The Growth of Wearables And Its Impact on the Screen And a Cyborg Future
In consideration of the investments made in wearable technologies over the past few years – Google leading a $542 million round into Magic Leap and Facebook buying Oculus Rift for a hefty $2 billion – it does appear that some of the tech world’s most futuristic minds are staking at least part of their fortunes on a significant change in the manner we interact with technology. An accustomed user of a Fitbit or Apple Watch would tell you that there has been a transition in technology that we wear rather than technology that we carry. Despite these investments that grab the headlines, the adoption of wearables has moved at a slower pace than was originally envisaged.
This is partly so because wearables today tend to only carry out just one individual task well, whether that’s counting the number of steps we take or heartbeat rate monitor. Wearable technology is just the beginning of a massive shift in the way we interact with technology. Because of this, we are inclined to think technology is taking over our lives, but as a fact, we are still at the initial stages of connecting computers with ourselves. For many people, thinking of a virtual reality headset for instance, brings to thought a ‘cyborg’ vision of the future, questions like what happens to us when we are wearing the headset? Are we immersed into a different, digital world where we lose touch with real human interaction? Likely not, but the fears are very much to be reckoned with.
It is not unimaginable that over the next decade, a wearable device will be designed well intelligent enough to read our biological signals to such an extent that, for instance, it can give us a needed warning to take a break if we are too tired while driving. And don’t underestimate the importance of saving time. It is one of the reasons that wearables will ultimately succeed. Why? Because as applications for watches, glasses and other wearables develop into the mainstream, it will quickly become obvious that they are easier and more time efficient to use. Similar to eyewear, a watch is simple to access and positioned for instant convenience, but a phone has to be taken out of a pocket or located in a handbag or purse before the appropriate app can even be opened.
Saving time and ease of use is everything – it is the reason the Graphical User Interface was developed back in the 1980’s for this purpose. Suddenly the technology made sense because a real desktop was virtually represented on the screen. We were able to make a connection of our analogue mental models of information organization and interaction with technology. Processes that we had previously done manually have now become faster and more efficient.
Wearables have the interesting potential to bring together the computing power we rely on in our connected world with so much ease of use and instant interaction. Never mind the cyborg vision of the future – we are on the brink of developments that are much more subtle; more in tune with our human instincts so that with a flick of the wrist or a blink of the eye we can both summon and reject technology to suit our will and our individual requirements.