Last year I fell in love with a device I’d never seen. Now, I finally know why.
I love it, I want it
Over the 2012/13 New Year’s break, I flew to Bonaire to spend a week Scuba diving. I had spent the year building my company and needed a break. Bonaire is a magical island off the eastern coast of Venezuela as part of the “ABC islands”: Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
Scuba is an incredibly fun hobby. You drop off the side of a boat and gently sink down into a giant tropical fish tank teeming with aquatic friends. Bonaire is surrounded by a reef which you can reach from the shore, so you can easily kit up and wade in. All you need to do is make sure you (1) don’t run out of air, (2) don’t stay down too long, and (3) don’t come up too fast. Making a mistake can be life threatening, so in the good old days, you’d plan your dives on paper, monitor analog depth and air pressure gauges, and keep an eye on your clock – all of which can be pretty cumbersome if you’re trying to have fun.
Enter the wrist-borne dive computer
Modern dive computers don’t require any of this bulls**t. Everything is automated with alarms that signal when you need to know something. I bought a Suunto dive computer with a bluetooth air meter that I could attach to my air tank and get rid of the analog air pressure hose. All my vital information was going to be accessible from my wrist: depth, dive time, air pressure, air consumption rate, bottom time, surface time, nitrogen levels etc. Diving heaven.
Even better, the computer would track all my metrics so I could see the profile of my dive in chart form (several charts) once I downloaded to my laptop. It presented a learning opportunity, a way to improve. A way to get better, enjoy more, worry less. And the end result for my experience was incredible.
THEN – when I got to the surface, I wanted it to do MORE.
And when I say wanted, I mean “I have a tear-my-shirt-off burning thirst for a new companion in life, a new digital partner, and I don’t know who you are yet, but I know I love you more than I have loved any inanimate object before in my life”.
On land I wanted more on my wrist so I could leave my phone at home.
I wanted more, much more. Not for the device to tell me more, but for it to be more flexible in my life, to take a larger role, a daily role. Not just in my dive world; I wanted in my every day world.
Decoding the Love
I was in love, and I didn’t know why or how – but I suddenly felt a huge gap in my life. I have subconsciously been trying to decode that feeling for the past year, and it was not until a dinner conversation two weeks ago that I feel I may finally understand it.
You see, what I had experienced was a piece of technology which was not trying to be anything. It just was a solution. It was not trying to be a “Wearable” and it was not a solution looking for a problem: it was a problem perfectly solved by a piece of technology that I should happen to wear. There’s a magic in that. So the question I’ve been struggling with is how the feeling I felt could be translated more broadly?
First, you have to revisit the Smartphone
When Steve Jobs released the iPhone in 2007 he said, “Today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products … a widescreen iPod with touch controls; a revolutionary mobile phone; and a breakthrough Internet communications device … are you getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone”.
7 years later, we can see the full implications of those statements. Apple was building on its success with the iPod, a device you’d carry in your pocket. Then they added phone and internet connectivity. The following year, they added the app store to create a platform and liberate the imagination of a developer community to maximize the utility we would get from our new connectivity.
The iPhone became a portal to the world that we carry in our pockets. Through the 4” smartphone screen, we have access to the world wide interweb. It became a revolutionary step into a new computing paradigm.
In 2014, I’m addicted to my phone. I like my iPad. I need my laptop.
So where do wearables fit in?
Effortless Ubiquity is the super-power to be unleashed
The major difference between a wearable and a phone, is that the wearable is always with you, in fact on you 24/7, without you having to think about it. You must remember to put your phone in your purse or pocket. Once the wearable goes on, it stays on. This is a profound difference between wearables and previous computing paradigms.
If my wearable is always with me, then it has an opportunity to help with what I always do. If it’s on my body, then what is my body doing in its immediate environment?
I am moving.
“A Portal to my Progress”
If the phone is a portal to the world … my wearable is a portal to my progress.
Dear Wearable, can you help me move through the world? Can you create a fence around me so that my immediate environment knows I am here and adjusts itself to me? Can our presence open doors, physical and electronic, such that we may move through them without friction? When I reach a gateway, such as a cash register, can you help me to move past that stopping point more seamlessly?
Dearest Wearable, you are with me always. You hold limited real estate on my physical body. There can be only one of you. And therefore, we are in a new and intimate relationship. You are ever present, you help me effortlessly simply by knowing where I am and where I’m going.
Dear lovable Wearable, you can sense my motion over time. Can you help my progress? Can you guide my improvement? Can you help me to know where to go next, what to do next, what to look out for? Can you be the angel on my shoulder helping me to improve my life, one moment at a time?
I believe you can. And for these things, I love you.
What do you think? Post a comment or connect with me on Twitter.