October 23rd, 2017

Smartwatches – The Wearable Technology that is redefining your access to the world

Sci-fi is Real!

Remember the Arnold Schwarzenegger cyborg who could easily make a readout of information before his eyes in the ‘Terminator’. Back when we watched it the first time, we were spellbindingly awed because it did seem like a thing from the future. If you remember, there is an interesting conversation in the film between the characters Kyle Reese and Sarah O Connor. When Kyle explains about the Robot that is chasing them, Sarah responds that she is not stupid and human beings “cannot make things like that yet”. Reese replies “Not for about 40 years”. Terminator was released in 1984. One would have to admit James Cameron was spot on with his prediction! Today, devices that can give you an augmented reality overlay of information are catching up the market. You can go about your daily life with the benefit of information popping up in the field of your vision and you don’t have to be a robot to experience it. Yes, in other words, the transition is a flash forward from Terminator to Iron Man! What is one cool thing about Tony Stark aka Iron Man. He is equipped with machines; isn’t he? Devices form his dress! And using them he can access information regarding any object or person before him. Though not upto the level of making an entire outfit, very soon every human being will be equipped with devices that will improve their way of accessing content and information. That is where wearable technology is taking us to.

A brief look at History

A study conducted by Forbes in 2014 indicated that 71% of 16 to 24 year olds want wearable technology. The use of wearable devices actually go long way back to the early centuries. The first ever corrective lenses of 13th century, 17th century Abacus Ring and pocket watches, 19th century hearing aids can all be thought of as precursors to the modern wearable technology. The modern day developments started in 20th century and quite interestingly, pigeons were the first to carry wearable cameras. In 1907, Julius Neubronner, a German pioneer of amateur photography and film strapped a tiny lightweight camera to homing pigeons to obtain aerial images. In 1965, Edward O. Thorp and Claude Shannon, two mathematicians created a computerized timing device to help them win a game of roulette. One timer was hidden in a shoe and the other in a pack of cigarettes. This is considered as one of the earliest examples of wearable electronic devices. One might also wonder if this was an inspiration for cheat code in games! The period of 1970s and 1980s were sensationalized by calculator watch from various brands such as Pulsar, Timex and Casio.

Panning to the twenty first century, the Fashion company ‘CuteCircuit’ introduced a bluetooth connected electronics called the ‘HugShirt’ at the CyberArt Festival 2004 in Spain. The product, designed for tele transmitting touch over distance was the first wearable product that took the form of a garment of clothing and it was also the world’s first Bluetooth and internet connected clothing. No wonder it won the Grand Prize at the CyberArt and got featured in Time Magazine’s ‘Best Inventions of the Year’ special issue! Later in 2008, Ilya Fridman, a designer launched a bluetooth microphone that could be hidden into a pair of earrings and in 2009 v2_lab introduced an app called Pocket tweet that could turn your shirt into a twitter bubble. If you could make a proper hole and stitch your shirt properly, the java application, as it displays the latest tweet on your mobile can generate a speech bubble on to your pocket and you can literally walk around inviting others to read your chest! You could actually create ‘followers’ as you walk and that is one impressive way to carry yourself around. (As long as one is not profane!)

Smartwatches

With a smartwatch you can literally have a computer worn in your wrist. Predominantly, smartwatches can connect to your mobile phone and act as a mini interface to your digital life. Perhaps grandparents of the future will have to tell their young ones that there was once a period when watches were meant for just timekeeping! As smartwatches gain in strength, timekeeping will just be one little part in the ocean of opportunities they provide.

Smartwatches, srushti imx

Live your Social Life – Uninterrupted

How many times have a smartphone interrupted your daily life? You are in a crucial meeting but you receive a notification in your smartphone. You keep wondering if someone has left you an important message or email that requires your immediate attention. You just don’t feel comfortable without checking it and you also cannot afford to upset your management. We have all been there, haven’t we? Or how often another viewer has told you to put off your cell phone inside a movie hall because that was disturbing him. Let us accept the fact, smartphones are great but every smartphone user would have had at least one experience where it hindered their regular social life. This might look like a small thing to the eye but there is more to it than what meets the eye. You absolutely don’t want to make another person think you prefer gadget above them and you don’t want to be treated that way too. This is one place where smartwatches can be a significant life saver. You can just peek into your wrist and stay informed without disturbing your regular life. You don’t have to take the phone out of your pocket or stop whatever you were doing to see who texted you. You can just quickly glance at your wrist and decide whether to respond or ignore it. So, with a smartwatch you can easily stay connected and informed without having to interrupt your social life.

Travel Directions and Assistance

Suppose you are travelling from Los Angeles to San Francisco. You are not quite familiar with the easiest route or the different traffic you could expect. Browsing navigational guides in smartphones while driving can be a painful process. First, you need to find a way to place your phone properly, so that you won’t have problems viewing it. Even then, it is not very easy to look at the phone screen navigation by keeping your complete attention on the road. Smartwatches change this scenario altogether. With voice recognition features, you can just say “OK Google..Navigate to San Francisco” and turn by turn navigations would appear on your wrist! Similarly, if you are in a new city, you can search for places of attractions or find nearby hotels and restaurants. Mostly, you need your mobile phone with you for the watch to get directions but GPS built in smartwatches have already hit the market. Apple Watch Series 2, Polar M600, Samsung Gear S2 3G, Garmin Vivoactive and Fitbit Surge are some of the examples in this regard.

Go Hands Free with Voice Commands

One of the unique advantages of smartwatch is that you can ask a question or text someone hands free and on the go! To activate voice search you just have to say “OK Google” and your smartwatch will start listening. Visiting somewhere and want to know what the weather is like? No problem. Just ask ‘What is the weather for New Delhi Tomorrow’. If you have to send an email or an instant message using any messenger you don’t have to take your smartphone out anymore. Just speak into your smartwatch and what you say will be converted to a text that you can send. You can also open any applications you want by simply giving a voice command after ‘OK Google’ and you can also setup reminders.

Instant Alerts

The Google Assistant ‘Google Now’ has introduced Google Now ‘Cards’ where your information is automatically organized into simple cards to appear when required. Simply log in and modify settings to determine what information do you need and when do you need them without having to manually search for it. Thus, you can receive regular alerts and updates onto your wrist. Sometimes, it can even provide you information that you never realized you needed. For example, by calculating weather, location and traffic it can inform you when to start from your home to catch your flight or to attend that meeting.  Your wrist as the platform for instant alerts and updates. How about that!

Music, Shop, Book and Much More!

Android Wear, the operating system for wearable devices is characterized by plenty of beautiful applications. You can simply download the apps from Play store and customize your smartwatch to listen to music, shop or even book flights. You can also use your smartwatch as a remote to play music and videos in your mobile and you can play the music in your watch using a bluetooth speaker or headset. You can even keep a track of your steps and calculate the distance travelled.  At the Spring Forward event in 2015, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, demonstrated the process of Apple watch being used to clear the airport security by generating the boarding pass on watch screen! One can easily obtain the boarding pass with seat, gate assignment and barcode on your watch screen. Several airlines such as Air France have already started developing apps to work with Apple watch. Very soon you might be able to board the flight with a flick of the wrist.


Connectivity and Internet of Things

The latest version of Android Wear allows you to connect your phone with the smartwatch even if they are far away. If the watch is connected to a wifi network and the phone to a wifi or cell network, you can still send messages and access email on your smartwatch. In the present era of Internet of things, a smartwatch can also help you control your sound system or the smart lighting system with an easy click on the wrist.

Major Players

Apple’s series 2 watches arrive with a smoother body and it is swimming friendly, has a battery that lasts two days and also a heart rate monitor. L.G Watch Sport has GPS, LTE, NFC, heart rate monitor and Android Pay. Samsung’s Gear S3 runs on both iOS and Android and it features increased battery life, GPS and heart rate monitor. Withings Steel HR is a hybrid smartwatch that has an analogue watch face. In the face is a hidden figure that will flash notifications and display steps. It also has a built in heart rate monitor and battery could last upto 25 days.

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