Over a short four month period, between December 2011 and April last year, I wrote two pieces on wearable tech that in retrospect look pretty prophetic. The problem I am facing right now is that having written those two posts there is little I can now say that will not be either derivative or repetitive.
Seeing however that “’nuff said” is not real journalism, or even decent blogging, what I will talk about instead is the promise of wearable computing devices. Google Glass has a sleek new video out that shows what the experience will be like:
Want one? Obviously the video is slanted to produce the answer ‘Yes’ but even within its promise the premise of wearable computers raises questions the answers to which will make or break the success of the Google Glass Project.
Q1. Is that a sinking feeling? In robotics and 3D computer animation there is a theory propagated by robotics professor Masahito Mori who coined the term ‘The Uncanny Valley’ to describe it.
The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of robotics and 3D computer animation, which holds that when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The "valley" refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as a function of a robot's human likeness.
This is the graph of what the experience looks like:
Given the adverse reaction that initial skeptics had over the Google Glass spotted in the wild, during trials, this is something that is unlikely to be resolved quickly or satisfactorily. Personally I get a little twitchy when I suspect someone is filming me or taking pictures of me when I am out and about and usually there is little real reason to worry about them. The thought that someone may be filming you without your consent requires a little getting used to.
Q2. Is it stable? While 4G connectivity is spreading, connection speeds and operational costs will be a concern governing adoption. Mobile phone coverage is almost universal, these days and yet when it drops below a certain level and emails struggle to come in, it produces its share of frustration. The thing is Google may not be able to do much here as connectivity will rely on networks outside its control.
Q3. Will it be functional? The answer here is critical. While most of us, early adopters, enthusiastically adopt new tech, the ultimate success of any kind of innovation relies upon its functionality and, more than that, functionality that is seamless, and as ‘frictionless’ as possible. This is the entry level threshold barrier. Make it too quirky, not utilitarian enough, difficult to learn or use and you end up with a population of users that is decreasing in time as the novelty value of the device wears off.
Maybe Hunter Walk is right and Google Glass may fail, but that isn’t the point, as he writes.
Personally I think the trend of wearable computing is here to stay. I can’t wait to get my hands on Google Glass when it becomes commercially available. Its ultimate success however and the ability that wearable computers have to change the face of business, marketing, SEO and connectivity, will depend upon the answers to those three, little questions.