Wearable computing is heating up. Jawbone and Nike are vying for your wrists, Google and Lat Ware want your face, Fitbit owns the hips, and Apple might want to make your shoes smarter. But one of the most intriguing demos I’ve seen, if the footage in the video is to be believed, is the Myo gesture control armband.
It’s an eye-popping demo. The copy on the site reads “unleash your inner Jedi” and you pretty much do look like Obi-Wan using the thing. Which is to say, like a crazy person cosplaying Star Wars in the middle of the street. Adam Lisagor called Google Glass a “Segway for your face” back in April. The Segway was another great idea on paper that failed in part because of human vanity. Segways weren’t cool…you looked like a dork riding one. You’re gonna look like a dork wearing Google Glass. You’re gonna look like a dork unlocking your car with a swipe of your Myo-enabled arm.
But the uncool factor can be overridden in various ways. Nike can make anyone wear anything, especially if it’s packaged like a watch with superpowers. A few years ago, you looked like a dork wearing headphones in public but Apple made it cool. Beats By Dre made wearing huge over-the-ear headphones in public cool a few years later. You look like a dork wearing a Bluetooth headset and talking to yourself, but they are cheap and useful enough that it doesn’t matter. Mobile phone usage in public used to appear very strange…for awhile it was difficult to tell the brokers-in-a-hurry from the mentally unstable homeless folks muttering to themselves.
That’s the challenge for Google Glass and Myo: are these things useful enough and cheap enough to overcome that dork factor or can they somehow be made cool? Because if they aren’t and you can’t, no one wants to be seen using a Nintendo Power Glove in public and no amount of extreme sports dubstep transitions can save you.