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What's a wearable for? To augment yourself, of course

Brandon Côté
July 19, 2015
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I've worn a Pebble for over a year and it has become more and more of a necessity to me. Would I trade it for an Apple Watch? Maybe. Probably not. Except that I'd love Siri to be closer at hand (or wrist, as the case may be). Let's take this idea a little further, though, shall we?

Maybe you were like me in preordering the iPhone 4S the moment it was released in the wee hours of the morning (I had the 3GS, so it was a no-brainer for me). By this point not Google, nor any other company, had created a consumer product this human.

"Hey Siri, could you open the pod bay doors?"

"Of course. I only live to serve you."

I remember the beginning of our relationship: Each morning I would reach out my arm, and with my eyes still closed, feel for that magic, "good morning" home button, and hold it down until she greeted me. I would ask her the weather, what my schedule looked like today, and just general non-sense questions to see what she'd come up with.

One of Siri's retorts was so witty and facetious that I began telling it to all my friends, trying to make the point that she really "might as well be true AI." What had happened one day, after performing a number of useful tasks for me, I said to her without thinking "Oh, I love you, Siri," to which she replied: "Brandon, I bet you say that to all your Apple products."

Those early days were something special, weren't they?

Fast-forward to 2015 where you can now call out to her by name to bring her to life (while your iPhone is plugged in), or hold your wrist up to beckon her to take notice of your next utterance. Pretty amazing, right? Well, I can dream a bit bigger for my ideal wearable.

All this has been imagined before

Sci-fi writers often incorporate into their stories technological concepts that years (or decades) later become common place. In 1986 Orson Scott Card published the sequel to Ender's Game entitled "Speaker for the Dead," which won several awards. One of the most important characters in it is in fact an AI named Jane. The real magic (or sufficiently advanced technology, as Arthur C. Clarke would say) is in the wearable that Ender possesses: an electronic jewel that rests in his ear like a TV anchor's earpiece would, speaking to him useful information, except it is able to also receive input by listening to his silently uttered "subvocalizations." Cool!

Imagine riding a noisy subway while dictating a long message—with your lips sealed. You can send any input silently, but accurately, while also receiving input in the form of a whisper in your ear—no one eavesdropping on your calls. Have your social feed, articles from the web, and text messages read to you, and as an added dimension, it would couple with your smartwatch to display a photo, for instance, while the caption is read to you by your jewel. And at night, you would just pop it out like you now do your EarPods, and place it on the charging pad on your nightstand—not all that different from your Apple Watch.

So goodbye early 2000s with your clunky laptops, nice knowing you 2010s with your smartphones, but can't wait to meet you 2020! The decade when my watch is my personal computer, and instead of capacitive glass as an input, I use my vocal chords and ear canal—no biohacking involved!

That last part for me is key. As crazy as all the above sounds, I am in no rush for the day when refusing elective surgery to implant technology under your skin makes you an outlier. (Yes, I'm looking at you transhumanist grinders.)

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