By now we all know that Google expects wearable computing devices like Google Glass and the rumored Google smart watch to be the next wave of the future. In a lot of ways it makes sense. The technology that makes our cell phones work is getting smaller and smaller, and we would all love to be able to interact with our smart phones in less conspicuous and more convenient ways. Psychologically our smart phones are already extensions of our bodies. If you don’t believe me, go let a stranger stroke your phone and see if you don’t feel dirty afterwards.
The transition from smart phones to wearable technology, just like any leap forward, will have some challenges to push past. These aren’t 3 reasons why Google Glass or smart watches won’t work, these are just three stars that will need to align for Glass to change our lives the way Google seems to think it will.
3. Battery Life
It is the most common complaint among smart phone owners no matter what brand or carrier you use. Batteries are heavy, fragile, susceptible to changes in temperature, and they just don’t have the capacity we need them to have. Most of the time when a phone comes out with exceptional battery life it isn’t because it has an upgraded battery, it is generally because the phone’s manufacturer is using components that draw less power. The entire movement to quad-core and eight-core processors is less about speed than it is about having different cores handle specific tasks so that the entire processor doesn’t have to fire up every time you turn your phone on to check the time.
Obviously a device like Google Glass doesn’t have a five inch OLED screen, a massive processor and multiple radios to power. But a battery on a pair of glasses you are wearing doesn’t have to be very big before it becomes an inconvenience. In fact, if you look carefully at some of the pictures of people using Google Glass outside of publicity photos you will notice a fairly bulky bulge behind the ear on one side. That is the battery and although I can’t speak for how comfortable it is, it is certainly ugly. Most of us don’t have long hair to hide that unsightly battery. This might be something that will be fixed before Glass goes into production, or it might just be something that early adopters will have to put up with. But either way small wearable devices will struggle to find the balance between providing enough power while not making us feel like we have giant batteries strapped to our heads.
2. Tethering vs Data Connections
Right now Google Glass and the smart watches that are out right now all work by tethering through our smart phones. This makes perfect sense since we are using these devices as extensions of our phones. But as smart watches and other wearable tech gains more and more functionality, we might want to start leaving the smart phone at home sometimes. That is going to be a problem, not just because adding radios to wearable tech will exasperate the aforementioned battery issue, but also because cell providers will start to expect us to buy a separate data plan for our smart watches, Google Glass, smart phones, and tablets. Right now if you are lucky you are only getting charged an extra ten bucks a month to add a new device to a shared data plan. That might work if you are just adding a tablet and smart phone. But throw two more devices into the mix per person on your family plan and we have a problem. This seems to be an issue with no easy solution but the market will have to figure something out.
It isn’t often that we use words like “fashion” here at Android Headlines. But it isn’t just about what is cool. Google Glass could be the coolest thing ever, but if people associate Google Glass with being a glasshole, wearable tech is going to have a problem. There are the privacy concerns, and of course there is the fact that right now Google Glass is one of the most exclusive products on the planet and those factors explain some of the backlash we have seen so far. But culture will have to embrace something new and be OK with people walking around with smart phones strapped to their eyes. People could feel ignored, others might feel violated because they think you are always recording what you see, or it might be as simple as people thinking you are a jerk for showing off that you can afford an expensive piece of technology.
This issue may well work itself out over time, and in the case of smart watches, this problem may not be as significant. Society is already OK with people wearing things on their wrists, and a smart watch is much more inconspicuous than Google Glass in its current form.
None of these issues are reasons why wearable tech will never become a thing. Every new leap forward in consumer technology has obstacles that is has to overcome. The question is how quickly these challenges can be pushed aside as the march towards humanity’s inevitable destruction at the hands of our robot overlords continues.