My latest Huffington Post blog post is up. It starts off with me talking about the Tamagotchi in relation to the Spike Jonze movie ‘Her’ and ends with a denouncement of sexism in tech trade shows. I’m pretty confident that the progression makes sense, but I’ll let you decide:
Before Russell T Davies retconned their history so that they were created by Trigger from Only Fools and Horses, the original Cybermen on Doctor Who were humans who’d gone overboard augmenting their bodies with technology. In my vision of the future we’re still emotionless monstrosities, but with unnecessarily-glowing Apple logos embossed on our cold, metallic skin.
JobsCo haven’t quite gotten to the point of delving beneath human flesh, networking your nervous system and linking it to a proprietary port for which you have to buy a separate £39 cable just so you can play your iTunes purchases out of your coccyx. But if rumours that Apple are developing a “smart watch” are to be believed, then I can’t help but think it’s getting sinisterly close to the Apple Geniuses receiving surgical training and AppleCare coming on the NHS (which won’t make it any cheaper, by the way).
If true, which I doubt but I’ve been wrong before, then it would inevitably connect (exclusively) to an iPhone via Bluetooth, have a camera to allow Facetime and be controlled either by a touch-screen or Siri or both. The microphone on the iPhone has never been great, so unless you link a Bluetooth headset to a Bluetooth watch to a Bluetooth phone, you’d have to mutter into your wrist like you’re conspiring with your armhair to overthrow the Illuminati.
They wouldn’t be the first to try and bring out a “smart watch” (though I hope to God that’s not what we end up calling them), LG tried to persuade us that an entire phone strapped onto your carpus was a good idea back in 2009. They made lofty promises of “basic functionality” and “various clock faces” but sadly it never quite caught on. More recently, the Kickstarter-darling “Pebble” watch and Sony’s SmartWatch are at least being realistic by connecting to existing smartphone platforms rather than trying to overthrow the iPhone and Android giants with a concept device more niche than a Josef Fritzl fanclub.
The idea of watch-gadgetry has been around in fiction for a while: Dick Tracy, Secret Squirrel and Power Rangers all famously wore watches with (amongst other things) communicators. Whilst the idea is nifty, it’s always struck me as a prospect that wouldn’t work well in reality. For one thing, modern gadgets (particularly Apple devices) have a notorious scratch-rate and that’s just when it’s in a pocket, imagine what lacerations it’ll emerge with after a day in the open air. Even if you work a desk-job, proximity to coffee, hard-surfaces, blue-sky thinking or (worst of all) clichés would still afford it a scrape or two.
The screen would be so small that working out who’s calling you from the hopelessly-pixelated scaled photo would be like watching a bizarre witness-protection episode of Deal or No Deal. Their position as a highly sought-after device (which the Great Apple Publicity Machine would see to) would be incongruous with their nature as being visible and easily accessible, since it’d be easy for thieves to target people who were sporting one. Wrist-mounted tech seems about as practical to me as a marzipan sledgehammer.
Of course, practicality has never stood in Apple’s way when it comes to selling a product. In much the same way as trainers, mobile phones or regular watches (hereafter referred to as “caveman timepieces”, “Luddite chronometers” or “wrist sundials”), this gadget would be a fashion symbol first and a tool second.
But if people are willing to pay for it on the basis of branding alone, then why shouldn’t Apple take advantage? Though I may regret those words in five year’s time when I’m running down a corridor desperately spraying bullets behind me to escape a swarm of iCyborg and a mechanically resurrected Steve Jobs.
Excruciatingly typed on my new iPad Mini. Happy Christmas.