Total Pageviews

Monday, June 3, 2013

Big Question for Wearable Computing: Is It Ready for Consumers?

Apple and Google seem to agree on one thing: the future of computers will be wearable. Where they disagree is which kind of computers people will actually want to wear.

This week at the D: All Things Digital, a technology conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, discussed the company’s efforts in wearable computing. “There are lots of gadgets in this space right now, but there’s nothing great out there,” Mr. Cook said. “None of them are going to convince a kid that hasn’t worn glasses or a band to wear one.” He added that the space is “ripe for exploration.”

Google, on the other hand, seems to think that it has completed that exploratory phase and is going ahead with Google Glass. But will consumers want to buy the technology?

Many readers of my column this week, which examined the challenges of wearable computing, seemed to be on the opposite side of Google. The piece generated a passionate response â€" nearly 200 comments â€" with many raising questions about the privacy implications of Google Glass.

“I believe that there should be an expectation of privacy even in a public setting,” one reader wrote. “That expectation is that you are not being spied on and recorded surreptitiously.” The reader added, “I will never speak to anyone wearing these devices.”

Some felt threatened by the device and its camera. “I predict Google Glass users upload a lot of close up shots of incoming fists,” wrote another reader.

All of this could be moot, as Evelyn Rusli of The Wall Street Journal said in an article this week, as the D: All Things Digital conference came to a close. She noted that the technology might not be ready for consumers and pointed out that even attendees “acknowledged that there was a very large gulf between the current technology and mass adoption.”

One person likened wearable computers to “the flying skateboard,” a reference to the still-not-here hover boards from the “Back to the Future” trilogy.

Apple rarely releases a product into the marketplace that isn’t ready for mainstream adoption. The company unveiled the popular Apple iPad a decade after Microsoft unsuccessfully pioneered the tablet computer.

As I have reported, Apple is developing a curved-glass smart watch that is expected to run Apple iOS. The Verge technology blog, citing unnamed sources, has reported that the device will be announced later this year.

Mr. Cook might have given a hint that such a product could be coming soon. “I think the wrist is interesting,” he said at the conference. “The wrist is natural.”

But the question still remains: if they build it, will people wear it?