Wearable technology has been around for centuries. Case in point: The pocket watch. Or the monocle. Not so widely used anymore, of course, but in their time, they served a perfectly functional purpose. Now, they might be cool conversation pieces, or fashion statements.
It's interesting to me that two huge tech companies would base their latest innovations on technology throwbacks like these.
Apple has a number of wearable computing patents, but one in particular for the rumored "iWatch"
raised eyebrows: The design appears to follow a "slap bracelet" concept that's also a full display screen that will adjust based on the circumference of your wrist.
And then there's Google Glass, a computer in the form of interesting eye-wear that gives you what amounts to Terminator vision — just, you know, without all the cold, calculating cyborg evil. Google is selling the product to a limited number of people, whom the company will select via the #ifIhadglass contest
. The contest asks applicants to tell Google what they'd do with the product in 50 words or less. If they win, they get a pair of glasses for $1,500.
These two prototypes represent an interesting glimpse into the next iteration of convenient technology. In an odd way, it's somewhat refreshing to realize these "new school" tech gadgets are turning to "old school" sources for inspiration.
For instance: The iWatch prototype indeed looks like the slap bracelets from my youth, but I could see it providing quick-hit functions (getting the time, checking Facebook, etc.) and serving as an interesting fashion statement piece — because you know they're going to let the wearer pick various moving patterns or scenes to display on this thing when it's not in use (Hooray! Another distraction during meetings!). And this just might be what Apple needs right now, what with the Woz once again publicly worrying the company's lost its "cool factor."
Google Glass builds interesting functionality into a simple pair of glasses that certainly look more acceptable than 3-D glasses or clunky virtual reality headsets when it comes to fashion. Will some of its functionality be mistaken for odd social behavior? Sure. After all, its features are activated by voice commands and head turns. But I'm sure we'll all get used to it. Tell me you don't sometimes just talk to yourself in the car and let people just assume you're talking on the phone through your Bluetooth technology.
But to me, the key question is: Will people use this stuff? Will iWatches and Google Glasses stand the test of time and serve a true purpose like pocket watches? Or is this just the kind of stuff that people will buy to be cool for 15 minutes?