Wearable Devices and Information Overload

A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.
Wearable devices are becoming increasingly ubiquitous and unfortunately that introduces a unique set of problems that are still a long ways from being solved.

On any given day, I have several computers somewhere on my person in a variety of form factors. The most visible being Google Glass which I'm almost always either wearing on my face or hanging around my neck. On my wrist you'd likely find a Pebble which replaced my absolutely atrocious Sony smart-watch that I had been wearing previously.

Out of sight in my left pocket you'd find my now aging Samsung Galaxy Nexus which I plan to replace with a Motorola X and a companion Skip later this month. In my right pocket you'd find a clipped Fitbit One which Fitbit graciously replaced for half-price after my two year old Ultra quite literally split in half. You'd probably also find at least one if not two spare batteries for my smartphone because, you know, the Galaxy Nexus running the latest version of Jelly Bean holds a charge for all of four hours.

So the real question now is, do all of these devices benefit me in a meaningful enough way to warrant my carrying them around? The answer of course is yes.

My Fitbit allows me to add additional quantification to my daily routine and I love it for that. My Glass allows me to engage in the world around me in a completely new and intuitive way all without my missing a beat. I'm on my smartphone constantly (much less so since I've been using Glass), but it is still a necessary tool of communication and interaction that needs to be with me. And my Pebble, aside from looking pretty swank, gives me quick notifications in much the same way Glass does albeit at a much more simplistic level.

Despite the many benefits these devices provide, the problem as you may well have guessed is that I'm constantly bombarded by information. Additionally, much of that information is actually duplicated and served to me at different times.

Take for example a scenario where I receive a simple text message. This usually plays out in the following fashion:
  1. While working at my laptop, I receive a text message from a friend
  2. That message first appears via a Chrome notification window a la +MightyText
  3. A second later, that same message appears on my Glass with a small ring in my ear
  4. Another second later, that same message appears on my Pebble with a small vibration
  5. Bizarrely, the last place the message is populated is on the phone in my pocket, usually with a vibration since I almost always have the sound turned off
Now, do I like having the ability to receive a text message in a variety of formats? Absolutely.
But, do I like receiving that same text message in every format at once? Not at all.

While each of these devices and methods of notification are great in their own right, what they lack is a common framework to talk with one another. I don't have the ability to set a preferred device or a central location to mute individual devices easily.

In a perfect world I would be able to set preferred devices based on a variety of criteria. While I was in the car, I'd probably want that text message read aloud to me either via my phone or Glass. While I was working at my computer and with my Glass around my neck, I'd sure like that same message to pop-up in a Chrome notification window. If I was out for a run with my Glass on the charger, then chances are good that I'd like my Pebble to be the conduit by which that text-message was delivered.

Everything I just wrote in the paragraph above is pure fantasy. While the Motorola X takes some steps in the right direction by automatically setting up zones where it acts differently based on what it already knows about you, having the ability for multiple devices to independently prioritize themselves wont happen anytime soon.

Until someone figures out how to serve information across multiple devices and methodologies correctly, annoyance will unfortunately continue to outweigh the promise of convenience these devices offer.

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A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.