Robin:This is Dan Rosenbaum. He writes about wearable technology. Hi, Dan, have you written anything fun lately?
Dan:Well, I just wrote a piece about a guy with the new Kickstarter called Zackees. He has come up with this idea of putting LEDs on the backs of your hands on bike gloves. So you can raise your hand, or if you are riding, you want people behind you to see, close your thumb against your index finger, and these bright directional LEDs are going to come on. So people can see where you are and what it is you are doing.
Robin:Okay. So it is like turn signals that are on you, not on the bike. So if you were for instance out drinking late at night, and you were going to walk down the street, you can hold up your hands, and people could go that way or the other.
Dan:Right. Or not so much if you are not drinking late and riding your bike, if the guys behind the wheel are out late and you are riding home.
Robin:Okay, that’s a great idea actually. Now didn’t I read something in there about how he talked about trying to find ways that rather than being cute, wearable technology could actually solve a problem.
Dan:That’s really going to be the sweet spot for wearable technology. I live in Brooklyn - so there is a lot of hip stuff going on, not far from here. A lot of startups, a lot of artists work in this. And I’ll go out to demos and I’ll see something that’s maybe a level above do-it-yourself stuff. Things that are kind of cool, and kind of interesting, but they don’t really rise to the level of a product. What Zack has done, Zack Vorhies, the founder of Zackees - what he has done is he has figured out something that’s cool and looks nice, and is an interesting sort of idea, it is okay as far as it goes but what you really need is something that people can understand what the need is, why they actually want to do this, why they want to buy it, what it adds to your life in a functional way, not just in a decorative way.
Zack started out putting LEDs on Camelbaks. And that’s nice.You’re on a runway, you are a growing man, you want to just sort of go out at night, that’s a perfectly fine thing. But the market for that is kind of limited. And I don’t know, and he decided that he really didn’t know what that added to the world in a practical sense. So he talked to some of his mentors, and they sort of zeroed in on this. Which is something that’s interesting, that’ useful, that’s not very expensive and adds to the general common weal.
Robin:What about these watches? I can’t get excited by them.
Dan:Well, again you got to figure out what the watches are for. I am afraid I have myself tethered. I wear the fit band on this wrist, and the fuel band on this wrist and I just bought a Pebble watch. For me, this is all sort of an experiment. I got started with the fuel bands because I needed to move more - I needed to lose weight. I needed a way to remind myself to walk the 10,000 steps, and there is a tool that’s a really useful thing to do it. If you are doing physical tracking, that’s great as far as it goes. But that’s the usefulness, that’s the utility of it. I think if you weren’t interested in fitness, you weren’t interested in diet, then there is no particular way. You just strap on Timex and you are going to be doing just fine.
And in the case of Pebble watch, the Pebble watch and to a lesser extent, the Samsung Gear, they are interesting because they communicate with your cell phone. So you don’t always have to be digging for your phone, when it pings, or when it rings, you get an email check or a text or a Facebook update.Because they are displayed on your wrist, and you can decide once it is sitting on your wrist, if you want to go digging for your phone. So there’s the utility for that.
There are companies that make heart monitors. Polar is in the heart monitor business.And those are all functional pieces of technology going for something that’s sort of narrowly functional. Where wearable technology is going to get really really interesting is when all these things start to talk to each other. When you have access to the data that you can analyze and decide how maybe you can change things, things you are doing, to have medical information you can take to your doctor, for runners to check their routes and to see if there is a more interesting route or a safer route somewhere near.
There’s a guy oh this one’s neat, this one’s neat – there’s a guy in Brooklyn who has sensors built into a bike helmet that measure your emotional state.And as you are riding around, in a map where you are and your emotional state. The idea being that with enough of these out there, he’ll be able to get an emotional map of bike routes in New York City. People will now understand not just where routes go, but how people feel when they are on them, which will map to how dangerous these roads are.
Dan:So sort of an emotional wayfarer thing.
Robin:Wow! “These are happy places, these over here are not..” Okay.
Dan:Right. I don’t want to be riding on Ocean Parkway, and I understand that I will be riding on Ocean Parkway because it is a lot prettier. So Ocean Avenue is going to be red. And Ocean Parkway is going to be green.
Robin:I love it. I just absolutely love it like you can’t believe. And another thing, didn’t you say you don’t love Google Glass for some reason?
Dan:I don’t love Google Glass. That’s why I can’t figure out what it’s for. I am a four eyes guy and right now Google Glass doesn’t take prescription lenses, so that’s one problem.I don’t like things that disengage you from the world. And I know that Google Glass fans say it enhances your engagement with the world, because you are in deeper understanding of what’s going on. But I just sort of don’t buy that.
I think right now Google Glass is sort of dork wear. It looks funny, people don’t understand what it’s for. It costs you the earth. It costs you fifteen hundred bucks.It costs as much as a season ticket to a major league ballpark.And I just don’t get it yet. Now I understand that this is sort of a science gear project. This is going to be what do we have, six months out what do we have, a year out it’s going to be way different than what we have now. So I don’t know that that’s a fair criticism of something that’s going on today. There are a couple of companies that are making video inserts for ski goggles.
Dan:Right? So you can map the trail map on there, you can see how fast you are going, you can see where you are going, you can see how fast that tree is coming up on you. You can see how badly you are going to get hurt when you don’t stick the landing. How far away the ambulance is. I mean, these are all important things to know if you’re being distracted when you’re out skiing. I sort of see the purpose of that more than I see if you are just walking around with Google Glass application.
Robin:Actually the ones you are talking about for skiers, they are a knockoff of the heads up displays that all of our fighter pilots have nowadays. So they don’t have to glance down at the instrument panel.
Dan:There’s some car manufacturer, I don’t think it is the Chevy Impala although I may be wrong, I can’t think of what displays I’ve seen more of that, but there is someone that wants to put a heads up display, a very detailed heads up display on the windscreen. And that’s great if you don’t mind crashing. I could see that that becomes really useful when a heads up display actually becomes the map and rather than just showing you sort of this cartoon map in a 7” screen, it will show you the big arrow on the big map that’s projected right on your windshield.
Robin:Okay, that sounds useful, although it may be a while before people are able to adapt to it, and believe me, my 80-year-old Florida neighbors, “.Nooo Mamma please nooo”
Dan:No, no, no.
Robin:What I do see however is there’s got to be another killer app for wearable technologies, can you think of one or two?
Dan:If I could think of the specific killer app, I think I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you, I would be out talking to some VC along Sand Hill Road. I kind of look at this stuff the way I looked at computers just before the internet. Individual computers, standalone computers were all sort of interesting, and cool and nice and you could read, write, you could do some interesting data crunching, and that’s all fine and dandy. But technology gets really interesting when you start connecting a billion people to each other.
First what’s going to happen is, we are going to get all the data we are collecting on ourselves in ways that we can manage it and utilize it. That’s just going to be the first big data problem.So I am collecting all this data, what do I do with it? Then the next problem is going to be: How do I connect all my friends and family and analyze that information.The vocal stress at Thanksgiving Dinner, what are the subjects that are sure to set off everyone? Okay, that’s one big data problem.
But things are going to get really cool in 20 years when it is not just me collecting data about, it is not just all my friends who we are collecting data about, but it is our town, it is our country, it is our world. That’s going to be really cool. And that’s going to be transformational. We are in the really early days of that right now.
Robin:We really are going to need to totally revamp our ideas of privacy then, aren’t we?
Dan:Yes and no.I don’t know that this gets into the question of whether aggregated metadata - does anyone care about privacy, does anyone care about the privacy of a billion people? Maybe not so much. Does anyone care about my privacy? Well, I’ll tell you: I sure do.
Robin:Yeah, but when your information is being shared with your kids, your wife, the in-laws and everybody else, it is going to cut your privacy, number 1. And number 2, if anyone of them gets breached including the teenaged girl just seeing too much on Facebook, it is going to breach your privacy.
Dan:It is true. It is true. The more data there is about you out there, the less protection you have from misuse of your data.Maybe this is going to be another way that or maybe this will be the place that we can regrab onto our privacy rights that we managed to lose over the last ten years because no one is paying attention.