It’s no secret that I’ve been an Apple fanboy for a long, long time. I’ve always owned, used, and loved Macs, and my few dark experiments with Windows, Linux and Android have never (at least, not yet) ended well. I was definitely among the throngs feverishly awaiting Apple’s foray into the wearables market, and when they began setting up yesterday’s big event as something as revolutionary as the original iPhone, I began to hope. Could they transform the wearable space as deeply as they transformed the phone space with the original iPhone?
Sure, I got a little choked up when Tim Cook said “one more thing”, but the Apple Watch (and I’m still having difficulty not referring to it as an iWatch) just isn’t that interesting. At least, not yet – hence the title of this post. It’s not that striking a design (I’m much more impressed by the daring roundness of the Moto 360), the UX seems like it might be unnecessarily complex (“digital crown”? really?) but most of all, I have a very simple rubric that I use when I see a piece of new tech that this thing seems to fail. I ask myself, first, “Does this solve a problem?” and then, “Can I tell, or be told, new types of stories with it?” The answer to both is, again, not yet.
I was one of the early backers and adopters of the Pebble smartwatch. I wore it proudly for a few weeks, but I was mostly deeply enamored with its option to show the time in words. I also really liked the notifications, so if someone was calling me I could see who it was without having to fish my phone out of my pocket – and, as of this moment, that’s the one thing where the Apple Watch will thrive for me. I’ve also played with the Fitbit and Nike+, but like the Pebble, after a few weeks they both wound up in a drawer instead of on my person. They weren’t transformative enough, at least not for me. The Fitbit didn’t really prompt me to walk that much more than I already do, instead just turning into a constant reminder that I am, if not lazy, then chronically overbooked. (It’s not exactly easy to justify taking the time to go for a walk when you’re under constant deadlines, and having a device nag you that this is literally killing you doesn’t help…)
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Or, well, wrist.
What kinds of new storytelling or entertainment experiences will wearables light up? The answers for that come out of the woodwork when you’re talking about Google Glass, even though very few people have actually built those experiences yet (which is why I remain super proud of my lab’s Augmented Accessibility and Augmented Storytelling projects). For a wristwatch, though, it’s trickier. I have a project that I’ve been bandying about for a wearable storytelling experience that’s similar to Samurai Jack meets Six to Start’s Wanderlust, where chapters of a story of a hero’s long wandering walk are unlocked based on how far you yourself have walked each day, but such an experiment only needs the distance tracker, not necessarily a watch. In fact, the tiny screen on the watch may make delivering the story on the phone a much better experience, unless the story is purely aural and delivered over the headphones as you go (another experiment I’ve been drafting up).
I need to get my hands on an Apple Watch to see how it compares to some of the others, but as of right now, I’m still struggling how a wristwatch might function as a really great screen for storytelling or other entertainment experiences. Nintendo tried it with their Game & Watch devices way back in the day, and Pebble’s inched that way, but so far I’m still scratching my chin.
Must be time to make something. ^_^