Lets Have That Chat About Wearables
You’re 4 months into your Apple Watch (Tech Wearable) program with Discovery and, surprise surprise, this gorgeous object of desire doesn’t give you superpowers. Nor is it waterproof. And the battery! No one told you the battery was still human and needed to be charged every day. You are also slowly realizing that perhaps you should have just bought that smoothie each week off-plan, as you’re a bit sick of having to cycle 3 times a week, gym twice a week, and the guys you cycle with actually have better fitness trackers, purpose built to handing your ass to you in the coming months. Alas, the next Apple Watch will be better. But Discovery will continue to suck that data out of your lifestyle and increase the gradient of the proverbial hamster wheel you have signed up for, moving the goals 2 feet away for every inch gained, and at some point in the future you are destined to join the unfitbits, a movement dedicated to ‘freeing your health data from yourself.’
But It Tells Me The Time
The problem though is not that you will want the next Apple Watch (as the one you have is a 1st generation product and as with all Apple products the 2nd generation will with all of Apple’s marketing might seem 10 times better); the problem is the watch itself. Watches. Lets slow down for a second. My phone tells the time, so why do I need a watch? There was a time when the watch was a critical piece of hardware in one’s life, a luxury even. No watch, no independent ability to stick to schedule. The watch soon became a necessity. It may seem like yesteryear, but this was a long long time ago, back when horses were a plausible mode of transport into town. If you’re reading the previous statement in agreement and nodding your head to a memory or two, I applaud your persistence in keeping with the times. But those days are gone, and lets be honest, it just doesn’t make sense to periodically set your mechanical time keeping wrist device to International Atomic Time when your digital device a.k.a. phone can do it for you automatically. Unless of course, you’re into that sort of thing. So if it’s not the best time telling device, why buy a watch, or a smart watch in this case?
It Makes Me A Better Human
I was hoping we’d get here… Wearable Tech, the Internet of Things, Blockchain etc… Welcome to the bleeding edge of technology. Its a place SovTech employees don’t mind hovering about in. A place in which some companies take it perhaps a step too far. I’m a big fan! So lets take a look at what we have here… We basically have all [or most] of your phone’s sensors in a smaller device, with a smaller screen, smaller battery, and a heart rate monitor. But, you need your phone to use most of them, and the extension of functionality is not immediately apparent. Fantastic that you don’t have to take your phone out your pocket to use parts of it, but I prefer a bigger screen when reading messages, and realistically who is going to make a phone call on their wrist. This board meeting also doesn’t require the ability to send smileys to my wife by drawing them on my wrist. The bottom line is that there is not much you can do with your watch that puts my jaw firmly between my two ankles, or elevates it to a status above smartphones. When people went from feature phones to smartphones, the sense of empowerment that came with the app store was immense. What apps would you employ to hack your lifestyle or increase your productivity? Were my colleagues naturally better than me or did they just have a sneaky app of sorts that assisted them with everyday tasks? Being a feature phone owner and knowing the abilities of a smartphone, I would be a fool to not go from feature phone to smartphone. This is not the case with a feature packed watch. It will certainly do more than an analogue watch, but will it be a need over and above my smartphone? My next wearable needs a voice.
The Future Is [N]Ear
“I wish I could touch you.” Theodore said, lying in bed. The social boundaries being breached in such a heart-wrenching manner can only bring about sadness and longing for this man. The audience sits, baited, curious. “How would you touch me?” responds Scarlet Johansson’s husky voice. It’s a famous scene from Her, and Theodore is about to continue that conversation we left off on with Artificial Intelligence in the form of an earpiece. Far fetched? Not really. With all this recent progress in big data, and more specifically, deep learning, we have finally arrived at the point where AI is taking believable shape. With Google Now picking up serious momentum, the creators of Apple’s Siri conjuring up new platforms like Viv, (For the geeks out there, see dynamically evolving cognitive architecture, where programs write themselves), and Amazon’s Echo already in thousands of homes(since 2014!), this is sure to be the Battle For Middle Earth in the AI space. There is no doubt, in not only my mind but the minds of many, including some of the cognitive engineering greats such as Don Norman, that this sort of scene depicted in Her is an imminent reality. The AI stars are aligning. But where does my Apple Watch fit in?
Throw Your Apple Watch In The Bin
Well, you don’t have to throw it away, that’s wasteful. Perhaps give it to your boss and tell him you’re only wearing 2016 wearable tech from here on out, because the future is already available and it’s not on your wrist. Bottom line thought, we’ve all been duped. With huge software advances in AI, naturally hardware manufacturers are gearing up to compliment their hardware offerings with the progression of software and take you as close to the future as possible. As far back as 2014 some clever kids at MIT were calling foul on watches as biometric sensors, claiming they could do just as much with a standard earbud-sized device. But don’t take my word for it, rather watch this video released in early 2015 by the company that spun out of the claims, detailing the medical reasons the ear is just perfect for a lot more sensory expansion than the wrist. Sony recently announced their Xperia Ear, which has the ability to take human input with both a hardware button and voice commands, relaying ‘intelligent’ information. The Japanese company has even allowed you to swap out their software with Google Now, out of the box, with no hacking of the device required. And it’s not just Sony and Valencell getting on board; Bragi have come to the party with one of the first commercially available smart sports assistants that exists solely in your ear, the Dash. The Dash really does render your apple watch obsolete. It does everything the Apple Watch does, including measure your heart rate. Having the Dash in your ear for sport is like using an Apple Watch for sport with wireless headphones, but being able to leave the watch behind and just use your headphones. And did I mention you can swim with them on? Obsolete. (side: Apple bought the headphones company Beats Audio and will probably release wireless earphones with their next iPhone to take hold of this trend, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were a 90% match to those pictured below):
Not Just Yet, There’s An Infrastructure Challenge
The truth is, if we all suddenly adopted this technology on mass, there wouldn’t be enough computing power in the world to support it. There’s a reason that Amazon, who runs the biggest tech infrastructure businesses in the world, is a leader in voice intelligence. When Apple rolled out Siri, they also rolled out a new datacenter to support the expansion of such a service. Google also recently unveiled it’s TPU (Tensor Processing Unit); an innovation in hardware design targeted at assisting the heavy lifting associated with machine learning. Yes, it’s hellishly expensive to support AI. If you use Siri every now and again you can consider yourself an early adopter of AI. I for one will not stop testing how much I can get done with Google Now, to the point that I’m slowly losing friends. Not everyone will readily jump on board the in-ear assistant bandwagon, so you should be safe when it comes to infrastructure being ahead of our user adoption curve.
The AI revolution is sure to bring some incredible advancements; pair up in-ear assistants with services such as Crystal Knows, which gives you relationship advice based on someone’s LinkedIn profile, and you have a greater chance of succeeding in a meeting. Better yet, imagine the possibility of real-time research on conversations you are actively involved in being secretly fed into your ear with filtered snippets being brought to surface that make you appear to be more knowledgeable on a subject to which you hold little to no knowledge.
We are ever so close to confessing our love to that piece of hardware in our ear.