Wearables and UX

The holiday season is in full swing now, and I’ll bet a lot of people out there will be getting some form of wearable device as a gift.

Wearables is a pretty broad category, that seems to be right at the cusp of mainstream adoption. For now, it includes smartwatches, augmented reality on your face, and fitness trackers.

Personally, I’d like to see more fashion innovation, e.g. intelligent clothing. I’m not a fan of encumbrances, but since clothes aren’t optional, they might as well be smart.

As wearables gain momentum, I find myself increasingly frustrated because there are so many options, so many form factors and price points, and no clear leader where I feel comfortable investing time, money and development effort.

And that’s without even looking at the technical aspects of each device, sensors, SDKs and/or APIs, openness of data, associated ecosystems.

What a hot mess, but hey, it’s exciting too.

And top of mind for many of us in Applications User Experience. Don’t believe me? Check out these recent posts from Misha (@mishavaughan) and Utlan (@ultan):

Will You Be Wearing Your Enterprise Data?

Dress Code 2.0: Wearables

Bonus, Misha’s post includes an interview with our very own Anthony (@anthonyslai) about his adventures as a Google Glass Explorer. Noel (@noelportugal) is now in that club too, so expect more Glass content soon, e.g. I heard those two mad scientists got the Glass working to control the robotic arm.

Stay tuned, and as always, find the comments.




  1. I have a fitbit, I call it a $100 pedometer. I think it is a natural british tendency to play things down and ‘be cool’. In fact I should be saying it is a wearable, the next tech revolution that will change the world. I like my $100 pedometer, but I think the wearable that will win out is the on with a big screen, is a fully functional computer and fits in my pocket.

  2. The research continues! Cool shout out for Misha and my own effort, and nice job from Anthony (and Noel).

    I’ve been playing about with integrations and stuff via IFTT to get into the swing of things.

    https://plus.google.com/108500053037088744011/posts/CPDhtMnXXt2 (a bit basic I know, but it does show what’s possible and what’s emerging for consumer-level integrations – if only the enteprise had IFTTT and Twitter Bootstrap-style ease of integration – nudge)

    I was out and about today (#blackfriday) in San Francisco (usual retail therapy – https://plus.google.com/108500053037088744011/posts/AB5ou1zFazB) with my Google Glass. I amazed to see SO MANY Google Glass explorers about town. The program has recently been expanded so that original Explorers can invite more (a la GMAIL launch). Definitely on the uptake. But the real challenge is to bring those business cases for the enterprise (whatever that really means) to life with data we can really use.

    Inside some stores, sales associates were nervous of me, and not quite sure what I was up to (neither was I). Interestingly, inside the Oakley store on Market St, got chatting to one of the associates. He tried on my Glass, had a few questions, and told me two others had been in with Glass before me and asked if Oakley were doing any lenses or accessories for Glass. None at present, but not an unreasonable question perhaps, given their Airwave snow goggles – (http://www.oakley.com/products/7283/28220). I do have the Google Glass clear and dark shades, but stylistically nowhere near Oakley. Watch this space though for opportunities I think.

    It’s explorer fun time with Glass, but for now long? MyPOV, but my sense is that the play time is nearly over, if not already, and real business cases will come to life as hardware and software for purchase and use in the enterprise in a big way in by mid 2014.

    And just when you though it was safe, and we were done with glasses and watches, we have… wigs… http://goo.gl/9LXcW2 check out that patent from Sony!

    I have the @pebble too, and @fitbit. That’s another day’s comments!

  3. @David: Yeah, I didn’t mention that point again, but wearable up to now has been simply a nice way of saying smartphone accessory.

    I’m interested in how ambient technology could advance these accessories, i.e. less is more, only interrupt me in specific circumstances and keep me from pulling out the phone every few minutes.

    Replacing the smartphone w a Dick Tracy watch seems futile.

  4. @Ultan: An IFTTT for the enterprise exists, kind of, in Zapier. That’s their focus anyway to differentiate them from IFTTT. As REST creeps into enterprises, having this type of action dashboard is a logical extension, if not from vendors, then from IT.

    As we look at more wearables, the only good way to integrate them at scale will be via this type of dashboard.

    Inside the firewall, it’s less scary to write for basic standards like IMAP, SMTP, CalDAV, CardDAV to pull in existing enterprise activity.

    I wonder about the Explorers when the consumer version of Glass drops. What will Google do to make them feel special as early adopters bc you know Glass won’t retail at $1,500. There will have to be some reward.

    Remember the original iPhone came out at $499, then they cut the price by $200 two months later?

    Yeah, that.

  5. I wonder about that too. Who knows? I’m sure I have some WebVan.com fridge magnets somewhere to remind me things can do down as well as up… perhaps there’s be some kind of veterans program or trade-in program.

    Funny, was looking at the FiTBit dashboard just now and think about their power. Nice. I agree dashboards will be the way forward for breadth and drill down of this stuff.

  6. @jake – right, you still need to carry a smartphone for connectivity. I use my @pebble when running, but the data is coming from my iPhone running runkeeper app (and playing my music). My Fitbit is synced via Wifi on my iPhone. My Google glass data and connectivity comes via my Samsung SIII (sorry Apple, the Glass app is killer and Android only)…

    Can’t remember the last time I actually made a phone call though…

  7. @Ultan: I guess my point was that, at least for me, wearables aren’t valuable until they replace what the phone can do, without relying on it.

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