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Wednesday
Dec182013

Wearable Technology

I have a Pebble smartwatch; it connects to my Android smartphone via Bluetooth.

Pebble

For me, the Pebble is not so much a second screen (for my phone) as it is a "notifier" of phone activity. With the Pebble, I keep my phone in my pocket, muted, and use my watch to track who's calling and texting, what emails are coming in -- and then decide if I engage.

In addition to being a great notifier, the Pebble -- for me -- also reduces distraction, since I don't have to look at my phone necessarily.

The Pebble has an "e-paper" display (think, original Kindle) that both makes it readable in direct sunlight and conserves battery. (In the dark, I flick my wrist to pulse the backlight.) The battery life is five days, easy. 

I've installed (via the Pebble phone app) 

  • several different watchfaces varyingly displaying a local weather summary (as I write this, 13 degrees F, Fair), number of unread (priority or all) emails, number of unread texts, number of new phone calls, smartphone battery life, time, and date, in digital and analog styles; 
  • a music controller ("next song," etc.); 
  • alarms, timers, and stopwatches; 
  • a Facebook News Feed client; 
  • a Twitter client; and 
  • an app that mirrors smartphone notifications generally. 

The Pebble natively shows who's calling and the first few lines of emails and texts. (The Pebble can be set to either vibrate or pulse the backlight, or both, to signal a notification.) I don't use the Facebook and Twitter clients much -- the Pebble screen is too small to make that really sensible. I don't do music on my smartphone, but I understand the Pebble controller for that works well. 

The last-listed app -- that mirrors smartphone notifications -- is key. With it, I can option whatever phone app that does notifcations, to get mirrored on the Pebble. That makes the Pebble a notifier for almost anything that the phone can do, which is really powerful. 

I'm betaing an app that uses the Pebble's bulit-in accelerometer to feed my phone's exercise app to track the number of steps I take. 

---

Bill Waski, via Wired Gadget Labs, posts a meaty, good introduction to wearable tech -- of which the smartwatche is one example; others include devices such as Google Glass and the Fitbit -- and why it is important. 

Why Wearable Tech Will Be as Big as the Smartphone

BY BILL WASIK | 12.17.13 Google Glass was just the beginning. A new generation of wearable tech is coming—and it will transform the way you experience the world. (Photo: Ian Allen)

Data will not help you if you can’t see it when you need it. For Dan Eisenhardt—a competitive swimmer for more than a decade, beginning as a 9-year-old in his native Denmark—the data he needed in the water, what he could never know in the water, was his splits. His event was the 1,500-meter freestyle, the longest slog in the sport, a near-mile of grinding exertion divided into 15 laps of 100 meters apiece. As with every distance sport, pacing is all; lag your target time on the first two laps and you may never catch up, but accidentally beat it and you’ll load your tissue with lactic acid, doom your endgame. How fast was his last lap? How did it compare to his usual pace? His coach up on the pool deck could know, his parents in the stands could know. But Eisenhardt, at war in the water, could only guess.

The rigors of engineering school eventually forced Eisenhardt to stop racing. He worked for a while as a management consultant. But later, during business school, while he was spending an exchange semester at the University of British Columbia, the problem nagged at him again. For a project in an entrepreneurship class, he pitched a business plan: data-enabled goggles for swimmers like his former self. He teamed up with some other students, and they soon concluded they had the wrong sport. Swim goggles were too small to support a screen, plus the athletes were too few in number—and too unaccustomed to shelling out for expensive gear. Close at hand in wintry Canada, though, was a better idea. In January 2008, after a year or so of tinkering, four of the classmates founded Recon Instruments.

Their first product, Recon Snow, is a heads-up display for skiers and snowboarders. From the outside it looks just like any set of ski goggles. But tucked below the right eye is a little display, controllable by a simple remote—snow-proof with big, chunky buttons—that clips to a jacket. The main screen is a dashboard that shows speed, altitude, and vertical descent. There’s also a navigation view that uses the built-in GPS to plot position on a resort map, as well as an app screen that offers access to a camera. Through Bluetooth, the display integrates with a smartphone, letting skiers play music, answer calls, and see text messages or other notifications. Recon has sold 50,000 of the Snow so far, and the second generation, Snow2, came out in November. The company’s next product—Jet, designed for cyclists, with voice control and gaze detection for hands-free use—will ship in March.

Article continues at link. 

 

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