Era of Wearable Computing: A Counterview!


Recently, you must have read the article on Wearable Computing by Ashwin. He made a compelling argument that though in its nascent stage, wearable computing is on the rise and it is here for real and not just some fantasy or science fiction anymore. He maintained that there might be some time before this technology might stand on its feet, but nevertheless it is alive and kicking.

My viewpoint is a bit different on the matter.

I believe that there would not be an era of wearable computing- at least not in the form we see it now.

There are many reasons that come to my mind. Let me share them with you one by one.

wearable computing - counterview

First reason is what Ashwin mentioned as well. The technology can’t stand on its own feet. Be it Google Glass or SmartWatch, they need a phone around to be useful in more than a gimmicky way.

While Google Glass may be able to break these shackles in the near future (it seems to be having enough screen space to do it), Smart watches will never be able to give us enough data on its miniscule screen to satisfy our current computing needs.

Remember, we are not the same people who were happy with a 2.4” screen anymore. The current success of 5” screens and the launch of phablets have made us dependent on big screens in our hands.

The second issue is of course battery. Unless the battery technology (a huge bottleneck currently) goes through a revolution (which it might in the future but not now) these gadgets will lose their power in a few hours. They can’t be given bigger batteries like phones as they can’t be heavy unlike phones where an extra 10 gms might go unnoticed.

Also, they can’t be optimized like phones for battery because of their bigger dependence on Internet (WiFi and 3G) and Bluetooth like battery hogging technology.

The third issue is that they do nothing else! While this may not seem such a big deal, one thing should be remembered; People look at the price they are giving and what they are getting in return. A phone was never an entertainment device. It was already there solving an important purpose and suddenly got wings and a sword and all the magic tricks. But that is the most important point- It would not have died if these technological changes would not have come.

On the other hand, all the one trick ponies like mp3 players, watches, GPS devices etc. are facing their deaths because of these smartphones. These wearable gadgets are not adding any value in the sense that they can’t do anything new that the phone can’t do.

They are just adding an unnecessary weight to an already loaded person with the same functions. And really! Is the taking out the phone such a tough task for me that I would buy a Rs. 10000 gadget for not doing so?

I won’t and I don’t think anyone else will. Especially considering in mind that we can’t buy any safety covers for these gadgets and they will be more at risk of damage. (A person’s watch or spectacles get destroyed oh-so-often.)

And the final point that I think is most important comes from a long standing statement that people reject anything that is too out of the ordinary. In fact, it is this statement which forms the basis of the argument that the reason we do not see hover boards is not because it is technologically not possible but more because it won’t be accepted by the society.

What I mean by this is that the current crop of wearable computing will act as a bridge between the actual technology that doesn’t exist right now and will have the capacity to either replace the phone or add some functionality to it that doesn’t exist in it and can’t be added to it.

As I see, this technology won’t be wearable but will be more like omnipresent like smart-homes where you can voice activate actions in your house and similar technologies getting everywhere from shops to cars.

You would not take your phone out for anything unless all these technologies are not around. In my opinion, these technologies are pagers compared to the smartphones that will actually become essential in the future.

With the coming of phones, a whole generation learnt not to wear watches. I don’t think they are going to wear it back anytime soon.

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