It’s starting to come together. The iWatch is a nice idea, but the there is so much more that Apple will be bringing to the world of wearable computing. Lets dive in to the distant future shall we?
Goodness knows I’m looking forward to getting my Pebble Smartwatch (seriously, ask them on twitter, I just wont leave them alone!) and how much that will improve my digital life and potentially heavily change my device usage habits. Displaying messages and notification as well as controlling some functions of my iPhone from my wrist is going to be a revelation. I’m not the only one to think so, just look at the reviews the Pebble has received.
With this in mind, the flurry of ‘rumours’ and ‘insider info’ that ‘leaked’ culminated with an interview with Bruce Tognazzini, the founder of Apple’s Human Interface Group adding his voice to the chatter. Bruce’s comments were the first to actually add something to what was being recycled by every, single, site. So simple was his insinuation that the sensors could be used to map altitude, that people glossed over what this alluded to. What do Apple do? Come up with solutions to problems you never know existed. They Think Different. So with this in mind, I was set off on a quest to see if a little guidance and observation could be added to the ‘iWatch’ chatter and show what happens when you Think Different.
Firstly, I’d like to discuss interface. Fine, I get that there are many people with access to 3D software and Photoshop. What they tend not to have is originality. As in some of the examples above from a simple Google image search, all show a ‘curved glass design’ with an iPhone screen shot. Let’s break this down quickly. It is highly unlikely that apple would release a device that just mirrored the function of the one it’s attached to. The computing power needed to drive it would make it’s power requirements too high to be usable and with how mature iOS is, it could easily afford a different look – think square iPod Shuffle.
Now lets look the headline and I’ll explain ‘Communicator+’.
See that badge on Captain Jean Luc Picard’s chest? The Star Trek Next Generation Communicator gives us a good starting point at what might be coming to us consumers. Think I’m mad? Let’s break it down shall we? What are the functions of the Communicator;
- Instant communication with crew (contacts if you will)
- Voice activated interaction with the ship’s computer (bit like Siri)
- A location beacon (bit like ‘find my friends’)
- Digital ‘I.D. Card’ and Log in
That all seems sensible doesn’t? When the technology is put in to context, it becomes clear that we are not a millions miles away.
How would this technology integrate in to an Apple wearable device?
Lets look at some of the functions then move further in to the more ‘pie in the sky’ ideas. Lets combine communications and talking to the ship’s computer in to one thing. Close quarter comms. Every shipping iPhone has a proximity sensor in it. Well it would be safe to assume that the combination of an accelerometer, gyroscope and a proximity sensor, that a wrist mounted device would know when it was brought up to the face. Think a supped up Dick Tracy watch. Add a little camera in there for face detection and ID while you’re at it!
Lets look at the functionality for a second, while remembering some of the things that Sir Ive has said. Our device would display that it was accepting your input when you brought it up to your face by displaying the Siri microphone (no one want’s to ‘Slide to Unlock’ their wrist now do they). Here you can make your command instantly; ‘Call the office’, ‘What time is my next meeting’, ‘do I have time for a movie tonight?’, ‘what’s showing?’, ‘does my iPhone need charging?’, ‘have I burnt enough calories today for a krispy kream?’.
The ‘heavy lifting’ of processing and communicating with the servers required would be done by the companion iPhone or iPad or closest Mac and relay that information back to the user. This is a device that you would wear all the time. It would be charged by your movement and also perhaps through long range wireless charging as has been discussed in the other articles about this device (Apple have a patent or two that will help with that too).
Lets move to the Digital ID
What am I on about? Well, Apple have stayed well clear of NFC for the most part. Many people consider it necessary for Apple to adopt the technology for mobile payments to take off. Let’s remember that Apple have technology to integrate a finger print scanner in the glass of the screen, but there is something more secure. Your pulse. There are a lot of developments going on around using a pulse as a unique identifier. Let’s remember that you’d be wearing this device round your wrist and that extra stage of security could be integrated seamlessly. It could serve as authentication for payments by finger print or NFC. Seamless two-stage authentication.
Let’s take this further! Your pulse becomes your passport to other devices.
So while wearing my Apple band, I pick up a friend’s iPad and a notification pops up. ‘Hello Mark, would you like to use this as your iPad temporarily?’ I’d tap yes and then see my home screen, my apps, my data. Like Back-To-My-Mac but for iOS devices. All of them. Need to borrow a phone for two minutes? No worries, Pick it up and access all your contacts, not the owners. This would work with Macs too. Your identity would be synced through iCloud and your devices would always be with you. It could even be split up in to work profiles and personal profiles.
Where does this leave us?
Well We’ve looked at the simple fact that smartwatches exist (I’ll soon have on) and what they do is an extension of the device to which they are connected. I’ll pre-empt the jokes now, so that if/when Apple release their wrist based wearable tech, it will be refered to as ‘Apple Shackles’.
The next step in wearable computing is how they can benefit your life seamlessly and discreetly, to the point you wonder how you ever lived with out it. I’d perceive that Apple’s move will be the ‘digital aura’ that would allow users to transcend the binds of physical devices and have their digital lives be truly based in the either. This is a sounds move against Google, who’s perception, publicly at least, seems to be making the technology a seamless part of your life. Google Now is an intelligent way to receive new information. Google Glass is an overlay for your world that makes information sharing and retrieval seamless.
In our digital renascence, these are very interesting developments, that over the space of the next five years will bring some truly earth-shaking developments.
I can’t wait!