Monday, August 17, 2015

Smartwatch Manifesto

As I mentioned in my previous post I've owned a Pebble Time for a few weeks now which basically makes me an expert on all things smartwatch related (please note the sarcasm). But seriously I do think I have a much better understanding now of what a smartwatch is and should be for. So here's my Smartwatch Manifesto.

A Smartwatch is a companion not the star of the show

What I mean by this is that a smartwatch should help you with some other task, unrelated and uninitiated by the watch (with the one exception of telling time). To prove this I present a simple test. While standing up straight, hold your arm out parallel to the floor for 3 minutes without putting it down. Go do it now. Sucks doesn't it?....

You're obviously not going to be interacting with your watch in that position but that test is to show you that it is unnatural for you to not have your arms at your side or in a sort of resting position. When you initiate doing stuff with your watch it makes you do something unnatural.

The goal of a Smartwatch app should be to get you in and out as quickly as possible

This rule is a direct result of rule #1. The ways that a smartwatch app can enable you to get in and out as quickly as possible are:
  • Present the minimal amount of information on the screen as needed to fulfill the task.
  • Be context aware, and use that context to decrease interaction.
    • For example, if you know the user is running or biking, default to voice control rather than button or touch input.
  • Allow voice interaction to both initiate activities as well as respond to notification.
  • When using voice dictation, validate using audio.
    • You already know audio is okay since I initiated the interaction with voice.
    • It prevents me from having to focus on my watch instead of my primary activity.
    • It helps me get the context someone else will hear/read my statement in.

A Smartwatch needs to enhances communication

Society today communicates via voice, touch, and text. We use different means of communication in different contexts. A smartwatch should enhance communication in the context the user is in. For example; when I'm out and about I will primarily want to respond to things using voice commands as it's easier than having to pay attention to the screen.

For each primary means of communication that the smartwatch enhances the wearer should be able to initiate the communication, see current meta-data about the communication, and respond to or interact with the communication.

Primary means of communication that a smartwatch should enhance include:
    • Phone calls
    • SMS
    • Email
    • Calendar

A Smartwatch allows you to get a glance at meta-data

Minimization of data should the the smartwatch apps goal. The watch has a smaller screen and different input. Therefore it should initially present meta-data and not full data. Allow the user to dig in where appropriate but make that the exception to the rule and not the rule itself.

For example, email meta data should be from, subject, and first line or two. I know the date since it came from a notification, and it was to me or I wouldn't be reading it (even if I was BCC'd the primary purpose is that I read it, and thus it is to me). I should be able to decide from the meta-data whether I want to dig deeper into the full data.

A Smartwatch is context aware

Watch wearers typically wear their watches all the time. The watch should be able to determine the wearers current activity and respond in kind. If I'm moving the watch should be able to determine the difference between walking, running, biking, or traveling by car or plane. If I'm still the watch should be able to determine (using enviornmental and other factors like my calendar) whether I'm asleep, in a meeting, on the couch, or at a movie.

Watch app makers should be able to ask what the context of the user is so that the user is able to interact with the watch in the most appropriate fashion for their current activity. For instance, if I'm biking I should be interacting with the watch primarily through voice and audio playback.

A Smartwatch has a long battery life and is water proof

Watches are cumbersome to put on and take off. Therefore a smartwatch should optimize for not being taken off. This means that it needs to have a long enough battery life that having to charge it is the exception to the rule and not the rule itself. This also means that the watch needs to be waterproof in order to allow me to take a shower or go swimming.

A Smartwatch enables fitness tracking

For a smartwatch to enable fitness tracking it needs to be able to determine the following:
  • Current Activity (walking biking running swimming)
  • stair counts
  • step counts
  • elevation gain/loss
  • heart rate
  • calorie count
  • pace
  • sleep tracking

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