Where next for wearables? By Professor William Webb, President of IET
Proffessor William Webb on the relationship between user-experience and wearables – insights from the CW User Experience SIG Event.
While I’m no expert in the field of wearable devices, the hype surrounding them and their possible disruptive influence on the wireless world made me think I should find out more. Where better to do this than a CW SIG event? What was very refreshing was rather than a series of manufacturers telling you why their wearable was going to take the world by storm, instead a mix of academics, consultants and experts provided a much more balanced view, complimented by critical discussion from the audience. My main insight was that I wasn’t alone in not understanding this space – it appears that nobody really does! Many of the speakers were very open about the fact that the current generation of wearables is not yet hitting the mark – devices are too clunky and applications insufficiently compelling.
There were some insightful comments of particular interest. One is that those buying wearables at the moment are looking for a lifestyle change – a little like taking out gym membership. Of course, if they just buy the device then not much will change… but many live in hope that there’s an easy solution to living a healthy life! That explains why the current generation of fitness-oriented wearables seem to have passed their peak, many are realising that they are not the solution they were looking for.
Another useful observation was that in the audience of about 80 people there was probably no two people wearing exactly the same item of clothing or the same watch, but there was probably massive overlap between phones carried. Wearables are made by phone manufacturers (mostly) but need to be as varied and personalised as clothing. Only when we’ve got to a world where this can occur might we be happy to make them part of our everyday lives.
Finally, I liked the observation that a smart watch took some time to put on in the morning (and charge up at night) but then saved time in terms of taking your phone out of your pocket each time you got an email alert (assuming you do…I don’t!). If the time saved is much greater than the time consumed then it might become useful.
So I now feel more comfortable that my confusion over wearables is not a lack of insight, it’s the general view of the industry. I’m also more confident that wearables will eventually be part of our lives, but perhaps not in their current form and not necessarily focussed on fitness.
An afternoon very well spent at the CW UX SIG (and the sandwiches were great too).
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