Warn out

By Allen Stare

The buzzword from the past couple of years has been “wearable-tech.” Remember Google Glass? They were those weird looking, very expensive “glasses” that mounted over one eye with a heads-up display. Google Glass was supposed to give you the ability to surf the internet, Terminator-style, while walking through a mall. The whole concept never sounded like a good idea to me.

For about ten minutes everybody was talking about Google Glass, then it…stopped. Google Glass was being distributed and tested on a “trial” basis. A few developers were creating tiny interfaces so ‘glass users could surf the internet, and play games, and take pictures, and shoot video. Then…suddenly they weren’t. Google Glass left the market in November of 2014. Developers stopped developing. The people behind ‘glass said it would be coming back for wide distribution sometime in 2015…or maybe 2016…maybe. Nobody seems too worried about the disappearance of Google Glass or when it might be coming back. Some communities, and a few businesses (theaters and strip clubs especially) would be happy to see Google Glass go away for good.

Google Glass may be on hiatus, but wearables aren’t going anywhere. Depending on when you’re reading this you are about to, or have just been, witness to the first sales of the “Apple Watch.” The Apple Watch was teased back in the fall of 2014 when the iPhone 6 was unveiled. Everybody “oohed” and “aaahed” over it because it was from Apple and it looked sleek and stylish in the promo video. Then a few brave souls pointed out the Emperor’s lack of wardrobe: “come on…it’s a watch.” The folks at Apple countered with “no, it’s a SMART watch.”

I don’t care how smart it is, it’s a watch. I had one of those Casio wrist calculator watches for a while when I was in junior high (oh, yeah…I was cool). It was pretty smart, but it was still a watch. I used it a few times as a calculator. It came with a little stylus and required some pretty keen eyesight but it did work as a calculator. You could also set alarms on it. Eventually, it just became a watch with a lot of buttons. Then the battery died. I was tired of all the “geek” and “nerd” comments so it was quietly placed in the back of a drawer in the kitchen.

Other, smarter watches have been around since then. Samsung has had a true smart watch for a couple of years. What’s that? You didn’t KNOW Samsung had a Smart Watch? Don’t feel bad. Samsung isn’t quite as flashy as Apple when it comes to new product introductions. Cutting edge tech-geeks have the Samsung Smart Watches and that’s about it. Predictions have this new Apple Watch appealing to the same, very limited, demographic. People who get the Apple Watch will get it because they just have to have the latest and geekiest. Even the senior editor of “MacWorld UK” says she isn’t interested in getting an Apple Watch. She doesn’t see the need.

“Need” isn’t always the driving force in our tech purchases. For Apple, the bigger concern is, most people don’t even WANT an Apple Watch. Besides telling time (yes, it does tell time) the Apple Watch doesn’t seem to do much else for its $349 entry level price tag. Most of the currently promoted apps have to do with fitness. There are apps to keep track of your steps, monitor heart rate and blood pressure and approximate calorie burn. Although, if you are hairy or particularly sweaty, none of the fitness gizmos seem to work. According to industry analysts, Fitbit and several other fitness-specific watches and monitors do the same jobs, better than the Apple Watch, and for less money.

In addition to the fitness stuff, the Apple Watch will beep when you get an e-mail, and an alarm will go off for calendar events. These things will happen at the same time as your phone is giving you the same notifications…but these notifications will be coming at you from your WRIST. Oh, yeah…word is there’s also going to be a “Tamagachi” style virtual pet app. Woo-hoo!

We all incorporate some wearable tech into our existence. We always have. You probably don’t even give it a thought. Sunglasses are wearable tech. Sunglasses contain high end polarization and UV blocking engineering. Why do we use them? Because they work. Sunglasses do a job and provide us with a benefit we don’t get from any other tech device in our arsenal.

Look at your feet. Nike, New Balance, Reebok…all of the major shoe manufacturers employ mechanical and structural engineers. These folks create some of the techiest wearable tech you’ll find anywhere.

I have a Bluetooth headset jammed in my ear ten to twelve hours a day. My Bluetooth is some SERIOUS wearable tech. It may not be all that stylish, but it serves a function I can’t get from any other device. Oh, and it WORKS.

Wearable tech extends the functionality of the human being wearing the tech. If it delivers in an easy and convenient way, we adopt it. Train conductors started carrying pocket watches because they needed accurate timepieces with a face big enough to be easily seen on a shaky, moving train. The pocket watch was some seriously popular wearable tech back in the 1880s.

Watches have always been wearable tech, both the pocket and wrist varieties. Although, wristwatches suffered a serious decline in revenue starting right around the turn of the century. Why was that again? Oh, yeah…because so many people started to carry smartphones. The time was right there on the phone. The wristwatch industry went into a huge slump. In 2010 the Wall Street Journal declared watches one of the ten industries destroyed by the smartphone. Wristwatch manufacturers conceded to functionality. They said the only reason they were hanging on was because some people still found watches stylish. Watches were relegated to the role of fashion accessory.

Now Apple, the guys who basically killed the wristwatch, are telling us the next trend in wearable tech is…a wristwatch? I’m thinking we’d better make some room in the back of the kitchen drawer next to my Casio.

[Questions? Comments? Column ideas? I would LOVE to hear from you! Write me at: allen.stare@gmail.com]

Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *