Sketched by Ricardo Aguilar

Wearable mobile control

Experience design for smaller devices that can assist us on our daily tasks. 

In 1898 Nikola Tesla demonstrated a radio-controlled boat to the public during an electrical exhibition at Madison Square Garden — Mr. Tesla called his boat a “teleautomaton”. This invention was the first ever radio controlled device in the form of a miniature boat. Tesla’s concept not only revolutionized the way people thought about remote controlled devices but it also introduced the possibility of having unique remote control over other artifacts without the necessity of having to directly interact with them.

One of the most common modern examples of “remote control” is the small device that seats in our living rooms and allows us to control a television set by using pulses of infrared light (IR). These controllers are not only common in most peoples households but they also standardized the interaction model between a person and a TV.

Fast forwarding to our current time, the possibility and availability of controlling artifacts remotely is vast and it isn’t solely constrained in the hardware world, it is also available as software like remote desktop access or virtual machine remote management by using apps that run on a mobile devices.

What I would like to write here mainly focus on the ideation and conceptual thinking towards the possibility of having wearable accessories that control your mobile computing device, whether this is a tablet that is inside your bag or a mobile phone that is in your pocket or seating on your office desk.

Processing power and connectivity in current mobile computing is getting better and faster by the day, mobile devices can already run multiple applications at the same time and have constant background connectivity. However the way we interact with these devices is still pretty much focused on touchscreen user experience.

As Bill Buxton quoted on one of his recent presentations:

In the future, quality of experience will be determined by how products work together, in concert, with the rest of the ecosystem, not just by the quality of experience of any product on its own—no matter how good that individual experience will be.

By having external accessories that can free the user on small tasks from the main device, it not only allows more focus on our daily human activities but also use the main mobile computing device to process micro-interactions in the background and notify the user via the accessories whenever an important task or action is necessary.

We’re currently in the midst of a new wave of wearable devices and sensors that will try to solve certain problems—think of Google Glass or Samsung Gear—nevertheless I think these devices are not designed to accomplish “remote control” tasks. By using current technology and producing similar small wearable products that can communicate with our main mobile computing device, we could have innovative control of it and accomplish small tasks without having to touch it.

For example: think of the current experience of sending an email on the go, while walking on a busy street or driving in traffic. Would you consider holding your touch screen device and type a message while walking on the street? Or simply talk to it by using a small wearable piece on your jacket or an in-ear device that could capture your voice and convert it into written text while automatically checking for language syntax and context? When paused the device could double check with you by asking via the in-ear piece if the message was finished and ready to be sent, so the user could simply call out a contact and send the message right away. On other more complex situations a user could also use a wrist device to revise the message, edit it and send it right after.

Wearable controllers can provide unique solutions for daily tasks that can be accomplished without the use of a touchscreen. Most current apps, services and functionality that currently exist on mobile devices are still valid and useful for us — nevertheless the main intention of the controllers would be to simplify the interaction between people and mobile devices.

The type of experiences that can be designed for these wearable controllers not only can solve a lot of the burden on certain day-to-day tasks that we do on mobiles devices but also allow people to live and communicate in a more natural way without being handicapped by the constant necessity of holding, interacting and looking downwards at touch screens.

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