Wearables – Past, Present, and… Future?
If you are a child of the 80’s, you will undoubtedly recognize the title image for this article. The Centurions were a great motivation for anyone who’s ever thought about wearing technology on their body to do things that they could not normally do, without knowing how to operate heavy equipment. While the idea of teleporting pieces onto your body to enable you to fly is still (more than) a few years away, the thought of using technology on ourselves is very much here. No one can deny that the current level of technology is evolving, but the future and what it holds for wearables is something that not too many can yet envision.
Wearables – The Past
Back in the yester-years of mobile technology, we already had a glimpse of what it was like to wear tech items on your body. Granted that these primitive wearables were nowhere near as advanced or functional as their present counterparts, but they were a step in the right direction. For instance, the predecessor to the smartwatch actually did a few things–but only one at a time. I personally owned a video game watch, which was basically a side-scrolling shooter. Others had calculator watches with itsy bitsy tiny buttons, not really designed for adults with regular sized fingers. There were even some that came with an IR transmitter and universal remote control functionality. After all, nothing beats the adrenaline rush that you get after secretly changing the channel that everyone is watching in a crowded bar. As you can tell (sans practical jokes), wearables were already poised to become something more powerful and useful that could potentially help people. Yet somehow, this tech died down.
Cell phones, while a very expensive reality back in the day, were here to do one thing and that was to allow the user to communicate while away from home (and without pocket change to use a public phone). Pioneers like Motorola, Nokia, and a few others like Ericsson were perfecting the devices with usability and longevity in mind. Better batteries that would last a few days on a single charge, bodies that would be able to take punishment (and lots of it), and improvements in areas that mattered such as antenna technology (after all, they were called “phones” for a reason) were paramount ideas behind their development. However, all this changed sometime at the beginning of the turn of the 21st century. PDAs, which were very popular tools among business people, somehow found their way into the cell phone business. Portable technology was catapulted almost immediately into a different realm. Yes, humanity was on the highway towards being able to fly a la Ace McCould (or were we?).
Wearables – The Present
With the foundation being set for the next 20 years, technology companies started noticing the immense success of the marriage between portable computing and cellular technology, thus shifting all of their efforts into attempting to perfect the technology that would allow a professional to take their office with them no matter where they were in the world. At this point in time, wearable technology development was limited to pretty much perfecting Bluetooth headphones to allow people to do away with cables. As for the evolution of cell phones and smartphones, well that is a story for a different article, but for those young ones out there… no, it did not start with Apple and the iPhone (albeit, if you are reading this, you came to xda knowing this already). One of the greatest innovations of this time for personal wearable tech would have to be exercise watches, which are capable of reading your heart rate and pulse.
The efforts on tech changed into cramming as much horse power in our pockets as possible. Why? Because now human interests have changed from a productivity stand point into an entertainment one. Think about it for a second. The current norm for a cell phone is to have a high definition screen (at least 1080p), anywhere between 4 and 8 cores bordering 3 GHz and enough storage to put more pictures and movies than we will ever see in a lifetime. If it were still meant as a productivity tool, do you think that you would need more computing power than the one they used to fly people to the moon?
But wait! Rejoice people. Your dreams and prayers for James Bond type of wearables are still on the table. Ultra techy gadgets known as smartwatches have now made a reappearance, making the old watch calculator look like a relic. Many unknown brands make watches capable of making calls even (albeit not widely known). Most of the big players have dedicated efforts into watches and special glasses that look like they were inspired by Dragon Ball Z’s Sayan scouters. We might just live long enough be able to call a space station for our armor after all…. that is, so as long as humanity can remain focused on the goal of making technology something that humanity can use for their own betterment. We can do that, right?
Wearables – The Future?
To answer the question I just asked, I will begin by quoting one of my favorite movies of all time – Idiocracy
“Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down.”
When the movie came out a few years ago, I thought it was a gross over-exaggeration of the kind that only Mike Judge can conceive. However, for the past 3 years or so, we can see a trend in which the amazing advances in technology are used to do things that would have the greatest minds of the 20th century rolling in their graves. Want a good example? The selfie. The amount of effort that companies are putting towards perfecting this is absolutely and positively ridiculous. Both Sony and HTC, for instance, have released phones and tech with dedicated cameras to perfect selfies… every time. Some might say “well, the cameras do have other uses.” True, but to that I counter with the extendable pole that you see everyone having in Disney World, simply taking pictures of themselves with the background as second in importance. Someone (because there is always someone) will counter this by saying “family memories are important and it beats handing your phone to a stranger”. True again, but to this I counter with my ace…
The Selfie Brush… When I saw this, part of me died. Not because of the article as it was quite entertaining (kudos for the piece to Daniel Cooper at Engadget), but for the idea and what it represented. This was the end of my dreams of ever owning wearables that I could use to save humanity (or wearables to do something useful for that matter). The current trends are no longer focused on doing interesting stuff but rather to accomplish menial tasks. I am no longer expecting manufacturers to create personal flying suits at this point, but I am simply hoping that they stop catering to the entire world with things that are meant for 16 year old girls with self-confidence issues, and convincing them that they are must-have’s (not that the selfie brush will get this kind of take… at least I hope it doesn’t).
Wearables like the no-longer-available-for-sale Google Glass are so far out of reach for most folk out there that it is simply far too unappealing (after all I do not have $1500 to spare on one of these things and neither do most people I know). But even if it were, what good is it? Or rather, what can you do with it (other than going on a trapeze, sky diving, or singing happy birthday to your grandma, which is what the promotional video of Glass kinda suggests you can do with it). Much like it is the case with the Selfie Brush, this has no practical purpose (at least the other one can be used to brush your hair). It is not geared as an improvement to human life but rather as a tool to separate you from reality and drown you into a world where nothing matters and where the future is bleak at best.
What do you believe about the future of wearables? Do you think that someone will come up with useful wearable tech that will make humanity better? Please share your thoughts about this. Personally, I guess I will not be screaming “Power Extreme” anytime soon…