Is wearable computing the future or a fad?

Google Glass, a rising starlet of the wearable computing show, starts shipping to early adopters (at a whopping $1500!) Now it’s time to ask: are these devices the future? Or are they simply a fad?

The first third party apps have already started rolling out for the innovative eyewear which gives you real-time information, New York Times being among the first to launch. This particular app is fairly simple, delivering articles on an hourly basis directly to your eyes.

Of course, many developers have much grander plans. All kinds of creative ideas have been submitted; from real-time information to be shown above cabs, for short clips to be recorded and played back later to remember where things are, to augmented shopping experiences, for runners to create a “ghost” of their best time to compete against, for augmenting medical information for surgeons...the use case is endless.

Personally I think it is clearly the future in such an information-heavy age. Having all of this data available automatically without having to pull your smartphone out every minute is most definitely a step-forward I’m ready to take, however it makes me look.

Critics take aim at how ridiculous these devices make you appear, it really doesn’t bother me. Maybe I’m alone in preferring function over fashion, or it may just be I’ve watched too many sci-fi movies.

It’s when the function fails or becomes obtrusive where the issue lies. Early adopters talk of poor battery life (six minute video recording taking 20% chunk) from the current batch of devices, something which may well be fixed by the time it reaches our hands (or heads as the case may be).

The more serious problem to tackle is safety. Can you imagine driving when a text pops up across your eyes? Even a small notification could be enough of a distraction to cause a potentially life-threatening situation.

In terms of privacy issues Professor Katina Michael of the University of Wollongong makes some very valid points. Michael notes that this device could potentially allow wearers to “have visual surveillance in real-time with people in underground networks of all sorts...for the distribution of child pornography, for grooming, cyber stalking, voyeurism, and even for corporate fraud”.

Google Glass isn’t the only form of wearable computing however; by definition it’s a sector of devices which can be worn, such as on the wrist. Pebble – a project successfully backed on Kickstarter is a watch in which can display your texts, calls, and other notifications.

Other manufacturers, (and not just from the typically tech-exclusive industry) are putting plenty of research funding into how they can branch into this rising era, including fashion sports brand Oakley. Less surprisingly, Microsoft, Apple, and Samsung are all said to be working on respective devices.

What do you think about wearable computing? Is it an inevitable future as devices become more incorporated parts of our daily lives...or just a fad?

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