It was only a few years back when heads would turn at the sight of an earbudded individual shouting loudly and gesticulating wildly to themselves. These brave early adopters were (quite rightly) treated with suspicion at first, but now such psychotic behavior barely raises a brow—hey, at least most still have a human at the other end.
With smartwatches now making some steady inroads to mainstream adoption, we could well be welcoming in a new era of tech interaction awkwardness and oddity to our lives and peripheral vision.
'Arla' is a new wearable / smartwatch accessory concept gracing the pages of Kickstarter this week—with the tantalizing promise of offering a new age of hands-free (erm, kind of...) control for your recently acquired strap-on smart screen. Slipped on under the strap of an intelli-timepiece (as the video below demonstrates) the accessory detects movements in the formarm to effectively turn the fingers into flexing and extending appendages of on-screen sorcery—finally freeing the digits from the arduous task of manipulating micro-GUI whilst sipping a frappuccino or other modern day multi-tasking.
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Whilst part of us is, of course, utterly seduced by the apparent seamlessness of this magical screen manipulation, an equal measure is repelled by the thought of legions of coffee shop inhabiting urbanites (with what our grandparents would take for a severe nervous ticks) flicking their fingers and thumbs at themselves, searching for a cure to their ennui on yet another (yet more effortless!) shimmering glass surface. Ugh...and as if this generation were in need of yet more opportunity for developing next level RSI.
An unfortunate case of Post Traumatic Smartwatch Disorder
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If you're searching through dusty mental archives for previous examples of such hands-free interaction devices, you might be reminded of the muscle reading Myo (the ID of which seems to have developed significantly since our last look) which promised equally Minority Report-esque displays of such things as drone control. Cynics amongst us will note the differing sizes and forearm location of these two devices. We're meeting the Arla with the healthy skepticism that any new Kickstarter wunderkind should receive these days. We'll believe this wizardry when we see it.
Whilst we're on the topic of awkward, semi-dystopian visions of smartwatch near futures—have you seen the new barrage of Apple Watch ads (of course you have, their bloody everywhere). Whilst a lot of the Silicon Valley scenarios and use-cases the spots are pushing on us seem forced (announcing your presence by drawing an arrow on your lover's wristwatch...please) some of them seem decidedly ungraceful. Did you see the jetsetter contorting to scan her on-wrist QR code? Perhaps such scanners will evolve for smartwatch seamlessness and grace. But, what ever happened to near field communication eh?
Sam Dunne is a designer, strategist and writer based in London. Sam is founder of design strategy agency Cohere and Contributing Editor at Core77—reporting broadly on design, technology, food and object culture.