Image from Wikipedia showing the progression of Steve Mann’s Wearable HUD prototypes.

Wearable Technology’s Killer Content Revolution

Daniel Kaplan
Dec 19, 2014 · 5 min read

Observations from an enterprise wearables hacker.

The Age of DIY Isn’t Over

A software program and a line of assembly machines can build a car faster than a human workforce possibly could. However, when complex things break, humans are the best suited to fix them.

If you don’t have an expert living next door, what do you do?

If you’re resourceful, you’ll probably search YouTube. When I need to fix my car, or upgrade my computer, or tie a bowtie, or do any number of things which I haven’t had much experience in, I head over to that massive user-generated video content library and listen to some character walk me through the steps and show me how it’s done.

Imagine for a minute the number of times you have looked up a video on how to do something.

We are already consuming expert-generated content, but we’re just scratching the surface.

Old Dogs teaching Old Tricks

The old dogs of the industrial world have it rough. They have spent their careers repairing very specific systems or appliances and are slowly being replaced by new machines and automation.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks… but you can teach a young person to fish.

Scholarly old dog

These specialized workers still have an edge — knowledge and experience. Using the same concepts of knowledge sharing that taught me to tie at bowtie, experts can help generations of people solve their problems when machines can’t.

A Wearable Revolution

Apply these concepts to a device that is always on, always connected to the internet, and worn on the body for convenient access.

You can pull up a top-voted video on how to fix a problem under your car, or in a tight space, or while wearing work gloves. Siri, Cortana, Google and more are ready to answer your questions at a whim. Press a button or say the magic words and simply speak your question, then get curated answers within seconds.

Wearable technology can save you time — and time is money.

Wearable technologies can already help you live longer and healthier. Smart watches count your steps and your heartbeats. They can optimize your health from your sleep to your exercise. You’ll most likely already be wearing a device for fear of losing out on your personal data. It’s a small step further for it to walk you through changing a tire.

How do we get there?

First, Focus on Content Creation…

Stereoscopic 3D exists. Why hasn’t it taken off in a big way? Lack of content.

The wearables themselves aren’t enough. We need content tailored to the format of the specific wearable. No matter what a scenario requires, a solution can’t work until someone steps up to the content creation.

A fireman rushing into a building would love to see through the smoke to see doors and obstacles. We could build an augmented reality application that lets him see virtual “doors” or “stairs” over their real-world locations. Unfortunately, the virtual maps of these buildings don’t exist yet.

These futuristic systems are achievable but the foundation of content, whether created by communities or by contracts, must be created first.

… Then Focus on Content Retrieval

These technologies represent a new class of access to content, but there isn’t yet a new class of library. When mobile phones were being adopted, we quickly found the disadvantages of trying to view the old internet on these new devices. In much the same way, a new format of retrieval is needed for this next wave of mobile devices.

Text-based web searches are still the best way to find information online. Some devices will allow voice searches but they are essentially still requiring the end user to know how to search for their goal. Voice Search will be an important tool for direct access to specific topics. It will not be the best way of accessing all types of information.

The fields of User Interface design and Human Computer Interaction will play an immensely important role in the usability of these systems when they are providing access to large amounts of knowledge.

Do you swipe through low-level topics or through high-level systems? Do you wave your hand in a glyph, or clench your fist, or tilt your head, or just think to yourself “select” or “go back.”

Many methods of interaction are possible today but very few will be usable or make sense in particular situations. You can’t speak to a device in a loud environment or touch a trackpad while wearing dirty gloves. Specific solutions or perhaps a combination of solutions will be the end goal.

Relevance will (Still) be King

As people eventually come to rely more on these instant-knowledge systems, there will be a push to streamline the content to the user at the exact moment it’s needed. In fact, the digital advertising industry is in the process of a complete overhaul due to this same force.

Information is most valuable when it’s delivered at the exact moment it is needed.

Location tracking will continue to get better. WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS and Video Surveillance will eventually all be used to triangulate the precise movements and locations of users.

Wearable technology offers a chance for software systems to deliver the exact tools and information that are needed for a particular time, place, and context.

We have only just begun to see Wearable Technology’s rise to ubiquity.

Smaller. Lighter. Faster. A Glimpse Into Wearable Technology’s Future:

    Daniel Kaplan

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