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Apple's Next Market: Your Body

A voice-activated command-and-control center for the quantified self? Get in line now for your iWatch

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Forget about cyborg clumsiness. Technology writer Farhad Manjoo suggests that iWatches and Google glasses could act as social lubricants, serving as tools that smooth over the rude social interactions so common in the smartphone era. Instead of fumbling in your pocket to check whether that chime signifies a call or email or text that you must pay attention to, you could just flick a glance at your wrist to evaluate your various notifications. By moving away from the phone interface, Manjoo suggests we could focus more sharply on the present. ““One of the key points here,” Thad Starner told Manjoo, “is that we’re trying to make mobile systems that help the user pay more attention to the real world as opposed to retreating from it.”

“During my hour-long conversation with Starner,” writes Manjoo, “he was constantly pulling up notes and conducting Web searches on his glasses, but I didn’t notice anything amiss. To an outside observer, he would have seemed far less distracted than I was. ‘One of the coolest things is that this makes me more socially graceful,’ he says.”

Beware of socially graceful geeks! They will be unstoppable.

I suspect, however, that the real iWatch market opportunity is for the device to become the most powerful fitness tracker/health monitor we’ve yet seen. Think of the iWatch as the voice-activated command-and-control center for the Quantified Self , a clearinghouse where the data that defines you physically is gathered, stored and crunched. An iWatch could monitor all your jogs and rides and workouts, update you on calories expended, even keep an eye on your heart rate. And you can text on it and check ESPN scores too!

It would be foolish to underestimate how influential a fitness tracking device with the design sensibility of the iPhone could be. Data feedback influences our behavior — if it didn’t (or if we didn’t think it did), there wouldn’t be much of a market for bathroom scales. By the way, I’m betting the iWatch would be able to talk to my bathroom scales via Bluetooth, and generate constantly updated-in-real-time fitness plans for me based on every pound gained or lost.

If an iWatch looks cool and helps us lose weight, Apple’s going to move a lot of units. We’ve got no problem with incorporating technology into our bodies that results in self-improvement. The first person to don reading glasses made that bargain and we’ve never looked back. The promise of smart technology — of smartphones or smartwatches or smart glasses — is that it promises to ameliorate defects of the mind — bad habits — instead of defects of the body.

That’s no guarantee of success, but then again, a lot of people own bathroom scales and still carry some extra pounds.

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. Follow him on Twitter: @koxinga21

 
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