Good wearable design can actually reduce tech distractions

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Credit: Jakub Mosur

When you think about Google Glass or other wearable devices, it’s easy to write them off as things that pull you away from the real world. That’s understandable. With the constant buzzing of notifications and new contextual information surfacing, such devices could easily be seen as distractions. Are they?

Not really, at least not if they’re designed well, according to Hayes Raffle speaking at the Gigaom Roadmap conference on Wednesday. Raffle, an interaction researcher at [company]Google[/company] [x] — part of the group behind the Glass project — said technology should never compete with the world, which is beautiful.

“The world is the experience, not the technology,” said Raffle, pointing out that devices can’t replace sunsets, puppies and other enjoyable experiences. “That’s why on Google Glass, the information is off to the side, uses the lightest weight font possible and only displays data for as long as it needs to in order to be useful.”

Ideally, then, the technology doesn’t get in the way of life. But does it add more time for us to enjoy the world around us, or are these just more gadgets to steal our attention? It’s the former, said Raffle, because the best user interfaces are designed for micro interactions and quick glances.

In today’s world, we use our smartphones for getting at such information. It’s not quite efficient, though: You have to unlock the handset, find the app or notification you want and consume your content. And it’s far too easy to get lost in your phone.

Hayes noted that what starts out as a quick mail replay suddenly turns into a check of Facebook messages, news headlines, app updates and other distractions. In contrast, contextual information at a glance is a short useful nugget at both the right place and time — and then it’s gone and you can go back to enjoying those sunsets with friends and puppies in the real world.

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