Our Ambient Glanceable Future is Arriving now

I’ve written about the Pebble Smartwatch a few times now so it should be no secret to existing visitors that I’m a big fan.  At SXSW, I attended the Google Glass presentation and it was there that  the dots really started to connect for me … The key takeaway I found from the Glass presentation was that it’s designed to be transient in nature.  The goal is not to design content units that require longer fixed attention to consume, in fact much of what we saw was designed for either a quick glance or a quick reply.  This is very similar to the Pebble and I believe this really is how things are evolving – and for the better.

This past week I attended the NY Quantified Self Meetup where I shared some thoughts and observations on the current landscape and I see a natural progression to a more lightweight sense of the world around us.  Quantified self technologies are becoming mainstream.  As was noted in a recent QS blog post there are roughly 22 different things you can buy today in an Apple store which fall into the quantified self arena:


Even more recently, Samsung announced quite an array of accessories for the upcoming Galaxy S IV:

Samsung S-Health


As you can in that slide, Samsung has a wrist band, heart rate monitor and scale all designed to be paired with the phone and its accompanying applications and services.  Given the volume of S III Sales (between 30 and 40 MM units to date) I think it’s reasonable to assume the next generation will be met with continued success.  This isn’t about the phone though it’s about the potential for reaching a scaled market with these measurement tools … and importantly how things like this can be played back to the user.

I see a natural progression here.  As people get accustomed to more readily understanding themselves, they are likely to seek a broader understanding and even control of the world around them … and this leads to more connected products and services.  Whether you are tracking your suitcase once it’s been checked, remotely unlocking your front door or even just having a fun family vacation at Disney, connectivity and the value of the data can provide comfort in knowledge or provide access to a higher level of service.

With my Pebble usage as a proxy, I can see how regular bite-size updates, suggested measurement times and general awareness of my world have provided a benefit.  As I noted recently

  1. I love having my phone on permanent silent.
  2. I love being able to quickly glance down to see what’s happening when I get a buzz on my wrist and getting just enough info to know whether I should take action or not.
  3. I love giving more attention back to the people I’m with rather feeling compelled to the phone.

I’m more connected to the world around me.  Literally.  I feel more able to focus in the moment more often.  While I’m certainly still looking to my phone or other screens, it’s with less urgency and I generally know what to expect, what I need to respond to and find few surprises when I unlock the screen.

The next phase of this will be more contextual and we are seeing this evolution in apps already with things like Friday that collect your activities to build a semantic timeline, Tempo and Sunrise adding helpful details like contact info and directions to our calendars, app integration with Foursquare, and Highlight etc.  With a little 3rd party assistance I’m actually getting quite a bit of this (not the iOS apps) pushed onto my Pebble.  As soon as I saw the details of Glass in that SXSW presentation, I saw the connection and got very excited.  Glass represents a very clear opportunity for this to be taken to the next level.  While the Pebble is really a great little device, it’s 1.0 and Glass even in its early state could take the perspective to 2.0.  I’m in no way suggestion or looking for a constant heads up display, but the transient, glanceable datastream on something like Glass seems like it would be incredible empowering.

I just wish I’d submitted a #ifihadglass entry.


3 (more) things to love about the @pebble

  1. I love having my phone on permanent silent.
  2. I love being able to quickly glance down to see what’s happening when I get a buzz on my wrist and getting just enough info to know whether I should take action or not.
  3. I love giving more attention back to the people I’m with rather feeling compelled to the phone.

@pebble a week later…

I thought I’d share some additional thoughts on the Pebble now that I’ve had some real quality time for how it works.  In general I remain really pleased. There are certainly things I would like to see update but given the limited roll this far I’m going some of this is in queue. 

Smart mode shifts – when music is playing,  the default screen should switch to player control vs time.  It’s the likely next section… Right now you have to dig through the menus manually to get to music to even begin the process. 

Better media control – my primary media player is spotify and there is simply no recognition when it’s active. There’s also no resume from the music app as you might expect given the lack of active recognition… Doubletwist works though doggcatcher my current podcast app of choice is also ignored.  Some of this is likely how android works now than the Pebble but it’s lame. 

Date & Calendar – time is nice but having quick access to see the date and access to my calendar would be quite useful.

Message history – get two emails but you can only read one.  If you get a bunch of notifications during a meeting there’s no way to scroll back through.  I find myself moving between meetings quite frequently and this is a perfect use opportunity. 

Quick replies – rejecting a call with a note or replying quickly to a text would be awesome.  Seems easy enough though perhaps the modal shift as  mentioned in my music request needs to be implemented first…

Native apps –  watch faces are just toys.  Where is the augmented display for sport data? The navigation queue from maps etc. The only one I’m aware of is for the Lockitron connected lock. I’ve supported that project as well and look forward to seeing it come to life. 

With that short list out of the way it’s clear that wearable ambient tech as a category is quite real. I love having easy scannable access to my digital world. I find a quick switch to the larger font even solves a quick view in the car. Outside in the cold is another great moment to quickly scan without having to unlock your phone. 

I’m sure smarter devices are coming like the rumored Apple and Samsung products and i will be watching with considerable interest. 

Pebble Activated … with even smarter notifications


My Pebble watch arrived last night and I immediately set it up as I’ve been waiting a long time for it to ship!  Out of the box, it required a quick firmware update which gets sent via your linked phone … in my case the Galaxy Note II.  Pretty straight forward stuff for anyone geeky enough to want a smart watch.

I turned on all the available notices which give you control / notice access to incoming calls, sms messages, calendar reminders, email notifications (exchange, gmail), google talk, google voice, facebook and whatsapp.  Not a bad start, though as noticed earlier in the day by a co-worker, the exchange notification is rather limited simply stating you’ve received a new message rather than offering some context via a subject and preview like Gmail.

A quick search revealed a few options to enhance things.  First, there’s a Tasker profile called Pebble Notifier for capturing notifications and customizing their appearance.   My experience with Tasker has been mixed as I don’t really have the patience to learn the wonky ui even though it’s a rather powerful system. Looking around a bit more I found exactly what I wanted in an app called Augmented Smartwatch Pro.  I believe this app was initially developed for the Sony Smartwatch, but as noted on the developer’s site, it actually can handle quite a few watches with Pebble being the latest and getting some great attention. It’s well worth the few bucks to enhance the watch.

In Augmented Smartwatch Pro, there are a ton of settings to tweak which are generally quite straight forward.  If you have root, you can install sqlite3 on your Android and enhance the Exchange visibility which I’ve done and it’s made the app worth the effort immediately.  Beyond that though I’ve added all the other apps I want to get since you can simply cherry pick from your apps list what you want pushed to the Pebble.  Any app!

This morning has been rather interesting as I’ve had the system working and am loving how infrequently I’ve had to turn the screen on to check the phone.  I may even switch the phone to silent soon to keep it all flowing on the Pebble.  In addition to the screen lighting up on notice, it vibrates quickly too so it’s unlikely you will miss anything happening. All in all, a solid addition to the gadget family.