Wearables might make us live more in the moment

I had a discussion with a friend this morning about wearables. I was waiting for a civic meeting to start — the Beacon Democratic Committee — and he asked me if wearables would catch on, and how would they be different from smartphones or tablets.

I started by waving my hands for a few sentences about the impacts that companion devices (smartphones and tablets) have had because they are always with us, even more so that laptops had been. They allowed us to remain connected and to be interruptible everywhere we go. And that our conventions of interaction have shifted, so that it has become normal to see two people having dinner in a restaurant with both looking at their phones instead of each other, like I saw last night at the local Indian restaurant.

Then it occurred to me that there is one specific way, a modality of use, where wearable might offer us something new, not just another tiny screen strapped to our arm.

What if wearables took advantage of the difference in status when we are looking at other devices or not, and where we are located. For example, presumably there is (or could be) a way to know whether my iPhone, iPad, or Macbook Air was on, and not sleeping. If I am in a client’s office with no other device on the logic on my iWatch (Siri?) might determine that I am probably in a meeting, so I don’t want to be interrupted by a call or text unless it is an emergency from one of a short list of people. Likewise, in a restaurant, similar rules could apply. However, if I am walking down the street, I may want to have the iWatch ring, and take calls, unless I have the mute on. When I am sitting at my desk with my laptop on, the iWatch might be running against a different set or rules, or roles.

My hope is that smart wearables would allow us all, the members of the connectome, to more easily carve out small segments of time where we can minimize multitasking by smart filters, and therefore feel certain that we won’t be FOMOed by leaving the iPhone in your backpack.

It’s important to understand the difference between this and disconnecting. This is remaining connected, but cutting the aperture way down, and relying on AI to interrupt. This is a new mode of connection, one that allows more focus on what’s in the foreground because there’s more smarts operating in the background.