Earth to Picard: Wearable tech is science fiction

Earth to Picard: Wearable tech is science fiction

Summary: Wearable tech, or rather, the buzz surrounding wearable tech, is everywhere. But what isn't everywhere? A market for wearable tech. You can't make something true by creating buzz no matter how cool you think it is.

Picard: "Number One, tell your pants to 'stand down'."
Riker: "Pants, sir?"

In the Star Trek realm, we're focused (as the audience) on military people—those who are in Star Fleet or are somehow connected to space science, exobiology, or stardust analysis. They use wearable tech. Communications devices seem to be the wearable vogue of the 24th century but not much else. Tricorders are handheld, phasers are handheld—heck, even flashlights are handheld. Wearable tech is science fiction, even 300 years into the future.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks that wearable tech is, since the Great Debate on the topic of Wearable Computing reader opinion poll is split 50:50 right now. Half of you agree with me, which might be 25 percent more than those who usually agree with me.

Certainly Google Glass is an experiment in futility. No one will ever seriously wear this thing nor could one be productive with it. Wearable tech, to be useful to and adopted by the masses, will have to be unobtrusive, unobstructive, and unnoticeable. In other words, so small and so lightweight that you don't realize it's there.

I'm always aware of my cell phone in my pocket. Something that large and heavy can't be wearable. Even a bluetooth headset is too much. I've seen people use one in public and they look like monkeys—always pawing away at their ears and talking too loud. I feel like answering them when they look at me and talk but they're just staring, which is even weirder. So, I've decided to DIY a bluetooth signal scrambler so that anyone within earshot of me can't use one of those stupid things.

I'm not a great electronic or mechanical genius, so I might have to enlist the help of Tech DIY guru, David Gewirtz, for some assistance with that but I'm going to do it.

They'll never figure out what's going on with their wearable tech and I'll never tell. So, if your stupid bluetooth headset, your WiFi-connected gadget, or whatever it is you're messing with doesn't work, look around for me—I might be there, blocking you.

If only I could find a way to jam texting. That's my next goal: To jam texting. Text jamming, I reckon, is actually WiFi and Cellular signal jamming.

I HAVE A QUEST! To seek the Holy Jam. Sorry, back to the story of wearable tech.

Let's pretend for a moment that we're going to ignore Star Trek technology and think past "communications only" wearable tech. What other types of technology could designers weave into fashion? They might give us a musical brooch or eyeglasses that change color in response to mood, time of day, or UV exposure. Designers could include security strips into collars, cuffs, belts, or seams I suppose. But are there any useful wearable tech items that would be both fashion-forward and useful? Only time and geeky desires will tell for sure.

And we all know how fashion conscious computer people are, right?

I suppose too that high fashion could include concert T-shirts that play hits from its silk screened artist. Ill-fitting, non-belted pants could be made to change color when they've been worn for too many days in a row or had too much french fry grease wiped onto them. A pair of talking pants that ask for a belt or demand to be pulled up over one's "coin slot" would be a big hit.

If clothes designers were really clever, they could make their talking clothes give good fashion advice to the (How shall I phrase it?) fashion challenged. Talking shirts would say, "Tuck me in" or "I don't go with those pants."

Such wearable tech could result in more well-dressed nerds, so much so that dates and marriages would increase for an otherwise socially awkward demographic.

What would we do with all those empty basements? I know, dad could brew beer in his "man cave" or mom could have an art studio. Ah, what dreams may come.

Although realistically, the only "wearable tech" or wearable computing market, for the foreseeable future, is probably for the military. Those guys are so loaded up that they need some lightweight, unobtrusive wearable tech. As far as the common person goes, not so much. But, as in Star Trek, there's a need for handy communications devices. Other than the ability to speak with someone on demand, there's hardly any need for wearable tech now or in the future. Science fiction writers know that. Everyone else needs to wise up.

What do you think? Is wearable tech a real thing or science fiction. Talk back and let me know.

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Topics: Mobility, Google, Samsung, Wi-Fi


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • @DancesWithTrolls

    They're testing it. That doesn't make it a thing yet. And even if they do, people won't really use it and besides that, who the heck can afford a Mercedes? My guess is if you can afford a Mercedes that you can also afford to pay for the crashes you're going to be in from using that stupid thing.

    Believe the hype if you want, but as for me and my house, I shall deal with reality.
    • You prove yourself wrong!

      You bought a Mac Mini because your coworkers told you how cool it was and now you're saying you might not get another one.

      Steve Jobs made a living by making people believe that his version of something was cool and even though some of us know better, people bought into it.
      • Just because you don't want something doesn't make everyone else stupid...

        Just because you don't want something doesn't make everyone else stupid. I'm sure the Zune is cool for you, but...
    • better question

      How do you wear a Mercedes?
      • Wear a Mercedes?

        Just break off the Hood ornament! Instant necklace!! lol
    • Meh

      At one time, tablets were science fiction ...
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Star Trek TNG is old school

    Star Trek is twenty-year old fictional technology. Perhaps you should consider the technology used in the fictional world of 2070 in the Continuum series. Not-wearable but implanted.
    • Don't forget the Borg...

      Lots of both wearable AND implanted tech.

      Even Picard had implated tech - he had an artificial heart that replaced one destroyed while he was a student at the Academy.

      And then there were the artificial eyes of Engineer LaForge. Several sensor webs for various handicaps were shown at one time or another.
    • @markdb1

      Another thing about Continuum is that it's also science fiction. I watched one last night on Netflix. Interesting but not at all realistic. Of course, it doesn't have to be considering that Rachel Nichols is the star. Who the heck is paying attention to gadgets and electro-fiction stuff?
  • @markdb1

    I don't watch it. Never heard of it. Sorry. The topic, though, is wearable tech. I think implanted tech has its own set of problems.
  • Do not anger The Picard!

    The Picard will chastise you for your hurbris.
  • @wizardjr

    Hubris? I didn't know I had any hubris. I like the roasted red pepper hubris with pita bread.
  • Matter of time.

    It's inevitable that "wearable tech" will catch on, although I do not envision a bunch of people walking around wearing Google Glass. A "smartwatch" or whatever they're calling them might catch on, but I'm not sure. People don't want to wear something just because some engineer thinks it looks cool, but the features are desirable.

    When the tech in Google Glass gets embedded into glasses that don't look like something out of low-budget 80's scifi, but instead just look like normal, fashionable glasses/sunglasses, it's going to take off. I don't want a weird touchscreen watch/cuff around my wrist, but much of the technology could still be synced into a form factor people are interested in. The first smartphones were feature-packed but clunky and unattractive, and they weren't big sellers. When Apple put out the iPhone with its focus on aesthetics, it caught on.

    There's no doubt in my mind that wearable tech will catch on eventually, but we're only talking about the very first wave right now, and that probably won't catch on. But as it's refined and made something that can integrate with our lives already, it's going to happen.
    Phillip Baggett
  • Firewalls

    Certainly the firewalls in the 24th century are still crap and Star-Fleet behaves very much like some bands do today. There are numerous times when the Borg, Klingons, Humans or some other alien has managed to hack into the Enterprise computer and discover the frequency of the ship's shields and yet I have never to seen Scotty or Jourdy get kicked off the ship or sent home with a pink-slip.
  • We'll see

    a lot of the current trends in computing were dismissed as fads, and made it anyway. This may well too. The current run of smart watches (like Pebble) are more gimmick than useful, but you never know what's going to come.
  • Star Trek DID have wearable tech

    Only it wasn't worn by Starfleet personnel.
    It was worn by the Borg.
    • You forgot LaForge...

      He wore a visor that could scan from microwave to gamma ray frequencies.
      • Well the Visor was practical..

        as Geordi was blind. Plus he had receptors that most likely went to his brain because the Visor itself couldn't restore his vision.
        • The visor was wearable.

          But yes, he could also have implants - as shown in the movies.

          As I understand it, the visor was not tied to implants - it communicated by neural stimulation (Picard used it once)
  • Been there, Done that...

    For the few who may remember...
    Wearable and implantable tech was the point of a high-concept TV show in the early '70s called "Search".(Note: The pilot was called "Probe".)
    I would like to have the scanner (mini-cam and sensor) that you could attach to various articles of clothing and jewelry.
    And for those who are even older, Dick Tracy's watch/radio and watch/tv.