Key Points

Just porting existing mobile applications from smart phones and tablets is not the answer. Although at first glance, a mobile device such as a smart phone may seem very similar to a wearable device such as Google Glass. However, in the research world we know that in fact the types of applications that truly leverage the constant connectedness of wearable devices and their input/output modalities are quite different from our current selection of mobile applications. Therefore, it is critical to understand how successful wearable computing applications will differ from desktop and mobile software.

Simply building technology is only one part of the equation. Advancements in processors, battery technology, displays, input modalities, wireless networking, etc. have made it possible to deploy wearable systems on an unprecedented scale. However, that is only part of the equation. High tech systems that do not fulfill true user needs will fail. The first step is to glean knowledge from the twenty years of research that has gone into the design of wearable applications and interfaces. The next is to perform the user centered design process for your own application. You can think of wearable applications as a way of augmenting people, giving them “superhero” abilities like seeing the “unseen”, perfect memory, instant understanding of the world around them, the ability to affect physical objects from a great distance, constant rich connections with other people etc. You must focus less on how to shoehorn cool technology into your business and more on how augmenting your workers or consumers would solve existing problems.

Privacy, security, and safety. There are many issues that come with wide deployment of wearable devices that we must develop solutions for. These solutions may involve technology, policy, or societal change. For example, the release of Google Glass has made people aware of the privacy and security concerns that come with ubiquitous and discrete video/audio recording. There are safety concerns about the use of wearable displays when distraction could be dangerous (e.g. driving, crossing the street). We must work to meet the challenges that will arise as these new technologies are paired, for the first time, with millions of users.

It is important to understand the capabilities of specific platforms. There is not one type of wearable platform or application. Wearable systems can range from tiny pico-projectors that augment the world around a user for all to see, to discrete monocular displays such as Glass that can provide relatively low resolution text and imagery, to immersive stereoscopic helmets that fill the users world with virtual graphics. An augmented reality application that would be appropriate for a Vuzix display would be underwhelming on a Google Glass. While, an interface that uses a chording keyboard and eye tracker to increase efficiency in a distribution center would be frustrating to normal consumers. When you are considering exploring wearable applications for your business you must be well informed regarding the strengths and weaknesses of different hardware and software choices.

Right now there is a lack of expertise. In a few years this will change, but currently there are few developers, designers, and UX experts that understand the wearable space. Academic researchers such as those at Georgia Tech can provide crucial insight into how to fully realize the potential of wearable computing

Commercial wearable applications are emerging and now is the time to take action in your business. Google glass has ignited interest in the commercial realm and more technologies from other companies are here or on the horizon. The opportunity to be on the cutting edge of a new computing paradigm is now; The technology is there and the knowledge base is available. The researchers at Georgia Tech can provide the insight and expertise you need to bootstrap your own wearable initiatives.