Back a while in history, a little post dot com boom, Microsoft Research and Development came out with a new gadget that used the FM airwaves to communicate with a watch. It would be released and received some love in the press. It was called the Microsoft Spotwatch. It was an interesting idea at the time. In an odd way it made sense. With digital watches I had never really considered it or thought of it as a tiny user interface. But I guess it really was a “mini” UI. Since Microsoft at the time was all about owning the user experience it made sense and, for the first time it seemed Microsoft R&D had actually made something, like a real product coming from our vaunted and well-funded labs. That is a basic tenet of R&D. Create.
Not long after, while walking the halls of Microsoft, one of our geeky employees was actually wearing one. It was actually kind of hard to miss, since it was so big. It was not pretty, rather big and black. It was like a giant Timex watch. You could sort of interact with it. Find weather and simple items like that. However as a project did not last long. Thinking back on it, it was just a little ahead of its time, by a decade. There were other similar projects like this. I was at CTIA Wireless in Orlando and Siemens had made a watch you could stream video to. The guy showing me the demo said there was no commercial viability to the watch, they just wanted to prove it was possible. Projects like the aforementioned two, though seemingly silly and not viable at the time of development are often a window of opportunity for the future. The problem with invention is often the inventors do not think big enough or long-term enough.
Probably the technology that is most on the forefront of this shift to technology engaging the world of fashion right now is Google Glass. It has garnered a lot of press and created come controversy. The 5-Point Cafe in Seattle banned Google Glass from its establishment saying essentially it violated the privacy of its seedy dive bar status (FYI I highly recommend the 5-Point, good food, good drink). I am not convinced it will take off, but it does create a new method of communicating with the internet. In a world where we are increasingly mobile I can now be walking and talking with no device in my hand. The glasses themselves are not aesthetically perfect, but they are not horrible. Not like the SPOT watch. You can see eventually they will be pretty slick, maybe not even noticeable. The power of technology is it seems to always get smaller, until eventually it is vapor.
Returning to our watch theme, of late Apple has been on the press with a Apple iWatch. Are we going back to the future? I have been searching for what this device would look like and the good news is it promises to be much smaller and I hope with Apple’s obsession with great design it should be pretty slick. Bigger question for me is do I really need this in a watch? If it is simple and elegant I could see a lot of simple scenarios where this could be of valid use, beyond just checking the time. I could have local weather mode. Find the nearest taxi. Communicate with my robotic vehicle. Could be my communicator all Star Trek. If I could talk to my watch I could all of a suddenly have a lot of clever uses. Siri on my wrist? I see this happening.
At South by Southwest Google was showing off Google Shoes. A shoe that can collect information as you run. This made me think more of the latest buzz word in tech, “Big Data”. Everything that moves is collecting information. Why not shoes? You could see pursues as essentially a big repository of data. Wallet? Data. The question will be can we make the technology into an accessory that is either unnoticed or looks sleek and something I want to wear. If you watch “Project Runway”, designers are very creative people so the idea of technologies like Big Data, Robotics, and Search meeting Karl Lagerfield, Hugo Boss, and Calvin Klein is more science than fiction. It will be geek meets chic.
Finally there is already a website that addresses these scenarios (are you surprised?). You can go to FashionTech. there is also a battle heating up between Google, Nike and Jawbone in the field of what is being called wearable tech. I prefer fashion tech because if it is not in fashion most people will not wear anyway. There is no question we will be connected in new ways via the clothing we wear. These things are happening in front of us. It has made me think that the trend of the dying PC is not quite as we may think. We are simply moving from a world where the computing power which was once centralized and tied to our desktop is now being distributed into a multitude of devices and fabric. Erich Schmidt, Chairman of Google once said, “Every human will be ten IP addresses”. It does not sound so far off now. We have a wrist watch, sneakers and glasses so I already can count three IP addresses. Seven more does not seem that far off. You won’t connect anymore to the internet you will wear it.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann May 7, 2013