Google just announced some major updates to its Android Wear operating system, including the ability to tether to your Android handset over wifi instead of bluetooth, some new wrist gestures guaranteed to put you on TSA’s watch list, and a redesign of the way that apps are accessed and used, including a feature that let’s apps keep the screen on by default, something great for runners, especially for distances less than a mile given the battery life impact. All-in-all it looks more like a collection of technology “coulds” rather than any coherent view of what you “should” use Android Wear to augment your life in compelling ways.
The shift in app navigation at least acknowledges a complaint we’ve seen surface over and over again with consumers. Something I referred to at my keynote at Wearables Techcon as the “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” problem: the incessant need to swipe your way to the app/feature/photo you want ensures endless hours of pawing at your wrist like a dog begging to be let out.
There has to be a better way to navigate wearable devices…
Apple would have us ignore the last 8 years of training that a light touch on your iPhone was enough to control the known universe, and instead has introduced ForceTap on the Apple Watch. Apple has improved upon the one dimension of Android Wear’s Row Row Row your way through screens and instead would have us scrub through a constellation of application icons, the only way to activate one is by ensuring the desired app is in the center and then executing that new party trick, a Force Tap. The light taps so cleverly used on our touchscreens and touchpads alike ensure the object of desire is obscured only for an instant while you get along with your life. ForceTap requires you to add an extra step with a grunt for flourish as you dwell over the very thing you want to see. Sure, ForceTap promises to virtually eliminate the accidental activation that kept you from three stars on level 97 on Angry Birds Star Wars, but it is the equivalent of telling the Google Car to drive where you can’t see.
We’ve seen some technology that points towards a future where wearables react to our intent rather than continued pawing in one or two dimensions on the surface. It’s coming, soon, but I can’t reveal it just yet.
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