Healthier Ways To Use Smartphone Tech.
Updated: Mar 31
If smartphones are the problem, what’s the solution?
In the previous post, we looked at the haphazard evolution of current smartphone technology, and how it consequently fails to meet our needs.
So let's consider the alternatives. If we’re brave enough to throw our smartphones out of the window**, what do we replace them with? For a while, we’ve been hooked on the principle that we should “stay connected” at all times. Is that necessary? How much of our eye/hand focus should we be expending on a technological interface? How do we achieve the connectivity we need without compromising our overall awareness of the world we move in?
Augmented Reality (AR)
For a while, augmented reality seemed like the natural next step. Rather than looking down at a screen, relevant information could be laid over your view of the world. This looks like a great idea in science fiction films of the 1980s, from Aliens to RoboCop.
Unfortunately, in the 2010s wearable devices have thus far proved cumbersome. They interfere too much with normal interaction, both physically and socially (RIP, Google Glass). The consumer technology fell behind the innovators' ambition. Unless you’re in the military or another occupation where wearing a helmet and visor is normal, no one wants electronics bouncing around their faces. Besides, how does sticking a slightly smaller screen even closer to your eyes solve any of the issues we’ve highlighted?
Eyewitness Testimony is Essentially Flawed
The screens need to go because they’re awkward and because they don’t play to our strengths as a species. Although we like to think of ourselves as visual creatures, we’re not actually very good at processing multiple streams of information through our visual cortex. Remember the gorilla video? Our visual attention is very selective. Our eye/brain connection is a narrow bandwidth receiver designed explicitly to filter out superfluous information. We can only focus on one priority at a time. That’s why you don’t text and drive kids!
Ears > Eyes
The auditory system on the other hand, is a far superior conduit for data processing. The human ear is a marvel of engineering. The pinnae (the fleshy parts on the outside of your head are designed to funnel sounds of a certain pitch (i.e. human speech) into your inner ear, where the sound waves are transformed into electrical signals. Then, your nerves transmit these signals to your brain, where they’re decoded. Your ear and your brain, working together, sort, decode, and respond to many different streams of sound waves at once. You’re perfectly capable of listening to music while having a conversation and keeping track of a boiling kettle, and additionally monitoring your children playing outside. In the middle of all this, the doorbell rings! Not a problem. You can respond without shutting off any of the other information streams.
The human ear naturally gives us a frictionless way of interacting with the outside world. So, until we have the technology to transmit data directly into the brain, it makes far more sense for us to be using our ears. That's what they’re for! Audio-Based Augmented Reality is a more elegant solution than anything that requires the full attention of our visual cortex.
Headphones as we know them were developed in tandem with the telephone, as a way of concentrating the sounds that early telephone receivers made so operators could hear what was going on. The basic design hasn’t changed since the 1890s. The main function of conventional headphones is to bypass the elegant shape of the pinnae and channel sound from a single source towards your inner ear. They work against the wonderful complexity of the human ear, not with it. Headphones are great when you want to block the world out, but they’re not safe enough or comfortable enough to wear all day. And they only let you access a single source of audio information. When we toss our smartphones out of the window, we should probably toss our headphones and earbuds too.**
So where does that leave us?
We decided that the best solution to the problems presented by the smartphone was a device that augmented reality via sound, rather than a visual overlay. A wearable you can listen to, in other words, a "Hearable". This is what HY is.
Hy is not a set of headphones. If we want to tune out and listen to music, headphones are great. If we want to go about our day, connected with voice controlled access to the internet, we need a Wearable Voice Assistant, one which sits close to our ear without blocking ambient sound.
Think about what that means for a moment. Instead of tapping at a black mirror, closed off to the rest of the world, you’ll be taking guidance from a voice in your ear. Think about how that frees up your body, especially your eyes and hands. You’ll be able to keep moving – safely. Think about how it will change the way you react, process, choose. Different, right? It’s going to take a lot of getting used to. It’s a major paradigm shift. But one we at Zokuare gladly bringing to you. It’s a new decade. Time to cast the limitations of old tech aside.
The next post looks at forecasts for the hearable market over the next few years. Do you think you’ll be an early adopter of this new form of augmented reality? Or will you wait a few years? Or will you only give up your smartphone when they come to pry it out of your cold, dead hands? So many new learnings to look forward to!
**while of course making sure the equipment is recycled or disposed of in a responsible manner