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Hardware Technology

Are We Socially Ready For Wearable Computing? 214

Posted by timothy
from the google-glass-still-makes-you-a-four-eyes dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Smart watches have arrived, and Google Glass is on its way. As early-adopters start to gain some experience with these devices, they're learning some interesting lessons about how wearable computing affects our behavior differently from even smartphones and tablets. Vint Cerf says, 'Our social conventions have not kept up with the technology.' Right now, it's considered impolite to talk on your cellphone while checking out at the grocery store, or to ignore a face-to-face conversation in favor of texting somebody. But 20 years ago, those actions weren't even on our social radar. Wearable devices create some obvious social problems, like the aversion to Glass's ever-present camera. But there are subtler ones, as well, for which we'll need to develop another set of social norms. A Pebble smart watch user gave an example: 'People thought I was being rude and checking the time constantly when I was really monitoring incoming messages. It sent the wrong signal.' The article continues, 'Therein lies the wearables conundrum. You can put a phone away and choose not to use it. You can turn to it with permission if you're so inclined. Wearables provide no opportunity for pause, as their interruptions tend to be fairly continuous, and the interaction is more physical (an averted glance or a vibration directly on your arm). It's nearly impossible to train yourself to avoid the reflex-like response of interacting. By comparison, a cell phone is away (in your pocket, on a table) and has to be reached for.'"
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Are We Socially Ready For Wearable Computing?

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  • by dlingman (1757250) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @05:11PM (#45183477)

    If you can't tell that I'm reading email, or surfing the web while interacting with others, that's a good thing. I don't want things intruding into my presence unless I ask for them though.

    • by mark_reh (2015546) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @05:17PM (#45183527) Journal

      So lemme see if I get this: you want to be able to send and receive text messages while interacting with others, but you don't want them to know you're doing it so they won't think you're some sort of a-hole? And you think that the person you're interacting with won't notice you staring at your watch? And you think they won't notice that it's big, clunky, and has text displayed on it, sort like, oh, I don't know, a phone?

      • Oh, they know he's a a-hole.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        personally, what I want is the Social Analyzer like in Deus Ex. That was the most useful, though exploitative augmentation, in the whole game. Imagine a thermal polygraph, pupil response tracker, and directional microphone for detecting subtle changes in the body caused by subconsious reaction. Now include the ability to build a psych profile based off of a person's social networking data and Current behavior modeling. For the third element, include data from all previous interactions that you have had

      • He just needs to come out of the asshole closet like the people in the Facebook commercials. No point being a closet asshole.

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      If you can't tell that I'm reading email, or surfing the web while interacting with others, that's a good thing. I don't want things intruding into my presence unless I ask for them though.

      Big Brother, in your pocket, in your mind, in the pocket of your mind.

    • If you can't tell that I'm reading email, or surfing the web while interacting with others, that's a good thing. I don't want things intruding into my presence unless I ask for them though.

      I realize that no technology is going to be flawless, but I can see some ways that our toys can be a little more considerate with the aid of a rule-based system.

      First, I'd posit the definition of categories of importance: in-laws, boss, spouse, friends, pop-up reminders, emergency community services, and so forth.

      Then I'd add another dimension: urgency. "I'm bored, amuse me", "By the way/FYI", "Don't forget the milk", "got no time for that", "Impending metor strike", etc.

      Add in location: nowhere special, a

  • Duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark_reh (2015546) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @05:12PM (#45183481) Journal

    A Pebble smart watch user gave an example: 'People thought I was being rude and checking the time constantly when I was really monitoring incoming messages. It sent the wrong signal.'

    I've got news for you. You're not sending a good signal when you check your phone for text messages during a conversation either. In either case you're indirectly but very clearly saying to the person standing in front of you that anything, including the time of day, a text message, or a facebook update is more important/interesting than what you are saying to me right now.

    • Re:Duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @05:23PM (#45183567) Homepage

      Ah yes but he was sending the wrong rude message, it was "I'm so bored listening to you it seems time is standing still and I keep checking my watch praying this will soon be over" instead of the "I'm far too busy and important to devote all my attention and energy to interacting with you, so I'll casually show it by doing other things at the same time" rude.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Ah yes but he was sending the wrong rude message, it was "I'm so bored listening to you it seems time is standing still and I keep checking my watch praying this will soon be over" instead of the "I'm far too busy and important to devote all my attention and energy to interacting with you, so I'll casually show it by doing other things at the same time" rude.

        Except, of course, the point of the activity was not to send a message, it was to check if he had received any. The social message of rejection was an

    • You're not sending a good signal when you check your phone for text messages during a conversation either.

      That depends on the signal he is trying to send. I have found that if I check my phone frequently when someone is talking to me, then that person is likely to bother me less in the future.

      • by mevets (322601)

        I am surprised you have a problem with people bothering you at all! I would think that most would strive to avoid you.

    • I think the gist of the article is that the current social norms will have to evolve if we want to integrate continuous data feed with real human interaction. Many of the judgmental reactions of other responders ("a-hole", "rude", "inconsiderate", etc) demonstrate our strong cultural bias for exclusivity in direct, inter-personal interaction and the resentment we feel when we perceive that our presence has suddenly, and without warning, been deprioritized by the other party. Nobody wants to think that th
      • by TheLink (130905)
        No the norms do not have to evolve at all, until most humans can themselves evolve to be good multitaskers e.g. able to have more than one conversation at the same time, or similar.

        It is rude. As you can see from the responses from those who think it's OK - they're so full of "I'm more important than you hence you'll have to do with what I have leftover" or similar[1].

        If you are having a conversation with someone, it is rude to not pay attention. Maybe if you are a virtuoso multi-tasker you can do it succes
        • Maybe if you are a virtuoso multi-tasker you can do it successfully and the other person won't notice

          Nobody like that exists. There is just a number of aholes who think they are a "virtuoso multi-tasker".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 20, 2013 @05:17PM (#45183521)

    they're called pagers. I know now one but drug dealers and doctors wear them anymore, but they do exist.

    I wear a pager for work and frequently have to wear it when out in public. I can turn the alert from audible to vibrate when I am in public. Most relevant to the issue at hand, it took me 1-2 years after I got my first pager to train myself to not automatically look at the pager as soon as a message/phone number came in.

    In short, you CAN train yourself to not look instantly once you get it through your head that you are not expecting an urgent/emergency alert.

    Similarly, hospitals are environments where, because of the ubiquity of wearable communication devices (ie pagers) it has become socially acceptable to read incoming messages almost anytime.

    My conclusion is that these two forces will apply outside of the hospital/drug deal: people will learn to resist looking instantly at their watch or other wearable device unless they really are expecting something urgent and bystanders (many of whom will have wearables of their own) will grow to accept more frequent checking of such devices in the correct context.

    • by Libertarian001 (453712) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @06:11PM (#45183863)

      I wear a pager for work (hospital environment). When there, everyone knows exactly why I'm checking it immediately if it goes off. When there or elsewhere, I apologize for checking it by saying, "Sorry, I'm on call. I need to check this." Usually they ask if I need to take it. If I don't, I tell them someone else will get it (we blast to the entire group). If I do, I tell them I'll get it when we're finished. Yes, the stuff I work on is that time critical. 5 minutes can be, and has been, the difference between getting the parts I need that day and getting them back up, or them being down an extra day. I think the key is to tell your audience what's going on instead of just tuning them out.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @05:29PM (#45183611) Homepage

    I remember someone telling me once, he was one of the very first people who got a earplug/microphone for his cell phone and even cell phones were fairly rare. So he was apparently talking straight into thin air to someone who wasn't there, holding a conversation with them. Unless they spotted the earpiece and realized what it was, people thought he was certifiably insane. Today nobody would blink twice at that.

    • Today nobody would blink twice at that.

      Blink: No.
      Feel the urge to repeatedly punch them in the face? Yes.

      • What is it with Slashdot, new technology and psychotic violent outbursts?

        • It's not the (old) technology, it's the people using it, why and how they're using it.

          I did the whole earpiece+mic communication thing in 2003, but quickly decided that unless there was a really good reason for it, it was just terribly annoying to everybody around me. Holding a device up to your ear is a (reasonably) clear social signal that you're talking to somebody on your phone. Unless the technology or people using it support a different equivalent social signal, it will always cause confusion. Instanc

    • This has been adopted by some more self-aware schizophrenics to not look crazy, now that it's commonplace.
  • what are they going to do when we have neurally connected computers that sync with our brains?
  • Form Factor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dan East (318230) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @05:32PM (#45183635) Homepage Journal

    I think it's all about the form factor, and Google has gotten it wrong with Google Glass. IMO, the best possible form factor for wearable computing is that of a wrist watch. Even in that regard, companies like Samsung have still gotten it wrong, and for the exact opposite reason that Google has gone wrong.

    Glasses are essentially a display device. They should be an I/O type peripheral, but Google made them the heart of the system. They can't be anything but glasses, on your face, obvious to everyone, with a camera sitting there pointing at everyone, drawing suspicion about what is being recorded or what you might be seeing, etc. They should not be the core of the system, but a peripheral to be used only when needed for those specific functions.

    Now take Samsung's watch. It SHOULD be the core of the system. It should have your CPU, storage, networking, etc, because it is a non-invasive device that billions of people are already used to wearing all day every day. It is the optimum form factor for having with you all the time everywhere you go (even while swimming, etc). But instead they made it a mere peripheral for their phones / tablets.

    The watch should be the core of the system. You can do simple tasks with its small display, it can vibrate in different places (on the bottom of the band, in the watch, etc) in different patterns that could communicate a variety of things without any annoying sound effects (since it's on the wrist the vibration could be very light, unlike a cell phone which has to be felt through clothing, etc). Then if you need a bigger display, you grab a tablet IO device (a mere wireless peripheral for IO for your watch), or a device like Google Glass, or you simply output media from your watch to the nearest TV, etc.

    Anyway, IMO I think everyone is getting it totally backwards when it comes to wearable computing devices.

    • by n30na (1525807)
      I would argue that glasses are a just goddamn fine form factor as long as they look like normal glasses.. we just need to give the tech a few more years. It would also help to have a less shit interface to it.
      • by Dr Max (1696200)
        I would buy a HUD if it looked like a normal pair of glasses (with 2 screens for 3d augmented reality) but i still think the watch makes a good heart of the system, due to its portability and easy yet unassuming access.
    • by Dr Max (1696200)
      Oh, how i agree sir. Problem is the tech giants won't want to make it the heart, because that will cannibalise the already very profitable smartphone market. Once one company makes a nice version with its own modem (flexible wrap around screen that’s easy to put on and take off) and it's an inevitable runaway success, then every man and his dog will offer a sim card version of the smart watch. One small issue is battery capacity, but by spreading them out around the band and increases in battery techn
    • Re:Form Factor (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gman003 (1693318) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @08:49PM (#45184895)

      Not a bad analysis, but I think it misses something. Right now, the watch phones have too poor a battery life to have significant processing power. The watch might make a decent display, but that's about all it can do with any quality. So it's in the same realm as the glasses.

      We're going to need person-area networks. Put a big battery and a powerful computer system in your pocket, have it connect to the watch and glasses for user I/O. Problem is, at that point you may as well slap a screen on the computer part, and then you've got a full smartphone, which reduces the necessity of the other two.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      The problems are not in terms of design, but purely technical. A phone has a much greater volume, hence more space for a battery and larger internals. It also has more surface area, which helps radiate heat away. A watch just cannot match the processing power and battery capacity of a phone, which is the same thing as between a laptop and a phone or a desktop and a laptop. As with phones, though, watches will get more and more powerful, especially if they catch on. Yet, for each step down in terms of size,
      • by Kvan (30429)
        LG has wire form batteries in their pipeline, which would enable the entire wristband to be a battery (assuming heat can be controlled). That could easily equal the volume of many smartphone batteries. Processing power is another matter though.
        • Call me old fashioned, but I think I'll look fondly on the days when I could get a scratch on my watchband and not have my hand burst into flames as the battery fails.

    • The smart watch is never ever taking off.

      It requires two hands to use (one supports the watch, the other hand to operate it's buttons).

      A smartphone requires one hand - that can both support the device and operate it.

      I really don't understand what is so hard about this limitation for people to understand.

    • Now take Samsung's watch. It SHOULD be the core of the system. It should have your CPU, storage, networking, etc, because it is a non-invasive device that billions of people are already used to wearing all day every day. It is the optimum form factor for having with you all the time everywhere you go (even while swimming, etc). But instead they made it a mere peripheral for their phones / tablets.

      The watch should be the core of the system. You can do simple tasks with its small display, it can vibrate in different places (on the bottom of the band, in the watch, etc) in different patterns that could communicate a variety of things without any annoying sound effects (since it's on the wrist the vibration could be very light, unlike a cell phone which has to be felt through clothing, etc). Then if you need a bigger display, you grab a tablet IO device (a mere wireless peripheral for IO for your watch), or a device like Google Glass, or you simply output media from your watch to the nearest TV, etc

      And here is where we disagree. The watch should be a peripheral due to several unavoidable drawbacks:

      1. Heat - Have you ever felt how hot a phone can get when it's operating? It would get very uncomfortable to have that heat strapped on your wrist. I'd hate to start sweating because my cellWatch was doing some processing.

      2. Batteries - All those extra features means power, and to get a usable life you need batteries. And putting those batteries on your arm is not going to be confortable or small.

      3.

  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @05:46PM (#45183715)
    My phone has the time, it does all of the messaging already, better than a 'wearable' on my wrist, phone is stowed safely in my pocket. I can count at least 10 watches in my life that got scratched faces, damaged from shocks, or got hooked on something and had the strap break, bye-bye watch!

    So now, I'm expected to do the consumer thing again by buying an over-priced, extremely fragile and unperfected new piece of tech. Thanks anyway, I'll pass on this 'magic'.

    • by mspohr (589790) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @06:12PM (#45183869)

      Lots of people have expensive watches (some of them very expensive) and most of them seem to have no problem keeping them intact. (However, in your case, maybe a watch is not a good idea.)
      A wrist watch is much more convenient than digging into your pocket to check the time, messages, etc. So just as wrist watches superseded pocket watches, smart watches will supersede pocket phones.

      • Some people do still wear watches - but I stopped wearing one shortly after I purchased my first cell phone.

        If I had to dress better for work than my usual cargo pants plus casual shirt, though, I might still wear a watch occasionally - but it would be a "style" thing, since there's no real utility in wearing one nowadays.

        • by mspohr (589790)

          The utility of a smart watch is that has the functionality of your smart phone (without the pocket bulge... or do you like to "augment" your bulge with your phone?).

      • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @07:06PM (#45184275)

        Lots of people have expensive watches (some of them very expensive) and most of them seem to have no problem keeping them intact. (However, in your case, maybe a watch is not a good idea.)

        My life and professions have been probably more 'active' than others. Once cellphones became realistic to own was the last time I ever wore a watch. One less thing to think about/care for. No, I've learned 'wearables' are not for me.

        Sometimes lately I'll go days before checking my phone for messages, as I've been able to re-learn how it feels again to not feel the need to be always 'connected'. It's rather freeing.

        When tech catches up to the point where everything is incorporated into one sole device, that won't have need for constant attention from the user, perhaps I'll adopt in. I'll check back in a few years...

  • They may just be tools, but they'll make you look like one too.
  • The fundamental problem with all wearable computing and cell phones is that they are an interruptive technology. While they do queue up SMS messages and emails so you can deal with them when convenient, people don't do so. Instead they rudely proceed to stop whatever they're doing, even a conversation, to deal with the message right now.

    There is no excuse for it other than being rude.

    • Smartphones are fundamentally interruptive, yes (they're designed to be a communications technology, after all!). Wearable computers, on the other hand, are designed to work more like "virtual secretaries:" to automatically figure out what you're doing and help you do it.

      For example, if you're having a face-to-face conversation with somebody, your wearable should most emphatically not be facilitating a text message or something; instead, it should be using the (automatically detected) fact that you're conve

  • Who would want it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OhANameWhatName (2688401) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @06:01PM (#45183807)
    Where are we going? Is this a borg society where people are going to be continuously plugged into some sort of network grid and that's the most important thing in the world?

    There are scientists and engineers pushing this idea of wearable computing because it seems cool. What we need isn't the opinion of scientists and engineers, we need to focus on philosophy. Adjust society for computer? Bah, what a load of hogwash. Adjust computing for society! Stop thinking like a computer engineer and start thinking like a human being .. not a human doing.
    • With the original computer revolution, being a nerd suddenly became sort of cool. Now that geeks are attempting to drive the way society is heading with these sorts of things, though, I wonder how long it will be before society as a whole says "oh, yeah, THIS is why we relegated these guys to the back room of the library way back then..."

    • by gnoshi (314933)

      We're continuously adjusting society for various technological changes. At some point, there would have been social adjustment for whether it was polite to have a record on in the background while having guests, or answering the landline telephone during a conversation, or having the TV on in the background when eating dinner.
      This is no different. Social norms need to be developed to match new developments in technology.

      There is a valid discussion to be had about the social impacts of being continuously con

    • by antdude (79039)

      Yes, join the collective. Look at me now: http://zimage.com/~ant/antfarm/about/pictures/BorgAnt.jpg [zimage.com] ... ;)

  • We are ready because the technology is there. There will always be people that will look down on wearable technology, and in the future implanted technology. They dont matter. Technology wont stop, they will either adapt, or just eventually die.
  • by germansausage (682057) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @07:02PM (#45184259)
    Apparently the most important function of Google Glass is to summon "Internet Tough Guys" to post on Slashdot.

    "If somebody dares to wear Google Glasses without my permission I will shoot them in the face ....with a bazooka!!"
  • by russotto (537200) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @09:07PM (#45184973) Journal

    We're never socially ready for ANYTHING new. The process of building social norms around something can't start until after that thing is introduced. The implication, then (often made explicit by hand-wringers calling themselves "ethicists" or some such thing) that we should stop the thing until we ARE "socially ready" for is equivalent to pure conservativism -- stopping everything new.

  • It's great that we can be so connected, but ask yourself this: how urgent is that email from Amazon? Or that calendar invitation about a party next month? Are you living your life or just sifting through emails and instant messages? If you're on-call for your job, have a friend or family member in the hospital, or some similarly important event going on, then that's definitely a valid reason for interrupting a conversation and attending to your device. If you want to read emails while pretending to pay attention to someone, then perhaps face-to-face socialization isn't for you. While people *think* they can covertly read emails while holding a conversation, I've never met anybody that could actually do so. I've been guilty of trying that myself and realized how silly the whole situation is. Anyone trained in business or interpersonal communication will tell you the same thing: Pay attention to the person with whom you're speaking, or excuse yourself to read your emails.
    • It's great that we can be so connected, but ask yourself this...

      The problem is not that a wearable allows you to be "connected," but rather that using it as an interface for "connection" misses the point. The point of wearable computing is context.

      how urgent is that email from Amazon?

      If, for example, the email is telling you that your order is waiting at the post office, your wearable should tell you that as you're about to travel past it.

      Or that calendar invitation about a party next month?

      Your wearable sh

  • by J'raxis (248192) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @10:08PM (#45185255) Homepage

    "Right now, it's considered impolite to talk on your cellphone while checking out at the grocery store, or to ignore a face-to-face conversation in favor of texting somebody. But 20 years ago, those actions weren't even on our social radar."

    Sure they were. Twenty years ago, if you were in line at the grocery store and rather than paying attention to checking out, you were idly standing there chatting with the person next to you, that would be just as rude as talking on your cell phone. And if you were having a face-to-face conversation with someone and abruptly stopped to turn and interact with someone else, that would be considered just as rude as abruptly stopping to text.

    The rude behavior is the same then and now. Distraction, interruption, inattentiveness, and so on. All that's changed is that the technology has allowed the other person in the scenario to become a virtual presence than an actual.

  • by X!0mbarg (470366) on Sunday October 20, 2013 @11:52PM (#45185649)

    Seriously, though. My fellow workers and I refer to most folks walking by, obliviously texting away as "Pod-People". Many of them with ear buds (or even huge, bulky headphones) to emphasize their wanting not to hear you. People aren't truly in tune with proper social behavior with cell phones/smart phones and constant (albeit intermittent) communications now. If a device (any device) makes it even more of an attention hog than it has already become, then people are going to start walking into traffic (even more than they already do). Many people today are already texting people they are physically standing beside as a method of "whispering" things clandestinely, no matter how rude it really is. People are already getting fully absorbed in their smart phones to the point of not knowing how to hold a coherent conversation over a meal. All this will simply be compounded with the more pervasive devices. It's only a matter of time before Google Glass becomes outright illegal to use while driving. It's bad enough that people think that having their smart phone in their lap while driving is acceptable and considered safe, despite being illegal in many places. What is it going to take before people start taking serious offense at others' smart device use in public places? Not serving people while they are on their phone is a decent start. After all, how rude is it to be expecting someone else to give you proper attention to serve you, and you can't even be bothered to pay enough attention to get the amount of you bill right? Little wonder why many employers have effectively banned smart phone use while at work, particularly in the service and hospitality industry. How far will it go? Extremism exists, and will manifest itself on both sides of this topic. Mark my works: It Will Get Ugly!

  • by SuperDre (982372)
    it's BS that you can't 'put away' wearables, you can always turn them off.. It's not like people put away their phone during meetings anyway.. People are more and more distracted by all those mobile devices.. I would propably even go as far as just banning those devices from the workfloor..
    • The fundamental issue is that the idea of "putting away" a wearable defeats its purpose, which is to augment your perceptions and memory. In a meeting, for example, your wearable is not supposed to be distracting you with other communications, it's supposed to be automatically recording the meeting minutes and cross-referencing topics for you! (In fact, your wearable ought to be able to figure out that you're in a meeting based on your calendar and/or GPS and/or recognizing the fact that you're talking to s

  • Consider the tourist who doesn't speak your language, and is getting on the fly translation of street signs, etc.
    Or the dyslexic who is getting the menu he's never been able to cope with before read to him.
    Or the blind guy who's using it like a seeing eye dog he doesn't need to feed?

    Are you going to punch all of them in the face too?

    Just because you're being a glassless-hole, doesn't mean they're interested in recording you.

    I've considered getting a pair, but haven't - because they're ugly as hell. As anoth

  • It'll go the way of the bluetooth headset ... extinct except for the hardcore douchebag.

    "Excuse me sir, you seem to have a little bit of douchebag on the side of your... oh nevermind, that's your bluetooth..."

  • Mu (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@cGINSBERGarpanet.net minus poet> on Monday October 21, 2013 @10:32AM (#45189103) Homepage

    frankly, I think this is a meaningless question. What does "Socially ready" even mean? Society does not "prepare" for change. Change happens and then society adapts. Or more accurately, change happens, some people adapt, and children grow up knowing a new society that never didn't have that change and can't conceive of a world that didn't have it.... then they grow up to ask whether society is ready for the next change, which their children will grow up familiar with, and who will think their parents were silly, crazy, and overly paranoid for doubting.

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