Disorganized Thoughts on Wearable Computing

I want to start off this post with a note that this is all theoretical.

Actually that’s a lie. I don’t want to start off the post like that, I just have to because they still haven’t shipped my goddamn FitBit. But the whole concept is something that’s been rattling around in my head for a while and I want to get it posted before I forget, and the forget point, it appears, will be several weeks before my fucking FitBit arrives.

Backorder issues aside, do you know how long people have talked about wearable computing? Realistically, at the consumer level, we’re going back to the first digital watches here, but at a more interactive level, I start it off around the time watch-calculators happened. You had one of those in grade school and you were the shit. 

Between then and now there’s been an explosion in portable computing technology, but it seems like only relatively recently that the wearable side of that came back into vogue. For quite some time the technology was simply not sufficiently portable to be added to a wristwatch or something similar. The early days of MP3 players built into sunglasses and the like would probably signal the modern emergence of the trend, but even after that there’s been a lull. But over the past few years there’s been a boom in the concept, partly with the talk of “smart watches”, aka a smartphone in tiny watch form. And Google Glass. And then, of course, is the fitness trend.

I hadn’t considered the fitness related stuff at all to be honest. My initial impressions were that they were merely 1) basically a pedometer with a Facebook uplink so you can brag at friends, and 2) a visible symbol of your ridiculous dedication to fitness that could be displayed prominently about the office such that when someone asked what the fuck you were wearing, you could smugly inform them blah blah. 

This particular attitude undertook a rather shocking 180 when a friend… a friend who, at best, could be called an unfit lazy neckbearded stoner… announced that he had gotten a pair of the older FitBits for he and his girlfriend. They did so, as it happens, because it also has sleep monitoring capability so they wore them to bed to try to work out some sleeping issues the girlfriend had. Sleep being the most important thing in my life, I immediately began reading up on it.

What I had initially recognized as merely a pedometer with the ability to generate trending analytics has in fact become more of a generalized bio-monitor. It’s not perfect, even the most recent FitBit Force (which I’m waiting on) doesn’t do heartbeat measuring, for instance. But having a watch that will let me better keep an eye on my own habits? Including sleeping habits? Interesting. I think that if this sort of thing was better known, it might break through more of the magical barrier of anti-“fitness-evangelizer” people of which I am a proud member (honestly, who cares, go get a room with a treadmill and STFU). Perhaps that’s why the Force is already so popular: the word got out. Too bad my damn device won’t get out of the warehouse.

And then straight into the whole privacy concern, big-health-government, etc. I could go into that but with the above statement I know that ALL TWO of my regular readers can probably sum up my concerns, arguments, and so on from memory.

In the early 90s one of my favorite authors referenced a wearable computer which was decried in the book as being exceptionally nerdy. Perhaps when we reach that particular level it will be, but at the moment it’s turning into a hot new thing. 

I’d like to be in on it. >=(

Sorry the point of this wasn’t to gripe about the shipping and whatnot, just to talk about the trend. But seriously, I can’t even get an estimated ship date. For real. I’ll stop now.

At any rate the wearable piece begins to makes sense when viewed from the perspective of body issues. Do I need a smartphone on a watch? Am I going to check email on a screen that small? No. Google Glass, privacy issues aside, is an interesting idea but I haven’t seen anything that gives me the impression it’s more than just a proof of concept at the moment. But as a body-metric device it makes a tremendous amount of sense. The ability to sync with a smartphone also makes sense: a tiny client with a tiny server. Except that server extends out to many other servers to get your email etc. So what becomes the next tiny client?

Injectable computing. It’s actually already a thing

edit- The next day I get my notice that they should arrive next week. Woo! I can finally see if I had a goddamn clue what I was talking about. Though that is to say, one of the *two* I ordered has shipped. Luckily, it’s mine. Erin can suffer.