The highlight of my first day at MWC was the Sony booth where the company (an IPG client, in full disclosure) rolled out a Lifelog app companion to its new SmartBand as part of an all-encompassing approach to quantified self. Sony’s goal is to capture not only your fitness and sleep activity, but also location and all your mobile phone activity like time spent on chat apps, Facebook, Twitter, and listening to music.
All that information is plotted on a scrollable timeline that lets you see what you did hour by hour, or week be week, and the UX is top notch. The backdrop image even changes to reflect the actual weather conditions at every point on the timeline, and you can access a host of charts to get a better look at how you’ve spent your time.
The SmartBand integrates with your phone and other device in a few novel ways. For example you can control the music playing on your phone by tapping the band– one tap to skip to the next song and two to go back a song. You can even sync the wristband with your boardroom presentation and tap to scroll to the next slide– a feature compatible with any device running Android 4.4.
Lifelog comes pre-installed on the new Xperia Z2, and other Android phones can communicate with the SmartBand via either Bluetooth or NFC.
Docomo, one of several companies jumping on the smart glasses bandwagon, is a testament to the potential of wearable computing but also the difficulty in perfecting it for eye-wear. Its Mobile World Congress demo is a prototype with no street date set, and it illustrates that while no one has caught up to Google glass yet, there’s a wave of smaller companies with great ideas exploring what’s possible. This concept demo caught the attention of a few blog recently, and I was excited to give it a test spin.
Docomo’s “vision” for the future has a tinge of Terminator to it– with an opt-in twist and less violence. They integrate facial recognition into the glasses so that when you look at someone the screen tells you who they are, and where and when you saw them last (something that could come in handy for people like me who aren’t great with names and faces). Their pitch is that in the future people will opt into a social network optimized for smart glasses, which accesses our photos and personal info to connect us with other people. It would take time to get there, but the premise seems reasonable.
The company, based in Tokyo, also has an impressive language translation demo where you look at a menu written in Japanese and it automatically overlays English translations next to each menu item. It’s a feature I’d happily use at the Barcelono restaurant where I’m writing this blog.
The snag in all of this is that while the technology technically works, the user experience is strained and uncomfortable on every level. The text is incredibly small, you’re constantly fidgeting to get the screen in a comfortable place, and the resolution is lackluster. That said Docomo gets major points for imagination, and with the right execution their vision for wearable computing may become reality in the years to come.