Wearable devices are increasingly intended to be worn 24 hours a day. Indeed many watches have programs to measure sleep. With the Apple watch, it’s a challenge to monitor sleep patterns regularly because the watch needs to be on charge for several hours – presumably overnight. So the need for either fast charging, or infinite battery life is clear.
One challenge for the designer is making something that users actually find crucial for the daily activities of life. I contend that telling the time is no longer that important because we all have our phones to hand when we are out – and anyway we are all over-scheduled. Social media, and email already provide distractions of dubious benefit most of the time. After a while they become an irritation.
Even if you have an exercise tracker like FitBit, there clearly comes a point for many people when it is no longer necessary to know how far our how fast you walked, or ran. After a few months you just know. FirBit gets left behind if it no longer serves a valuable purpose.
Objective 1: do something new that is new and clearly valuable – not a new, made-up task to sell more advertising. Then there is some chance it will get used for a long time.
I’d just mention here some work I did on “agenda-benders” and “the frequency and severity of memory failures”.
There’s another challenge for the designer. When a wearable device is taken off, there is a finite chance that it won’t be put back on. You’ are probably distracted and forget. The longer you have it off, the more likely you are to be distracted, and forget. I speak, at the very least, for myself here.
Even if I took off my watch intending to immediately replace it , there is still some finite chance I would be distracted and forget to replace it (It’s a bastard getting old). The longer it is off the more likely I am to be distracted.
My anecdotal studies suggest that for a FitBit with a recharge time of 3 hours, and a battery life of about a week, 50% are discarded after about 6 months. It would be interesting to know how many Apple watches languish in drawers after 6 months.
Objective 2: minimize time off wrist.
I won’t dwell on the killer app right now, but instead focus on the recharge challenge.
It is probably the case that I can’t make a device that will run forever from whatever energy can be scavenged from the human body’s heat of activity. But perhaps…
So can I make a device that you don’t have to take off? What about a device that only has to be taken off for a very short time – before you can be distracted and forget to put it back on.
And then of course there is the infrastructure. People find it very hard to understand that devices lean on each other for support – especially if some of them don’t seem to do much that’s useful. Who on earth remembers to replace the battery in a thermostat until the house freezes, or fries?
In this case the infrastructure are anchors, and they need to be located in places that are not near a source of power. Alternatively the power cord won’t stretch or is ugly. Can we make anchors that don’t need power cords.
So I’d like to try out some power strategies by exploring the options for super-short charging, and or no-charging at all – i.e. scavenging. There is nothing new about this, but I have not seen solutions in this space yet.