Some Wearable Tech Glances Beat Others

This idea of the glanceable user experience of wearable technology is now everywhere.

They’re all at it.

Testing out the Apple Watch in Oracle HQ’s Fitness Center spin class. On the road is another matter.

Testing out the Apple Watch in Oracle HQ’s Fitness Center spin class. On the road is another matter.

There is the OG Misfit Wearables Shine, Apple’s Glances, and of our course the Oracle Applications Cloud User Experience (@usableapps) concept of glance on the smartwatch, part of our Glance, Scan, Commit design philosophy.

But, not all glances are equal. How well a glance works for the wearer depends on the user experience notion of context of use: the wearer, the type device, what the wearer’s up to at the time, the information they need, the connectivity, et cetera.

Take road cycling for example. I find the Google Glass cards-based glance as applied to the Strava Glassware totally awesome when cycling. Still.

Strava glassware. Heads-up performance details on a card.

Strava glassware. Heads-up performance details on a card.

Glass is a heads-up device, so that means eyes on the road. Combined with the audio updates on my cycled segments and so on, it’s a fantastic UX. It’s convenient. It doesn’t distract me. And, it’s safe. I don’t have to look down at my wrist and take my eyes off the road even for a second to glance at the important stuff.

Ain’t no stoppin’ us now. Except to look at smartwatches.

Ain’t no stoppin’ us now. Except to look at smartwatches.

Looking down at my wrist or changing hand position to glance at my progress on a smartwatch such as my Apple Watch Activity or Workout built-in apps, at my Fitbit Surge Bike stats, or at my Motorola Moto 360 Android Wear Google Fit analytics while hammering along on a bike at 30 mph on a public road is just too risky for me.

Glancing at these smartwatches’ UIs later, of course is great, whether it’s for progress on miles, calories, duration, or even to ensure that important data’s actually being sent to the cloud where I can do more with it.

Fight for pink. Moto 360 glance notification of Strava bike ride data heading to the cloud.

Fight for pink. Moto 360 glance notification of Strava bike ride data heading to the cloud.

I have the same opinion about heads-up glance on devices like Google Glass when I am running, though the durability of Google Glass, battery life, and still having to pair it with another device is a pain.

No sweat. Context of use for sporting devices needs to bear in mind personal weather conditions.

No sweat. Context of use for sporting devices needs to bear in mind personal weather conditions.

Running in cities requires you to keep your wits about you: be sharp and look ahead. Glancing down from the upcoming path even for a second might mean going home with an injury or worse. Generally, with my smartwatches, when I’m out running, I’ll glance at the data or analytics when I stop at a traffic signal rely on the audio update from my paired smartphone (although it ruins the music) on occasion.

Somewhere to run in London with the Apple Watch Glances (see what I did there?)

Somewhere to run in London with the Apple Watch Glances, see what I did there?

The ability to glance at performance statistics in heads-up mode, combined with those audio progress reports in your ear, is the way to go when cycling and running with wearable tech IMHO. Arguably, too, an audio component is “glance for the ears”. Glance should be multi-mode and not just about the visual, not least for accessibility reasons. We can’t all see as well as each other.

Activity wearable tech designers and developers take note. Eyes on the prize, or road in this case, please. It’s a good reminder about the importance of context of use when gathering user requirements.

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