Can wearable computing be saved?

Moderated by Larry Dignan | April 28, 2014 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Google Glass has some serious problems. What does this mean for the rest of the wearables industry?

Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow




Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Best Argument: Yes


Audience Favored: Yes (74%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Vertical is the killer app

Jason Perlow: My esteemed colleague fears that because Glass has fallen on its posterior, it will potentially take the rest of the wearables industry down. I think we are being a bit too hasty here.

First, I think we all can agree that wearable computing covers a number of form factors, not just augmented reality monocles like Glass. These include those systems being tested by the military and police forces for anti-terrorism operations, numerous engineering and field scenarios as well as medical/hospital use. Wearable computing includes simple sensors like the Fitbit, smartwatches like the Pebble as well as more vertical-purposed and much more higher-end devices than even Glass.

Vertical has always been the killer app for wearables. And in vertical scenarios nobody cares if you look bizarre wearing one or if the user is pointing a camera at you. In short, in a purely vertical scenario, nobody is being a Glasshole. The wearer is simply doing their job.

The problem we need to solve is not with the wearable technology itself, which we know can and will improve with further development. It all has to do with the behavior of the wearer and social acceptance of its use.

Fatally flawed

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: We've spent the most of this millennium making devices smaller. Now that these devices are about as small as they can get, we're reversing the trend (maybe because we ruined out eyesight on those small screens in the first place) and this leaves a gap in the market for small devices, which are collectively known as wearables.

But the current crop of wearables are fatally flawed. Not only are prices too high, and stylistically they look a mess, but on top of that most do little more than duplicate features already present on smartphones and tablets, but with the added limitation of not being able to function independently of another device.

In an era when we've seen so much convergence in the tech world, with so many features being packed into a single device – the smartphone – the wearables industry wants to turn that around and get people buying companion devices once again.

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  • The Market will sort it out

    Wearable technology is still in the very early stages. The applications may ultimately be limited to specialized or niche applications (like health monitoring), or it may find more generalized use, but eventually it will happen. Prices will come down as it moves to a mass market.
    Reply 49 Votes I'm for Yes
    • For wearable like a watch? Maybe. For glasses? Not so much

      the thing with glasses is - do you really want them displaying everything every moment you're awake? If not, would someone who doesn't wear glasses want to wear them the entire day if they're serving no purpose?

      At that point they're no better then a smartphone, having to pull it out of your pocket whenever you want to use it.
      Reply 34 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Well, the market will sort it out...

      ...but its not entirely all unpredictable.

      Here is the problem "today" with wearables.

      1. People are not stupid. At least most people are not entirely stupid that's for sure. Not everyone has "money to burn". One thing I have the opportunity to do is discus new and upcoming tech and gadgets with very very average people in so far as your typical non-tech savvy individual goes. I ask them what their thoughts are on smart watches, Google Glass and other such gadgets. Believe it or not, while we clearly have a significant over abundance of tech loving "I want it all" types here, they are in relatively short supply one you get out in the regular world where not only are people not working in IT, they often don't even know anyone in IT and the closest they often get is like their somewhat tech savvy friend or relative. These people are actually saying enough is enough. They have been beleaguered with ads to buy a tablet, buy a smartphone, buy a mini tablet buy a smarterphone and now they are starting to ask "why do I need this watch or glasses and what will it do for me for the money that I really need to do?" And often, the answer is actually not much. They are tired of spending their money on things that...believe it or not...are not a real computer. But they already have a regular computer that works, so they don't want anything much if it dosnt do something really special.

      2. Sure, people like convenience, but at what price? How much do these things cost? And its just not money cost, its social and comfort cost. You know, we get these dim whit's on here crying the blues about how they don't understand why people don't like the idea of Google Glass due to privacy issues. Quite frankly, Im astonished at their short sightedness. For heaven sake, I know people who don't like having their picture taken by ANY camera, never mind some random walking around with Google Glass on his head. I mean, you can cry and scream all you like, you can say how ridiculous and unjust it is that there are so many that find the idea of having to be forced to accept as normal hundreds of people walking around your streets with a device on their head that can snap pictures and take video of you at a seconds notice, as something that's actually not acceptable. Scream all you like, its still a fact. Accept the FACT that vast numbers of parents of young children find this kind of device to much "intrusion at the ready" to be acceptable in a free society. If some wacko wants to take a pic of your kid, at least make him either pull out his cell cam and be obvious, or make him have to do it in some truly clandestine way, not just having the camera being strapped to his face ready to upload to the cloud as if it was everyday normal behavior is too much for them. That's never going to change. Live with it.

      People in general, I don't see as being against wearable tech, just that with all the recent gadgetry about, people have spent a lot of money. I know a family that supports 4 smartphones and 2 tablets and they are saying "NO MORE...PLEASE!"

      Sure, a lot of tekkies in the industry think this is all great, but much the same way as people in the nutrition industry might think pushing 15 kinds of vitamins, juicers, weight loss plans, low carb menus and ten other things at you is all great. Spend spend spend! These are all great marvelous things!

      Then Joe Average comes along and say no thanks. For example, give Joe Average a weight loss pill that guarantees he loses 3 pounds a week no matter how he eats and dosnt hurt him, that's something hes going to say, gotta have it. Push all kinds of vitamins, special nutrients and all kinds of other nutrition supplements, he says, sure, maybe they do help, but they don't make a big enough difference to me to spend all that time and money. NO thanks.

      When your into it, as in into anything that really catches your fancy, its often a case of "it all sounds good". But also count on the fact that whenever your involved in something and it all practically sounds good to you, even at the price, your likely an enthusiast to some degree and represent little of the real population.

      So yes, the market will sort it out. But until and unless someone actually invents a real new ground breaker that does something new and crazy, all that's going to happen is the market will just slowly open up to more and more competition for the same old products. All that does is hurt the highest on the totem pole today and help some of the lucky few on the lower end tomorrow who have a competitive product and the ability to compete as a company.

      And don't kid yourself. People rave on about the brilliance of Apple and the great gadgets. The iPod was and is a quality item, the iPod touch was a clever iteration of the same thing, the iPhone, by Steve Jobs own admission came out of the iPod touch development, and the iPad cam out of the whole works. Most people I know who have a tablet of any kind don't find it to be some "magical device". They look at it as a very portable and handy but limited computer.

      Don't expect the public to fall for that one again as in many numbers as they did the last time with the iPad. The public is quite a bit more educated now what to expect when Apple says "magical".

      Next time it just might have to be truly magical.
      Reply 42 Votes I'm Undecided
  • Wearable computing is not ready

    Companies need to stop with the wearables! It's a dumb idea! Companies need to start making their devices and OS work on what they have out now!! Test more often! Develop new apps for your current devices that actually work!
    Reply 40 Votes I'm for No
  • It's all about the recording

    People really don't care what you're downloading with Glass. That's no different than sitting there with your phone, tablet, or laptop looking at stuff. It's all about your recording them. Lord knows I know plenty of women who can't bear to have a picture taken of them even at social events where they've dressed up for it. Taking candid pictures while they're in the wild in normal clothes? No way.
    The one place that everyone should have a audio-video recorder of some time going is any interaction with a government agent: clerk, cop, elected rep or appointed stooge.
    Reply 60 Votes I'm for Yes
    • Bingo. You got it.


      Prize for the man. "It's all about your recording them. Lord knows I know plenty of women who can't bear to have a picture taken of them even at social events where they've dressed up for it. Taking candid pictures while they're in the wild in normal clothes? No way."

      That's one of the most common and simple problems with Google Glass. And of course there are dozens of even more serious iterations of similar issues where and why people don't want you recording them.

      What some cant seem to get through their head is the DIFFERENCE between Google Glass and most other recording devices.

      With Google Glass it would be known and understood to be a recording device, a device that's ready to potentially record anything at a moments notice, and it would be a device that right out in plain view read to GO! And of course the idea is supposed to be that we, the rest of the world just carry on about our business simply understanding that there are all these people about here and there who may, or may not be recording us at any time, and we have no knowledge or real ability to know when they are or are not recording us, we just have to accept it, and because we don't know who is recording us or when we are being recorded the person doing the recording can essentially become quickly unaccountable for anything they may decide to do with that recording afterwards.

      Even a smartphone you can often see quite plainly when someone is preparing to take a photo with it. Security cameras belong to businesses and offices and warehouses that can be held accountable, if you find your video on Youtube next week of you picking your nose at the front of your favorite store in the mall, you can get a pretty good idea where the video came from and hold them accountable.

      None of these things are anything like the Google Glass crowds wandering our streets as a bunch of randoms. Even Google shooting street view had to blur out people features, they were accountable.

      Why there are as many as there are that just cant seem to understand that like it or not its the way it is and it isn't going to change.
      Reply 30 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Glass was designed to be obvious..

        Just wait until you realize how easy it is to take a picture of someone with a smart-watch
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Safe ????

    This is like texting while driving stupid, how can they possibly make it safe?
    Grant Madden
    Reply 43 Votes I'm Undecided
  • Wrong Question

    The question we should be asking is "SHOULD wearable computing be saved?"

    And the answer is a resounding NO, there are way too many privacy issues involved with wearable computing.
    Reply 34 Votes I'm for No
    • Just pull Google out of the equation and it will begin to grow

      the issue isn't with the glasses themselves, as they appear to work as intended.

      The issue is with Google on the other end, that's the privacy issue.

      Pull Google out of the equation, use glasses to display whatever from your own servers if you're a business, and the privacy issue is no longer an issue.
      Reply 38 Votes I'm Undecided