Watches as ambient technology

by Konstantin Weiss on October 5, 2018

During my years in #switzerland it took me some time to realize what role a #watch may play. As a dilettante to watches, I used to think that watches are just there for time keeping. Only after years I realized, that they are in fact one of few things a guy can use as a socially accepted #fashion statement. And then, the wrist #tracking devices and time keepers came up, turning the wrist into yet another interface between us and hightech.

In his recent article, my friend #azumbrunnen provides some history context on watches up to the state of the #smartwatch like the #applewatch.

Here are the stages Adrian talks about:

  • time keeping (British watches)
  • style (Swiss mechanical wrist watches)
  • fashion statement (Swatch, plastic)
  • device for the quantifiable self / health (Apple Watch)

Makes sense to me. And if that’s true, with every new stage, I believe that some of the old quality is inherited. The stylish watches of the Swiss were still precise-enough time keeping devices. The fashion statement Swatch watches were still stylish, the smart watches are still a fashion statement.

So I find it exciting to see how we continue to enhance and extend our body. Does anyone remember #cyberpunk as a role playing game? It included a compelling concept that the more you extend and replace your biological body with machines, the more you lose humane aspects like empathy. The soul may shrink, giving you vast powers of the connected, machine-powered self in return.

That may sound familiar, seeing 12-year-olds behaving like 8-year-olds, having trouble to put themselves into the shoes of others. Yet, we will need #ambienttech. We will need technology that will blend with our bodily perception of information, like feeling a breeze on our skin and grabbing the jacket without thinking too much about it. ‘Cause the last thing we need are more devices which shout out for our #attention . We need ambient devices to deal with the increasing #information density, and a #wearable like the #applewatch can be of help.

The question is: what are we going to use it for? E.g. can we use it to teach ourselves about our fathers' and mothers' #health, connecting them back to us? We could thus bridge the physical distance that did not exist in the past centuries, when generations lived together. Or can we use it to teach us about the consequences of #climatchange ? E.g. could such ambient tech teach us how temperature used to be vs. what happens today? In any case, exciting times.