Our Wearable Future

At the risk of being labelled "so last year", for my first entry I want to look back at an exciting wearable vision. In 2015 Microsoft showed signs of a return to form with well received releases of Office 365, Windows 10 and their second generation fitness band. For me however it was their ‘Productivity future vision’ video that really caught the eye, along with over one million other viewers. I believe that Microsoft has seen the future of the World’s greatest ever electronic device - the smartphone.

In the video, at 3:13 a woman is shown wearing what appears to be a couple of bracelets made out of organic materials. Moments later, with a flick of her wrist the two bracelets are snapped together together to make one device. The entire outer surface of the integrated bracelet then changes into what is apparently a display for a smart bracelet. The display shows a picture message with an invitation, which the woman accepts by rotating her wrist and flicking her fingers. After a short cycle ride she arrives at an office and uses the bracelet to authorize her entry. Once inside she removes the bracelet whereupon it changes into a slate format which is reminiscent of today’s smartphone with a larger than usual aspect ratio. There are a couple of points to be made about the video and in particular about what might be called a wearable smartphone.

Firstly it implicitly recognises, that form does not always follow function. As Ben Thomson at Stratechery pointed out, for wearables, the opposite is the case because most people will only wear something that is in their eyes beautiful or at least presentable. In general the form of the wearable should be determined first and then the function. Thus the organic appearance and shape of the smart bracelets complement the woman’s attire in a natural way. Prior to the joining of the bracelets, there doesn't appear to be a lump of technology on her wrist.

Secondly the device significantly increases the utility for the wearer by integrating the functions of a conventional smartphone and smart bracelet. Note however that the 'oh so familiar' slate format can easily be obtained when desired. This is reminiscent of the way Apple so brilliantly integrated music, phone & browser functionality into the daddy of all smartphones. The user's life is simultaneously simplified and enriched.     

I believe that Microsoft has seen the future of the smartphone and its future is wearable. Of course it is all very well having the vision. Can such a vision be realised in the near future? Apart from the way two displays appeared to join seamlessly, yes it can!

Mark Catchpole              First published on 11th February 2016         All rights reserved

Mark is a wearable technology consultant with Wearable Consultants based in Cambridge, UK. Please get in touch via mark@wearableconsultants.com