I bought my first Mac laptop back in 1994 just before I came to Estonia and I thought it was pretty cool. Just think! I could actually carry data around! Now that very cool laptop is just a door stop. Compared to my Ipad, the thing looks like it came from another century … errr … actually, it did. And I understand that the Ipad air will soon make my Ipad feel like a brick.
As these changes happened, I pretty much took them for granted. They were fun, but not that big a deal. I was frustrated, for example, that my laptop battery didn’t last that long. And what happened to my data when my hard disk crashed? And while I am at it, my Ipad doesn’t synch with my PC skype all that well. In other words, during the change process, I remained less than thrilled by the results that I got. It was cool, but the results each step along the way did not seem to be world changing.
But when you take the broader view and think about where we just were and where we are now, it is pretty amazing. Not just because of the technological advances. But by the added value that the advance provides … that I pretty much take for granted. Bill Gates was right. We tend to over-estimate the changes that technology can bring about in the short run (so we get grumpy about smartphone battery life) and under-estimate what it will do in the long run (so we forget that not too long ago, you could not watch any movie you want in your mobile device in the bus … or if you don’t have one, select one of the movies that the bus provides on the seatback in front of you).
So when I think about wearable technology, I am pretty open minded. Sure Google glasses look pretty dorky. And it is true that no one really knows what smart watches should do. And I definitely don’t want a computer in my underpants … errr … don’t I?
Here is the cool thing. Step by step, we are opening up to more imaginative thinking about using capacity and talking about it. Like what wearables can do to upgrade health provision. And as we do so, we stretch our imaginations. In turn, this speeds up the rate of take over of new capacity.
Consider Fred Wilson’s questioning post today about whether we will see smart health care diagnosis devices or if all of our health care diagnosis needs will be met via smart phone app. He writes
This … makes me wonder about the health care diagnostic sector. Will I be able to take my blood pressure, blood chemistry, xray, cat scan, MRI, on my phone? Those last ones are kind of crazy, I know, but I am just asking the question to make a point. Will healthcare diagnostics go the way of the compass, the flashlight, and the game console?
Fred has a real concern here because as a VC, he has to pick “winners” - the technologies that will prevail. If he invests heavily in app developers for smart phones and smart diagnostic devices prevail, ooops. Like a pebble smart watch? So it is pretty interesting that he poses the question publicly to help him understand it better. Get the idea? These days, chit chat makes the world go round.
The first time a saw a mobile GPS locator, I was pretty amazed. You mean you don’t need directions or a map?!! Now, I wonder why I can’t talk to it. So I like to imagine walking around the food store while my wearable avatar is having multiple conversations with the food products on the shelves, and correlating that with my favorite recipes and diet. As it does so, it gives me advice on what is happening around me in terms of price, quality and availability as well as ideas for what I could make for dinner. And of course, as I cook and eat, my avatar is updating its data base about what I liked and what I may want over the next week and month. It may also be roaming the internet to connect with fun media related to this stuff, that it formats so that I can peruse it over coffee in the morning.
Wearable cookbooks? Well, sort of, but much, much more. Pretty cool.
FOLLOW UP - There is a parallel trend that we should keep an eye on too. That is remote presence. If I have incredible expertise in a given area, why shouldn’t I serve a global market? The answer to date has been that I would have to fly around all the time - uggh. Who wants to do that? Well some folks do, but most of us say “no thanks”. It certainly would be easier if experts could “beam around” a la Star Trek. Dream on, right?
But what if these experts could be where their intervention is needed without traveling at all? Doctors can do that now via robots, which I find pretty amazing. Indeed, they can even perform surgery this way. One of my family members had a remote surgical procedure just last year. Again, this is up there on the “pretty amazing” scale, soon to be taken for granted.
Sounds great already, but keep in mind that we are just getting started in this area. We need better tools to understand (1) how to develop data streams that experts need to give useful input in a timely manner, (2) how to deliver the expertise locally at a reasonable cost, and (3) how to provide reasonable follow up to the expert intervention - including building a data base of what was needed, what worked and what we need to learn.
Notice that the above three needs relate to fueling our avatar expertise as well as the value of intervention by human experts. For me, this synergy is very important. And over time, the better we get at avatar intervention, the higher the levels we will expect from flesh and blood expert intervention. This applies most intuitively in doing stuff better like medical diagnostics and surgery. But here is a wild idea — it applies to problem solving too.
BTW, we generate new challenges when we use the above processes. For example, what if our online risk calculator for health diagnosis is not accurate? NYT discusses this real world issue. Before we start complaining too much, though, consider that this type of blip is part of the learning curve - for this problem and for system development.