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Automakers think car buyers are in love with slick connected car features, like buying a song you just heard or updating your Facebook status while parking. Not so. More often, drivers and passengers want mainstream features that get them to their destination faster and then find a place to park. The driver’s top five requests today are on-demand real-time traffic information, automated map updates, real-time weather and news, real-time parking spot finder, and driving assessment/coaching.
“This is a defining year for the auto industry [and] the connected vehicle,” said Thilo Koslowski, VP for automotive at the Gartner tech consultancy, speaking at the Consumer Telematics Show in Las Vegas the day before CES opened. “You will see lots of examples [at CES] of the connected vehicle becoming the main innovator of mobile and IOT [Intenet of Things] innovation. It’s about how the car is connected in the future to the other pieces of our daily lives.” This is the Internet of Cars, or IOC.
In spite of the significant backlashthat the Google Glass pilot program generated, Sony is dipping its toe into the augmented reality market. Dubbed “SmartEyeglass,” these hilariously bulky glasses are currently available for pre-order in Germany and the UK. This initial release is only intended for testing and development purposes, but does Sony really expect anyone to go out in public with these ridiculous goggles on?
Just last month, Google stopped selling the “explorer edition” of Google Glass. And while we’ll likely see another iteration on the concept, it’s clear that Google’s implementation was too conspicuous. SmartEyeglass, however, is even worse. The glasses themselves are bulky and odd-looking, but the addition of a large cable and a controller makes this “developer edition” stand out like a sore thumb.
Yesterday, with the simultaneous unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy Gear, Sony SmartWatch 2, and Qualcomm Toq, the smartwatch market was created out of thin air. There are some who will look back on this seminal day and breathlessly say that September 4 2013 was as important as the day that Steve Jobs held aloft the first iPhone. They will say that this was the moment that wearable computing, after decades of dreaming, finally became a reality. Me? I think these smartwatches aren’t smart at all, fall a long way short of actually providing useful wearable computing — and perhaps most terrifyingly, they have created the perfect opportunity for Apple to swoop in and steal the market, creating another iPhone- or iPad-like phenomenon.
What is a smartwatch?
Much in the same way that a smartphone is a smart phone, a smartwatch is a smart wristwatch. A smart wristwatch should fulfill all of the normal wristwatch criteria, and then add some smart functionality on top of that. A wristwatch must be comfortable, highly customizable to suit the wearer, and go for months or years without being recharged. The Gear, SmartWatch 2, and Toq, to put it mildly, are absolutely nothing like wristwatches. They all have noncustomizable straps, they’re all fairly bulky, and all have battery life that can be measured in hours rather than weeks. (See our sister site Geek.com for the full hardware and software specs of the Gear, SmartWatch 2, and Toq.)
At best, these smartwatches are wrist-worn mobile devices — but even then, they are crippled by their “from the future” appearance, limited battery life, and poor wireless connectivity. None of these devices have WiFi connectivity or a cellular modem — they all rely on being paired with a smartphone via Bluetooth for access to the internet or make calls. None of these devices look particularly good on your wrist. Heck, except for the SmartWatch 2, they’re not even splashproof as far as we can tell.
Faced with a lot of recent backlash for its wearable Glass headset, Google has published a list of dos and don’ts for its early Glass Explorers — aka, How To Not Be A Glasshole — and also set about debunking the top 10 Google Glass myths. Both lists highlight one of the biggest issues facing technology at the moment: A growing resistance from the non-technologist public, who are rightfully a bit scared about how hyper-advanced, almost magical technology will impact their society.
Ever since the first round of Glass headsets made their way to Explorers in June 2012, barely a week has gone by without the the press reporting on some kind of “Glasshole” story. These stories nearly always follow the same kind of pattern: Explorer wears Glass while going about his or her everyday life, and then gets into some kind of altercation by going somewhere or doing something that someone else finds objectionable. It’s usually pretty normal, obvious stuff: Wearing Glass while driving, wearing Glass in a locker room, wearing Glass in a counterculture punk bar, etc.
One of the seemingly hottest wearables from one of the biggest names in the business, the Nike Fuelband, isn’t as hot as it might have seemed. Reports claim that Nike is ceasing production of the device, and has fired most of the Fuelband’s staff. Has Nike discovered something about wearables that competitors have yet to realize?
Wearable computing is in purgatory at the moment. Despite Samsung’s big push into smartwatches, you don’t see anyone wearing them on the street, at the grocery store, or even the gym — where they, in theory, are the most useful since they would replace the cumbersome armband phone-straps. Google’s face-based wearable, Glass, is currently struggling with asking a staggering entry fee for a device that doesn’t yet do much, but also makes you look very silly (though the company is attempting to rectify this issue). Fitness bands are perhaps the most prevalent wearable, but they’re generally nothing more than a glorified pedometer, though Razer’s Nabu and Samsung’s Gear Fit attempt advanced (messages, for instance) smartphone integration.
After years of rumors, leaks, and false starts, it seems the stars will finally swing into alignment this fall: Apple is will unveil an iWatch smartwatch alongside a new large-screen iPhone 6 at an event on September 9, according to the latest reports. Presumably the iWatch will also be released to the public alongside the iPhone 6 a week or two later. Previous rumors had pointed to an October unveil for the iWatch, but it seems Apple has moved it forward — possibly in response to the Samsung Gear S, LG G Watch R, and the Moto 360, all of which will be released over the next month or two. Just as the iPhone and iPad popularized the smartphone and tablet, will the arrival of the iWatch signal the beginning of the wearable computing revolution?
Over the last couple of months, Apple’s (AAPL) stock price has been buoyed by Wall Street’s belief that, at long last, a new segment-defining device was on its way. Last week Apple’s stock price finally rose back above its September 2012 peak. It would seem that, after a couple of years of uncertainty — the echo of Steve Jobs’ death, essentially — the stock market finally thinks that Apple is ready to do more than just squeeze its iPhone cash cow for billions of dollars in profits every quarter.
Every CES has at least theme — a dominant technology that vendors and technology companies are talking about, even if it doesn’t take center stage at anyone’s keynote. At CES 2015, one of the most prominent themes has been the Internet of Things, and Intel’s keynote, in which CEO Brian Krzanich plucked a tiny microprocessor off his lapel, couldn’t have captured that trend more adroitly. This new chip, codenamed Curie, is the kind of product Intel is hoping will give it a leg up in thecritical Internet of Things market over the long term.
If you haven’t seen IOT-related topics burning up the headlines at ExtremeTech or other websites, there’s a simple reason why — no one, despite a great deal of collective contemplation, has figured out how to make the concept of a web-connected toaster sing quite a like a new video card or even a major automotive push. Nonetheless, vendors large and small are pushing forward with the idea that various microcontroller-equipped devices will be integral parts of our personal lives in the not-too-distant future.