Stumbling Into the Wearable Media Era

The near future of media is wearable, at least if you watched any of the news coming out of CES. But in the short term, the market will continue experiencing an awkward phase befitting a medium that is not ready for prime time.

Consider the intrusionary nature of Google “Glassholes“, or the many awkward apps developed for bulky and somewhat unfashionable smart watches. The world is stumbling into the wearable media era.

Does that mean content creators should ignore the medium for now? Maybe, but they will also risk losing marketshare to early adopters. What to do about wearables was a primary conversation point for a DC Ad Club presentation (see below) I gave at the Newseum this morning.

There are some clear indicators about what will work with wearable media. But first, let’s talk about the square peg in a round hole syndrome.

Just because you can create an app or put a sensor into something wearable or portable doesn’t make it a hit. Further, what works on another medium, specifically smartphones and tablets doesn’t make for a wearable hit.

Glass showed us that [obvious] wearable cameras are an intrusion. People know they are always under the watch of a surveillance camera. Yet, having a wearable camera thrust upon them created animosity. The video/photography experiment failed here.

Recently, I have been testing a Samsung Gear S watch. I don’t want to watch video on my smartwatch, nor do I want to look at photos, email or social networks. I do like having an independent phone for texting and voice calls on the go. The simple functionality allows me to escape the always on nature of my smartphones.

Then there is the “stick-a-sensor” into anything you wear or use. Many of these sensor-driven apps and their incessant social rankings seem like a waste of time. Consider this: I may not want a sensor in my nail clipper. Nor do I want my nail clipping habits ranked against my peers (yuck – more for you than me!).

Early Indicators

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The first obvious area of success for wearable media is the use of audio media. Consider audio interfacing with programs like Siri or Google Talk, listening to podcasts in varying forms, or simply enjoying music. Audio is the linchpin of wearable media.

Why? Typing and reading on these devices is almost unbearable. And as we have seen with cars and even walking, over engaging portable media can be dangerous.

Podcasts may be the silver bullet of all. Podcasting is enjoying a bit of renaissance thanks to smartphones, tech enabled autos, and other mobile devices. Twenty percent of Americans already listen to at least one podcast a month.

It’s likely that podcasts will reinvent themselves a la YouTube. The standard “I am/we are talking about something important” format is just one way that audio files can be created. A food company could offer simple audible recipes, or someone could post directions on how to tie a windsor knot.

The other key feature for wearable media is usefulness. This is where the contextual media aspect of sensors comes into play.

Check out the top apps for Samsung Gears right now. They include a babysitter app which lets you helicopter back into your house and see your child. One app lets you tally expenses as you shop. And of course there are pedometer uses for training.

Almost all of these apps are low attention types of utilities that help someone on the go maintain their lives. You cannot underestimate how important is for an app to be nonintrusive and yet useful for wearable media devices.

What do you think about wearable tech hype?

How Wearable Computing Helps Me Lose Weight

After exploring the early iterations of wearable computing, I decided to buy the new Nike Fuelband SE. It is interesting walking around with a sensor on my arm. I am actually learning some interesting things about my lifestyle, which help me to lose weight.

But first, let’s discuss the expanding gut problem.

I’ll admit it. I’ve gotten fat over the past year. Ever since I blew my knee out, the pounds have been adding up, and the belt knotches have been slipping. About 25 pounds to be exact.

Now, I was in really good shape before the knee blew out thanks to running the Tough Mudder, BUT, matters have gotten a little out of hand. It is time to reign my waistline in.

Plus I wanted to try out wearable computing. I didn’t like Google Glass when I was given a chance to wear a headset, in large part because I am blind and don’t want to wear contacts. The Galaxy Gear wrist watch is neat in concept, but has some issues.

Then there’s this weight issue. So I decided to go with a wearable fitness sensor, and opted for the new Fuelband SE over Fitbit. I made the choice based aesthetics and Nike’s social community.

Coach Fuelband

Comparison

Yes, Fuelband has a couple of issues, but I really like it. The app (currently only on iPhone) is great, and let’s you log-in special activities. You can see performance, compare with your peers, and set goals. If I want to share online I can.

Within the Nike+ Community I can better gage my performance on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Further, the data is providing insights into my weight problem.

During the period when I was gaining weight, I was on client site four days a week (through October 11). I still go in one day a week, and this week I wore my Fuelband. Guess what? I was so sedentary that my activity level dropped by 50%, even after a 40 minute workout at the facility gym. This showed me how important a couple of 10 minute walks a day are.

Second, I am actually quite activenow that I am not on client site. Yet the pounds are not slipping away as quickly as they have in other times of high level fitness activity. This points to a dietary issue.

Yes, I have been eating too much of Soleil’s mac & cheese, and half-eaten cupcakes, and everything else that she doesn’t eat. Plus we eat much more meat these days than I am used to. Ah, the quest to feed the baby protein. Caitlin admits that generally we could be eating lighter.

I can always ratchet it up a notch on the fitness front, and intend to do so. At the same time, Fuelband is showing me the problem lies elsewhere.

All in all, wearing a sensor on my arm has been less intrusive and much more helpful than I imagined. A big thumbs up for the early generation of what will surely be an evolving mobile computing technology.

Do you wear a Fitbit or Fuelband?