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Restart Radio: A second wave of “wearables” for consumers?

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After the infamous failure of Google Glass, it seemed that people were still unconvinced about the idea of wearable technology. Videos taken with Google Glass show confused and suspicious faces peering at the wearer, trying to discern how they are being seen, by whom, and how this information was being stored. To many people, something about the project seemed fundamentally creepy.

But recently, a wave of new wearables on the market are attracting attention. It seems that designers and manufacturers are finally putting some thought into the kind of things people might actually want to wear on their person, and how they might usefully fit into our daily lives.

On today’s episode, Janet is joined by Restart volunteer David Méry to talk about some recent examples of wearables, and the problems and opportunities they present.

Snapchat recently launched its new ‘Spectacles’ in the UK, which look like regular sunglasses and record short videos. This is the App’s first piece of hardware, and shows that the line between business models based on data and those based on hardware is increasingly blurred. The decision to sell the Spectacles out of a vending machine has been a large part of the hype surrounding the launch; but it points to a worrying potential direction for wearable technology more broadly. Are we going to see the next wave of gadgets become as disposable as an empty soda can?

We talk about some other projects that show more promise: a denim jacket that allows cyclists to be connected as they move around, a new smartwatch that isn’t just a mini-tablet, and potential applications for people with accessibility requirements.

We also talk about some of the privacy and security issues wearable technology can raise.

The move away from screen-based interfaces is exciting. But it’s clear that if wearables that are going to develop in genuinely useful and interesting ways, we need to make sure that the software support is in place to ensure they can be used safely into the future. We know from our Restart Parties that repair is no longer just about broken hardware; it is also about up to date software. And with the potentially widespread use of internal wearable devices for medical purposes, this quickly becomes not just an ethical dilemma, but a matter of life or death.

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[Image by Flickr user Anthony Quintano]

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