chebe: (OnTheVergeOfSomethingWonderful)
I'd be surprised if this hasn't been done before, but as wearables, or at least the knowledge of them existing, becomes more mainstream I find myself increasingly having to explain why I think this or that device won't be a runaway success. I have come up with a taxonomy of sorts, for personal tech.

1) The fad. These are typically novelties, interesting ideas that may lead somewhere, but after an initial burst of interest the current form just doesn't seem to work well for most people. Things like the Segway.

2) Labour-saving. These are the classical improvement in work processes (computers instead of typewriters and filing systems, robotic arms in manufacturing plants), or that free up time domestically (washing machines, dishwashers). These make peoples lives easier, and succeed if relient, and affordable.

3) Filling emotional needs. This is probably one of the harder ones to guess at. Things that often seem like toys end up meeting a need in people that they often didn't know they had. Prime examples are gaming consoles, personal/portable music systems, and cameras. People can get very attached to these devices.

4) Connecting people. Anything that connects people in a practical, meaningful way seems to do well. Perfect examples are the phone, and the mobile phone. Mobile adoption went a bit like this;
"What do you need that for?"
"Okay, use this for emergencies."
"Now, just let me know where you are and when you'll be home."
"I will call you every five minutes."
Smartphones took this successful model and loaded it with emotionally fulfilling functionality like music players, cameras, and games. Make it affordable and how can it not work?

There have always been limits to our tech usage though. Even if we forget it often, we are social creatures. Deeply ingrained in us is that survival itself depends on being part of the group. We end up with a great many social norms, that don't necessarily welcome tech.

Perhaps an example will explain better. The smartphone. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, telling friends and family (and strangers) all over the world about the lunch you just had. Good. Head buried in phone while the person you are having lunch with is largely ignored. Bad. It says, you're less important/less worth talking to than the people on the other end of this device. When the tech becomes an actual barrier between communication, social norms act against it. This is why headphones, saviours from the noisy creep behind you on public transport systems, are not acceptable headwear at the dinner table. Whereas spectacles are perfectly acceptable, even encouraged.

And it's this gulf I think many of the new wearables are falling down. Everyones favourite kicking horse, Google Glass, is the best example. It literally puts a computer between your eyeline and other people. Quite apart from the privacy aspects, this puts you at the same social disadvantage as always checking your watch, and being head-down in phone. I'm not sure if it's the tech, or the social norms, that need to change, long-term. But I do know which one is easier to change short-term.

One of the interesting features of this whole wearables/IoT/big data world is that I may need to add a fifth category; healthcare. While there have been great advances in medicine, surgery, and hospital care, very little of it was consumerable (perhaps spectacles, hearing aids, walking aids, wheelchairs). But will it continue to be a specialised market, or will everyone have a few devices hanging around?

There are a great many questions right now, but it's still largely predictable. I look forward to the next unforeseen development.

Another new re-beginning

2015-Jan-15, Thursday 07:56 pm
chebe: (Default)
Hello. I'm going to blame the lack of posts recently on three things. 1) Being much too busy. 2) Being overly exhausted. And 3) the fact that my phone broke again. I had become overly reliant on it, and so it took all my plans/notes and photos with it.

Well, it's a new year, so there's nothing to be done now but try and learn my lessons from the last twelve months. My number one goal is to stop doing too much. I've spent my spare time the last three-four weeks lying on the sofa, simply unable to do anything. It's not enjoyable.

I'm going to reacquaint myself with my camera, and refuse to be wooed by any future phone that comes into my life.

Otherwise; I'm determined to sew properly this year. I miss it. Making plans doesn't really work out for me, so this year I'm just going to concentrate on knits, and see where it takes me.

Selection of knit sewing patterns strewn about

Selection of knit patterns
Photo by chebe



I've been half following the posts on defining your style. At least, it has gotten me thinking about what I wear, and what I want to wear. I wear separates. I like separates. And layers, many layers. It's a combination of the climate here, and that many moving parts makes it easier to personalise, to mix-and-match for more options. Jeans, tshirts, jumpers (aka sweaters), and an ever increasing number of cardigans, make up my daily staple. And they are all knit (or stretch woven). Comfort is paramount, because no matter how beautiful a gown, if it cuts and pinches I'm never going to wear it.

Art and fashion books open on images with lines and colour palettes I find particularly appealing

Inspirational photos
Photo by chebe



And as far as colour is concerned it's black, black, and even more black. Accented with strong, deep, jewel colours (purple, blue, red, green). Although lately I'm also being drawn towards neon/flourescent shades as well. I suspect wearables/scifi/futurism is taking its toll. Which is an interesting intersection with knits, and comfort fabrics in general. I'm itching to get my hands on some of the newer high-tech (typically sports) fabrics. I do believe clothing can be comfortable and sleek.

So yeah, happy new year.

Outreach

2014-Oct-31, Friday 04:00 pm
chebe: (DarkStare)
Let's talk about why I'm a keen believer (and participant) in tech outreach. It has nothing to do with pipelines of any kind. I resent accusations to the contrary. I'm a believer in education for educations sake, in not altering college courses based on current employers expectations. I'm not that practical. Tech is all around people nowadays, and it will benefit them to understand how it works.

I'm not trying to induct people into a career where there are lots of empty vacancies. I'm trying to show them that they don't need to be afraid of technology, that computers are tools you can master, and to demystify the process of creating software. I simply want people to feel comfortable using technology.

As a bonus, I particularly want to show young women that tech is an option, if they are at all inclined in that direction. That they're not weird/strange to have such interests, that women do work (and play) in this area, and enjoy it. There's a huge difference between saying "hey, this can be fun!" and saying "you will become a programmer/techie, start now". Just because you learn to read, doesn't mean you'll pursue a career as a novelist.

I don't operate under the banner of any of my employers, and being at events sponsored by companies makes me uncomfortable. It means we can have bigger, and better events. But don't mistake that as being a shill for anyone.

In the end I don't (can't) teach, I just try and share my interests. And hope that that's enough.
chebe: (StepIntoTheLight)
I've had my Fitbit flex now for two months. And my usage is starting to drop off. When you first get something like this you want to try out all the features, to see what it can do. The way it's designed means you end up wearing it 24/7. There's progression (you can change your goals), and there's awards (daily and cumulative achievements). You can see graphs of how well/badly you slept. It's fun. But if there's one thing my long history of consumerism has thought me it's that novelty eventually wears off.

Unless you are actively using the device to monitor something, you realise there is little reason to wear it. If you aren't sleeping well, this can possibly help you identify reasons. If you are trying to up your fitness you can continually up your goals. But every so often it needs to be taken off. Sometimes it needs a quick wipe-down, more usually it needs charging. A time will come when you don't put it back on, and don't miss it.

In hindsight this should have been predictable. I wear my flex next to my watch. I only wear my watch when I go out. So I can check the time easily, so I'm not late meeting people, or catching my train. I use it when it has a function. When I'm at home, not doing much, why do I need a pedometer?

It's not just the flex. Usage falloff of wearables in general is about 30% in six months. 50% about 15 months. (Article; Why Wearables Aren't Working Yet.) And that seems right to me. I got beautiful new wireless headphones as a present recently. When using bluetooth they have a wonderful gesture interaction; press to play/pause, double-tap to skip forward/back, and twirl clockwise to increase volume, counter-clockwise to decrease volume. There's also a recorded voice advising you on how to pair the headphones over bluetooth, and alerting you when the battery gets low. They are very well thought-out and a joy to use. But they're just headphones, I only need them to listen to music.

The manufacturers of these really nice pieces of dedicated hardware do try to add extra value. The flex has a silent vibrating alarm. The headphones can be used to take phonecalls. But they're also lacking many features, so both need a smartphone or computer; to collect/generate and display. In one way it's creating this wonderful system, your own personal network. Defined about you, by you, for you and your needs. But it's all external and clunky.

I think the e-textile concept of melting the electronics into the fabric is the way to go. You won't put on a wrist-strap, you'll just put on your coat, or runners, or pjs, or other piece of dedicated clothing you already put on for specific activities. But that raises the interesting question of how they'll all interact with each other. Will they combine in a sort of personal-network to provide the seamless functionality of the 24/7 devices? Rather, will the concept of 24/7 monitoring need to be done away with? Or just extended into your environment as well?

But I suspect there will always be days, like sunny, lazy days by a lake, to leave gaps in the data.
chebe: (DarkStare)
"I don't mind, I have nothing to hide."

It's not about you, you narcissist.

Show me a government free of corruption and greed, unburdened from a history of enacting flawed laws, who never passed religious laws to the persecution of minorities, who never treated any of their people unfairly, unjustly, or unequally, who have never reached for ever more power, and I will show you a government I trust to watch our every move.

Forget about future scenarios (important though that aspect is), think about right now. Think about our ridiculous blasphemy law, about our anti-abortion laws (even while there is risk to the mother's life). Think back a little, to when the EU forced Equality Law upon us, to the battle it was to get divorce legallised (it still requires a four year separation and attempts at reconciliation), contraception was illegal until the 1980s (and nearly impossible to obtain until the 90s). Homosexuality was only decriminalised in the 1990s. The last Magdalene Laundry only closed in 1996.

And that's only our own government.

When we cannot completely trust every single person, we will always have something to hide.

(Apologies, written in exasperation. Recommencing normal operation in 5...4...3...)
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