WEAR­ABLE, UN­BEAR­ABLE

Maxim - - CONTENTS - by ADAM K. RA YMOND

WHY SIL­I­CON VAL­LEY’S FA­VORITE NEW TOYS ARE DES­TINED FOR LAME­NESS

RE­SIST THE ON­SLAUGHT OF “WEAR­ABLE TECH,” FROM SMART­WATCHES AND FIT­NESS TRACK­ERS TO THE RE­CENTLY SHAT­TERED GOOGLE GLASS.

THANKS TO SCIENCE, com­puter chips are now so tiny and ver­sa­tile, they can func­tion vir­tu­ally any­where. So like an un­ruly tod­dler with a brand-new pack of stick­ers, tech in­no­va­tors have de­cided to slap them all over their bod­ies—and ours. The re­sult­ing “wear­ables” are the hottest thing in Sil­i­con Val­ley since overearnest mission state­ments and zip­pered hood­ies.

They’re also use­less gim­micks that of­ten sound like dis­carded ideas from a Spy Hard brain­storm­ing ses­sion. There are Gps-con­nected shoes that ac­tu­ally re­lay di­rec­tions by vibrating your feet, leg sen­sors that sync up to a drum­ming app when you slap your knee, and even a wrist­band that con­stantly records au­dio and saves 60-sec­ond clips with the push of a but­ton. Think of all the “that’s what she said”s that have been lost to his­tory!

The good news? Such de­vices are al­ready go­ing the way of the elec­tric egg scram­bler. Gart­ner Inc., which tracks the “hype cy­cle” of new tech, notes ex­pec­ta­tions are fall­ing as the cat­e­gory heads to­ward the “trough of dis­il­lu­sion­ment.” (The phrase, which sounds like the name of an emo band, refers to the mo­ment when in­ter­est fades and ev­ery­one moves on.)

Not even the big boys are win­ning with wear­ables. Nearly two years af­ter Google Glass launched, it was pulled from the mar­ket af­ter be­ing widely de­rided as a goofy luxury item syn­ony­mous with Sil­i­con Val­ley pre­ten­sion. Sam­sung is hav­ing so much trou­ble get­ting its smart­watch right, it has re­leased six ver­sions in roughly a year. Then there’s Ap­ple, which says its watch—which isn’t fully func­tional un­less you’re also car­ry­ing an iphone—“rep­re­sents a new chap­ter in the re­la­tion­ship peo­ple have with tech­nol­ogy.” Maybe…if the chap­ter is called “Try­ing to keep track of two de­vices when one was more than ad­e­quate.”

Boasting clocks, cal­en­dars, cam­eras, and apps, smart­watches are a hell of a lot like smartphones, ex­cept most don’t make calls. That leaves com­pa­nies scram­bling to jus­tify their ex­is­tence, of­ten by tout­ing them as a so­lu­tion to prob­lems that don’t ex­ist. Here’s some Sony ad copy for its Smart­watch: “At work, you can be dis­creetly no­ti­fied of in­com­ing e-mail, cal­en­dar events, and other im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion.” Be­cause who wants to suf­fer the shame of be­ing caught read­ing e-mail at work?

As lame as they are, smart­watches aren’t what makes the wear­able revo­lu­tion de­plorable; it’s the fringe gad­gets. Take Mimo, a one­sie that tracks your sleep­ing baby’s breath­ing and body po­si­tion—per­fect for the new par­ent who needs more stress. Or No More Woof, a head­set that claims to trans­late ca­nine thoughts into hu­man lan­guage. Now when your dog barks, you’ll know he’s re­ally say­ing: “I just pooped in your shoes be­cause you’re too busy an­a­lyz­ing the data from your smart un­der­wear to walk me.”

It’s not enough to do dumb things; th­ese prod­ucts also look dumb. From Google Glass to fit­ness track­ers, wear­ables are at worst hideous, and at best, not com­pletely hideous.

But the real rea­son to re­sist the on­slaught is not aes­thetics or func­tion­al­ity but pri­vacy. Th­ese de­vices gen­er­ate in­for­ma­tion that can be eas­ily ex­ploited. Last year such data was used as court­room ev­i­dence for the first time, ush­er­ing in an era where our gizmo-mon­i­tored move­ments can be used against us.

So let’s add per­ni­cious to re­dun­dant and ex­pen­sive. While we’re at it, let’s also add soon to be ob­so­lete. Be­cause how­ever much tech firms want you to think wear­ables are the fu­ture, they’re al­ready on their way to be­ing out­moded…by im­planta­bles. Af­ter all, who needs a smart­watch when you can have a state-of-theart sen­sor sur­gi­cally em­bed­ded right in your oc­cip­i­tal lobe?

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