For the last few days, I’ve been working on a set of data gloves comfortable enough to wear all day, every day. I settled on a ring-like form factor and the exceptional polyimide Flexpoint sensors. It’s comfortable, not cumbersome, and damn cool looking.
I used this excuse to learn some OpenSCAD and made a parametric model! You can view the model on Thingiverse and easily customize it to fit your fingers.
These are just sensor enclosures for now. The next bit is making some driver electronics, based off the Teensy and peripherals I used in my hacked P5 Glove.
Most people have nothing to gain from a heads-up display or a wrist computer. Do you?
The more of the following are true, the greater an unfair advantage you can gain from a wearable. Consider getting your practice now, before you lose to someone who did.
Your performance is judged by a ranking or scoring system with clear objectives. For example, a student’s grades or a trucker’s speed. A wearable can visualize your score and give instant feedback on actions that increase or decrease it, so you can play the game more efficiently. It can also turn seconds of wasted time into score-boosting activities like studying.
You are sharply punished for failure or mistakes. For example, a surgeon, a delivery worker, and an Uber driver have an adversarial relationship with their overseers. A wearable can set up an audit trail so you can defend yourself against false allegations. It can also enable a human or algorithm to look over your shoulder and notice your mistakes before the customer.
You indefinitely work extended hours. Without dedicated quiet time to organize yourself, develop your skills, and restock key supplies, you need to cram those in whenever you can. A wearable that’s always on lets you instantly jump into chores, get organized, and talk to others during spare minutes of downtime.
You need a mental library of reference material. For example, a presenter on a panel, a lawyer, or a field technician. A wearable integrates reference books, other people, and your own notes directly into your thought process, so you can make smarter decisions and cite your sources. If you’re an engineer or programmer who heavily relies on Google or Stack Overflow, a wearable can let you escape your computer without becoming lobotimized.
You need enhanced situational awareness. For example, a soldier in an urban skirmish, a firefighter, or an MMO player. A wearable can grant a birds-eye view to make tactical decisions, the ability to see through thick smoke, monitor hundreds of players’ stats, look around a corner, and other complex tasks while you’re up to both elbows in the action.
You benefit from isolating yourself. Wearables strongly signal that the wearer can’t give you their full attention, while consuming one or more senses. When the task requires uninterrupted focus, a wearable can filter out distractions and discourage others from unduly breaking your concentration.
You’re on call for emergencies. For example, a medical specialist, a sysadmin, or a parent. A wearable can ‘teleport’ your eyes and hands wherever you’re needed, by co-opting another device or user. It also keeps you aware of emergencies when you’ve left the building, for situations in which automated alerts are impractical.
Your job has a planning and a legwork phase. For example, a courier on route or a student memorizing flashcards. Wearables enable you do some planning during the legwork, compressing the task’s time and freeing you from having to stop. The wearable also enables the legwork to be performed more flexibly. The courier can contact dispatch and plan his next route as he delivers, and the student can create flashcards during the lecture and study them anywhere.
Aside: This is why I believe college and grad students have a tremendous amount to gain from wearable technology. They operate in a scored system, the punishment for a mistake is catastrophic, they work as many hours as possible, must bring a massive corpus of knowledge into every decision, have considerable time-management constraints, require extended focus, work in teams, and often have awkward chunks of downtime.
I strongly believe that the first successful consumer-oriented heads-up display will be an assistive tool for high-performing students in ultra-competitive schools.
50 Shades of Gray owes its popularity to the Kindle, and dubstep would die without iTunes.
Now, these don’t need the technology. You could read 50 Shades in paperback, and you could listen to dubstep without headphones.
But you won’t.
You don’t want to be seen reading smut on the morning bus. You don’t want your soft-rock top-40 coworkers judging your bass drops.
The technology enabled a dirty book to make #1 on the Times, and enabled the rise of aggressive electronica. It wasn’t the processing power or the HD display or the megabit wireless Internet. It was just the form-factor and nothing more. The Kindle just removed the jacket from the book. The iPhone just lets you listen privately.
When the media approaches a new technology, they expect that it to enable the impossible. That virtual-reality headset will let you sculpt 3D clay. That 3D printer will replace your Amazon orders. That depth camera will let you explore an art gallery using your personal gesture-controlled drone.
But the real-world impact is always more mundane. Successful consumer products enable options that were already technically possible, but not appropriate. That’s what makes them successful – they pop the cork off pent-up demand, not facilitate an esoteric, cutting-edge niche.
The next time you see a futuristic product, don’t speculate about the next-generation Star Trek possibilities. Think about something you’d love to do, but don’t because it’s embarrassing or a pain in the ass, that would be smoother with the technology.
This article’s picture was shamelessly ripped off Jeff Wheeler.