Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why a Smart Watch isn't Smart for Me (or My Pebble goes Bamm Bamm)

Why a Smart Watch isn't Smart for Me 
or My Pebble goes Bamm Bamm
Well, I thought it was clever...

I still think my Pebble™ watch is one of the coolest pieces of tech gear I ever owned, and I've owned a few.
I was one of the 68,000+ Pebble Kickstarter backers. If I think of it, I'll post a picture of the back of my Pebble so you can see where it says so. Classic. I love collectibles.
So I got my watch in March after waiting, waiting, waiting - which was really okay since the Pebble people were working hard at getting all the details perfected and they kept everyone informed.
Note to Project Managers - keep your stakeholders informed of your milestones.
First of all, let me say that I really love watches. I have no idea why. It might be genetic. My Dad loved watches. My brothers loved watches. My sons love watches (though I don't think my daughter really cares). For a few years I was enamored of pocket watches, though I didn't buy any.
I never bought any expensive watches, but really liked the Swiss Army watch - which is expensive now, but wasn't when I was younger. I liked the military band on it, too.
yes, I owned one like this
For most of my growing-up life I wore a watch of some sort, though it often came off and went into my pocket when I was doing hard labor (yes, boys and girls, I did do hard, outdoor work in my life).
That changed in the early nineties, with the advent of computers. When I started sitting at a computer for long periods of time, the watch irritated my wrist, so I'd take it off while I was typing. Yes, that means my ergonomics are all wrong. Leave it be.
My in-laws gave me a really nice watch for Christmas one year and I wore it for a while. One hot summer day I wore it outside in the chemical plant where I worked. In Houston the summers are brutal. I got overheated and was delighted to come back into my air-conditioned office. I took my watch off and put it on my desk and forgot about it. The watch disappeared.
So I haven't worn a watch in nearly twenty years, up until my Pebble arrived in March. I then, once again, became a daily watch person.
It's amazing how quickly old habits return.
The Pebble is a sweet device. No, it isn't touch-screen. What it does, it does well. The watch communicates with my phone, which, for the most part, stayed in my pocket for months. If an email came in, my watch buzzed. I could glance down and see who it was and dismiss the notification. Same with messages. If I wanted more information I could pull my phone out and look at it, or simply check my mail on the computer (which is where I am most of the day now).
That worked fine at my desk, with the small caveat that my watch band still irritated my wrist a bit.
Oh, and as long as my glasses were on. There's the rub.
When I am working at my computer I wear glasses. It used to be that I could read things at arm's length from me, but my eyes have worsened in the last six years so I need my glasses to read now.
Which mean unless I had my glasses on I couldn't read my Pebble watch.
So I'd know when I received a message or email. My phone would vibrate. My Pebble would vibrate. Sometimes my headset would vibrate. I was doing a lot of vibrating.
Unless my glasses were on I couldn't read my Pebble. I'd squint and sometimes I could tell if it was email or a text message. Sometimes not.
I have to add that the many available watch faces made the Pebble a nice watch. I even changed the screen occasionally just for fun.
Nobody developed any apps for the Pebble that enhanced its usability for me. There are still a few promises for apps out there - the one that works on golf courses, for instance. That's fascinating. One that works for jogging which would prove useful
If I could see my watch.
Ultimately, my smart watch didn't fail me as much as I failed it. A bigger screen for my wrist wouldn't really solve the problem. What could fix it?
Well, they'd have to combine a smart watch with Google Glass and beam the data directly into my eyes when I look at it. I'm not sure how that could be done, but there are a lot of clever people out there and somebody would figure it out.
An expandable screen might work, but it would need to be fast. I'd have to tap it to enlarge it and view it and tap it to restore its size, or give it a three-second (variable) timer to reset itself.
A screen that was wide and extended around my wrist might be okay. It's amazing what we can adapt to, so I think I could learn to read text that flowed vertically to my line of sight. Or I could learn Chinese and do the same thing.
Along the same lines as the Google Glass, perhaps I could flex my wrist and beam the information into my other palm, like a small projector. Yes, I'm using both hands, but my phone stays in my pocket.
I've always thought a wrist device should be able to see and interpret what happens above the screen, at least to a few inches. I should be able to input information by waving the fingers of my other hand above my watch, sort of a magic-incantation version.
For now, though, I gave up on my Pebble and don't really need a smart watch. Though I was excited and pleased to get the watch last March, I haven't really missed it in the last few weeks.
My phone and I do okay without a smart watch to help us.
I still have my headphones, though, and I love those.

Until my hearing goes too.

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