I consider myself to be a pretty hip guy. I’m in the high tech business, I have all the latest devices, and I love my Apple TV, so why do I find myself so conflicted about the increasing use of wearable computing devices? I don’t think anyone will disagree that they are a logical extension of our growing need to stay connected to everyone, anywhere, at any time, but am I the only one who finds their use as fashion accessories to be more than a little off putting? While they absolutely reflect our continual breakthroughs in technology, in many instances they are the fashion equivalent of mixing stripes and plaids. If this is the new direction in computing, can it at least not clash with my Armani suit?
As with the emergence of any new technology there are always early adopters. Personally, I trace the beginnings of this new trend back to the early Blue-Tooth days where a select few thought that wearing your phone headset 24 hours a day made them look “cutting edge”. Unfortunately, it actually made them all look like extras from a Star Trek: Next Generation episode, but most of us were just too nice to say anything. Appearing to talk to yourself while walking down the street can get you involuntarily committed in 37 states and the design of these “hands free” headphones looked about as stylish as your grandfather’s hearing aids–a look that the more fashion sensitive among us found unconscionable, and your grandmother wasn’t too wild about them either.
I think part of this clash between technology and sartorial splendor is that we now live in an age where the intensity of competition dictates that firms must get new innovations to market as fast as possible—no matter how bad they look. Take Google Glass for instance. Does any wearable item scream “Dork” louder than those things? While we all like our accessories to highlight something, the fact that we have no life is probably not one of them. I realize that form follows function but c’mon guys, would it have killed you to build the technology into a nice pair of Christian Dior Tortoise Shell frames?
Obviously the wrist is an anatomical area that the makers of these new devices are anxious to lay claim to, and I heartily agree, but boys you’ve got to come up with something that doesn’t resemble those digital calculator watches that were all the rage with the members of my high school Olympics of the Mind club before I’m on board. If we are destined to spend our days speaking into our lower forearms, al la Dick Tracey, we need more than an LCD display attached to a rubber watchband. Even my Nike Fuel looks better than that—I have the silver one. It matches my running shoes. Not that I actually run, but I get a lot of approving looks when I wear it to the grocery store.
Fortunately for all of us, I think that the purveyors of these wearable technological wonders are beginning to wake up to the fact that when it comes to wearable devices, looks do count. For example, I recently read an article that said that some companies were exploring the possibility of wired evening gowns. I don’t know exactly how you’d use the embedded functionality, but I’ve got to believe, and Mrs. Crosby agrees, that a Vera Wang strapless that let’s you check your Facebook is going to be a winner. This is the kind of out of the box thinking that can really take the whole concept of wearable devices to the next level. Imagine the potential partnerships, Gucci and Google, Microsoft and Versacci. I don’t think those guys at DARPA ever would have envisioned this all those years ago.
I think that we can all agree that this whole wearable market is at a crossroads. Even the coolest innovations are doomed to failure if they have all the panache of that cardigan your dad wears around the house. I say that this is the time to be bold and don’t set any type of pre-defined limits. Why just clothing for example? Who among us wouldn’t want to check our email after we shower while wrapped in one of those nice fluffy towels? The future is here, ladies and gentlemen, and it won’t be long until you can send emails to my new Patek Phillipe. Does life really get any better than that?