WIRED’s article on Wearable Computers being the next big thing got us talking about whether wearables were indeed what the future had ordered. When I was researching for the MSR Design Expo submission last year, I came across the fact that life-logging has been present since the early 1980’s. Pioneered by Steve Mann, who went on to found the Wearable Computing group in the MIT Media Lab, this was the beginning of wearable computing.
The start was almost 30 years ago and an idea ahead of its time. Today social media is brimming with people posting their day to day lives. Some do so with caution and a slew of new networks like Snapchat have risen to the occasion. Facebook has replaced my regular emails and Twitter my newspaper. To me, this is prime time for the rise of the wearable device. Smartphones with their multipurpose apps own the current era but they have that one fatal flaw; as Thad Starner, the technical lead of Google Glass and who spent nearly two decades wearing a wearable device, points out: “If you can’t get to a tool within two seconds your use of it goes down exponentially.” Wearables will be able to fix this gap. Already people are at work hacking this readily available tech for their advantage. Use cases like Patrick Jackson‘s fire fighting apps or Recon Instruments‘ sports training enabling devices are where I see the potential of these devices. Just the other day, I was part of a conversation where we were discussing which fitness device is a better buy. I think this should signal that wearable devices are very much a part of our future. This said, I don’t really like the idea behind Google Glass for “everybody”. Although designed with the core idea of reducing the time between their intention to do a task and their ability to perform that task, it does give the impression of not being there in the moment. I think the problem here is the obsession that people have with devices and services. Very often the human becomes the slave. Even though you seem to have access to capture every moment of your life today, how much of you remember living it?
I don’t think I will ever abandon the physical book for a digital one in the long run. Granted that when travelling, an ebook reader makes more sense than a suitcase of books but it’s not the same thing when you want to curl up and read it in leisure at home. I bought a tablet last year to read ebooks while on the go but since then I’ve read less digital books than the fingers on one of my hands. I somehow find the act of reading an ebook cumbersome. First of all, there’s the trouble with powering/charging up the device. Ebook readers that I am aware of just do not seem to replicate the size of the book or the number of pages accurately. To me, the physicalness of the book is something very intimate to the experience of reading. With the move to the digital, this gets lost. Further more, I am often distracted trying to keep a track of the number of pages I finished reading on the digital book but I hardly bother doing so when reading a book. Coffee table sized books look bad on a 7 inch screen and their non-existent weight makes me feel disconnected. Searching through the book is probably easier but where you once used your memory you now end up resorting to a dumb search to find that elusive sentence. Bookstores are slowly disappearing and don’t even get me started on new book smells. The physical book is truly a wholesome sensory experience and sorry technology, but you are not there yet.
Its 2012, startups are making big bucks. You are studying engineering and have dreams of someday coding the next Big thing and when placements happen you happily jump towards the big IT companies who usually come first. Well if being a “rockstar” or a “ninja” is what you crave, then you are going down the wrong path, my friend.
What happens when you join a big company is that they see you as a raw material, ready to be moulded as they desire but you obviously have other plans. Before you know it, you will be branched into streams and your “rockstar” career may just go up in smoke. There is no measurement of aptitude for the job just seemingly random distribution into the various streams. This is the easiest way of tackling with the ‘how to split these people’ problem. Academics play an important role in this filtering. So there you are , getting trained in a technology that is either boring or getting obsolete by the year and your passion for the profession is slowly being sucked out of you. Once you are done with the “training”, you get allotted to sections of the company and your IT career begins. You normally start being a team member, answering to seniors and initiated into the project. Appraisals happen and your pay increases by a measly amount every year and you dream of going “onsite”. You are no longer a “ninja” and most probably are cozy in this simple life. If thats how you want to end, well my friend, all the best. But if you really want to be somebody step outside the mould, live life, take risks, code a side project, learn what you want, get enlightened, dream big, execute ideas and be honest to yourself. We are all unique, we are not assembled. Today’s freshers are more likely to revolt atleast that’s what i see around me. Attrition rates are quite growing. Consider this, for every 100 new freshers joining , approximately 60-70 experienced people are leaving IT companies. This results in a vacuum of middle leadership and thats why companies recruit all year long. Most people leave because they are unhappy at their current job. In a recent survey conducted by Karthik, the results seem to confirm what we already deduced. 25% every morning, don’t look forward to go to work. 34% feel their work is mundane, and not challenging. 20% feel that there is no clarity in the work and process. 45% are currently planning to change jobs and 75% are in their first jobs! Alarming statistics actually.
If you fall in the unhappy lot, then well i suggest its time you sat back and reflected on where you are headed and decide if thats the road that you want to take.
P.S. This was meant to be part of a bigger post which i abandoned because i got busy with work and the transition from work to college life again. I currently am studying ‘Information and Interface Design’ at the National Institute of Design, Bangalore. I wrote this post out of frustration and it was based on the real life situation around me at that time.
I really have kept this post pending for quite sometime and some one had to poke me out of my stupor. So UXnext was the UX Conference held in Chennai on 16th July 2011 at IIT Madras Research Park. This was being organised by the RIA-RUI community. Now just a couple of months back i had heard about HCI(Human Computer Interaction) courses for M.S. and when this event came along i thought it would be the best thing to get a perspective about user experience and a career in it.
Believe me, i came back presently surprised and inspired from the event. Apart from the fact that i won a Antetype License worth $289, it was the realization of how much interesting the job would be. I learnt what designing is all about, how the industry works, what are the various jobs available and also found out about courses worth considering for higher studies.
UX is an essential thing in today’s world. Everything you look around you has a reason behind its design. Take the mineral water bottle for instance., there is a reason its like that. Innovation is the key to market a product. The little things you add to a product like the way Apple does, adds value to it and a happy customer is what companies should look at. The way a product looks is key to it being popular, Ideas are powerful and dictate whether the product will survive or not. People are fickle and they need to be shown that they are given more value for money and that is exactly why UX is important. Attending this conference did help me a lot in understanding UX and consolidating my decision of higher studies in the field.