Question: what do Instagram images of breakfast, your friend’s Runkeeper jogging stats on Facebook and cat videos on YouTube have in common? Answer: they’re all about people sharing elements of their lives for others to see. Whether it’s for bragging rights, genuine goodwill or just because it makes us feel good, we want everyone to know what we’re up to (even when it’s sometimes better if they didn’t). Over the past few years, it’s become easier for us to share, thanks to the rise of social media and, more recently, the ability to access social networks through smartphones and other mobile devices. However, something new is on the horizon of communications technology: wearables. Wearable tech not only knows what we are doing, but can broadcast it to the world with minimal effort on our part. Devices like Android and Apple smartwatches, and the king of them all, Google Glass, are taking charge in a new era of sharing.
The justification for sharing can be broken down into one slightly obnoxious but relatable phrase that we’ve all probably heard or used – “pics or it didn’t happen.” With current technologies, this translates into lots of time looking at a smartphone screen and away from what’s going on. People are constantly working to strike a balance between being in the moment and sharing it on social media. Acknowledging this familiar scenario, the band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs recently asked their fans to “not watch the show through a screen” at their concerts.
SmartWatches: Social Sharing of Today (Almost)
While concepts of smartwatches have been around for decades, they had not truly materialized until last year. In 2013, a smartwatch named Pebble was introduced to the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. While inventor Eric Migicovsky initially aimed to raise $100,000 to get the project off the ground, the Kickstarter was bombarded with donations- over $10M worth- making it one of the highest earners in Kickstarter history. The need for wearable, shareable tech was unmet, and Pebble rose up in a timely manner.
Big companies have since taken notice, and have recently made moves to earn a slice of the market for themselves. As prime examples of the budding sharing revolution, Google and Android have already claimed their spots as mainstream smartwatch frontrunners.
At this year’s Google I/O conference, Google announced its first smartwatch platform, Android Wear, and hardware makers LG and Samsung each created their own iterations of the smart device, which include voice-enabled features such as search and texting.
This first generation of technology might look clunky and have unwieldy features, but Google’s smartwatches have enough sharing options to make the chronic oversharer drool. Riding the wave of health quantification, the device is expected to tie in to an upcoming service called Google Fit, and currently features a heart-rate monitor. That’s right – with just a few taps to share, your friends can check up on your arrhythmia. If this is TMI for your taste, there are bucket loads of apps dedicated to location-sharing social media – and if this is still too much private information, there’s always Pinterest.
While Apple has kept its lips sealed about their smartwatch release, there is reason to believe that they are thinking on the same page as Android. Apple recently released features and programs at WWDC this year that are similar to Google Fit. This includes Apple Healthkit for tracking (and sharing) health progress, which will likely make an appearance on their future smartwatch.
Google Glass: Social Sharing of Tomorrow
Although it is prohibitively expensive for most at $1,500, Google Glass is one of the most immersive options to bring wearable sharing to the forefront of reality. Glass takes the handwork out of capturing moments with features like voice commands, which enable pictures and videos to be taken instantaneously – no smartphone necessary. Other features, such as the ability to live-stream first-person video and share content on popular social networks seamlessly, have also helped Glass earn its place as “the most sought-after toy in all of geekdom.”
As both creators and consumers of content, there is no question that we can expect the amount of shared content to skyrocket when (and if) Google Glass reaches ubiquity. This will probably come in the form of an avalanche of cat videos alongside a smaller proportion of “useful” content.
The future of sharing isn’t quite here, but it’s extremely close. Smartwatches and Google Glass will likely pave the way for other immersive sharing technologies that are currently beyond imagination. While capturing and sharing a moment can be a surprisingly laborious task today, it could be as simple as breathing tomorrow.
–Melanie Katz, Summer 2014 Intern