I’ve been giving wearable tech a great deal of thought lately. It’s been particularly on my mind since Google Glass was announced. While I don’t exactly run in wearable tech circles, I am aware of the growing industry, even if consumer integration is still slow. When Google Glass was announced it generated a lot of buzz that has trickled down from tech media and fans to regular consumers. A couple of weeks ago I picked up my Google Glass at Google’s Chelsea HQ. I didn’t get too much reaction from New Yorkers, no surprise, but when I got back home to the suburbs outside Boston that changed, and not how I expected.
I’ve been taking my son to swimming lessons at the local lake (he’s taken to it like a fish, or polar bear maybe) and wearing Glass there. Crazy right? Well, I avoided swimming with them, but needed a pair of sunglasses and, because I was alone and also brought my 3-month old, free hands to take pictures of my son’s transformation into Namor were at a premium. Glass did the trick. While there I was bombarded by teen boys dying to ask about Glass. Mostly their parents were clueless about Glass and just as clueless as to how their son would know about them. Ages ranged from 7-ish to 18. This is the generation that finds the iPhone boring and will likely be sporting all manner of wearable tech.
But, let’s get back to my premise. Parent’s of these kids were clearly impressed and concerned at the same time that a T-800 was tracking them. The general consensus was “wow, this is the future”, not much different from articles from Forbes, CNN, Bloomberg, hundreds of blogs, thousands of tweets. The thing is, wearable tech isn’t the future, it’s the present and the past. We’ve had wearable tech for decades if not centuries, it just wasn’t very user friendly. I’m talking about cell phones of course. It may be in your pocket, or if you’re my dad’s age, you’re wearing it on your belt, but it’s wearable tech. I’m sure we could argue semantics that you’re not wearing it on your face, or wrist. But, it could be argued, any technology you carry with you is wearable tech, whether it’s a camera around your neck or a tool-belt around your waste. Obviously a voice activated device such as Google Glass, or the rumored iWatch, is a step up, As long as tools have been small enough to be portable, humans have been wearing them, to help with a job, to make their lives easier and more fun. I mean, I went from a portable, battery operated record player as a child, to huge AM/FM headphones, to a walkman, then discman, to a small Cassiopeia to a flip phone, then smartphone, now Glass. Wearable tech has been a part of my life for over 30 years. Looking through my antique and retro still and video camera collection, it has been a part of American culture, content creation, social sharing, productivity and art for generations.
Certainly the iWatch, Google Glass are the newest in the line, but my grandmother’s hearing aide and Nike+ running shoes certainly fit the bill too. Humans are always a little skeptical of something new, mostly because they either don’t understand it or don’t see the benefits. But as any of us who were laughed at for having a laptop, cell phone, iPod, or iPad can tell you, they don’t laugh much past Christmas.
Full disclosure: I will be speaking at the Wearable Tech Expo in NYC on July 25th.
Photo courtesy Cam M.