Cool Factor vs Practicality

2 Mar, 2013 | TechTdp

While I largely agree with Jason Kottke's recent article on the MYO armband, I have to disagree with some of it, particularly this statement:

The Segway was another great idea on paper that failed in part because of human vanity. Segways weren't looked like a dork riding one. You're gonna look like a dork wearing Google Glass. You're gonna look like a dork unlocking your car with a swipe of your Myo-enabled arm.

The Segway didn't fail because it was uncool, it failed because it was fundamentally flawed and didn't fulfill a need. Consumers are ruthless, it's one of fundamentals of capitalism.

Launched in 2003, the Segway had a 15 mile range, way too short, and travelled at 12mph, way too slow. Then there was the fact that it cost $3,000 (£4,600 in the UK) which made it far too expensive for any consumer to buy as a bit of fun and it was royally legislated against. The only place you can drive one in the UK is on private property, for example, as it's classed as a powered vehicle but it doesn't pass the requirements to be used on the road.

So what you're left with is a very expensive novelty toy, that's why it failed to sell.

Google Glass has recently been out in the wild, with Sergey Brin spotted wearing it on the subway. Not exactly smooth I'll grant you, but the device is already showing a design improvement from the image in this article. As someone who wears glasses, I'm hoping they can offer a bolt-on version. Most people will just assume its a normal pair of spectacles.

I like the idea of Google Glass and the growing noise coming from smartwatches shows the days of digging a device out of your pocket (whether it be a phone, camera or something else) to stare at a screen are numbered. Being able to call up information instantly certainly has market appeal.

Now imagine Glass doesn't just show you snippets of information but can project cinema-sized screens for watching movies on the go, or for video conferencing, and the devices are designed by Oakley. No more watching those tiny TVs on a plane flight. Who says tech needs to be uncool?

As for the MYO, well the video shows it on display, but it can easily be covered by a sleeve of clothing. If Thalmic Labs are clever they'll allow for 'sleeves' to allow people to customise the look of it anyway, opening up some spin-off revenue. Not that I see it as being a device worn all day, more for specific tasks, as their video shows (great for gesture control in environments where voice won't work and much easier to pick up than any ordinary controller). All of the major consoles now offer gesture control, so the adoption barrier is already being softened up.

Does anyone think walking around staring into a phone screen doesn't look dorky? Yet we all do it.  Glass, the MYO, the Leap Motion Controller and the host of other devices that will hit the market to change the way we interact with computers are going to face a struggle for adoption, especially by the mainstream, but if they can hang around long enough and build links with enough devices, dorky will become the new cool in the same way geek is the new chic.