples:

  • Online, turn-by-turn directions: so, so, so much better than written directions or a map. Ever miss a turn when you’ve printed turn-by-turn directions? Guess what? You’re kind of screwed. My iPhone now just re-routes me and fixes things. A heads-up-display (HUD) in my windshield or in a device like Google Glass will do that as well.
  • Phone lists: being connected to a cloud-based database of all my phone numbers (no matter which device I update them on) vs. some “little black book” is so obvious I won’t expound further.
  • Simple on-the-go information and purchase options: Coffee shop nearby? Are tickets available to the showing of that movie I want to see at 4? Traffic jam ahead? Do I need to take an umbrella today? None of that is something that “takes you away” from another, less-efficient source for the same information, or even a conversation with those you’re with. It’s just an improvement in how we do things.

Before 2007, we had no idea what a cellular phone could really mean to our daily tasks — then Apple introduced the iPhone, and it changed everything. I carry more computing power today in my pocket than my desktop computer had a decade ago, and the storage is 40 times greater than the first hard disk drive I did PR for in 1994.

Computing — in many portable forms — will continue to evolve. Before you dismiss Google Glass or Apple iWatch, remember how so many pundits dismissed the iPad. More than 100 million iPads later, I think the pundits were wrong.

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