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Dan Mackie: Time for a Smarter Watch



Saturday, September 13, 2014
Apple’s new smart watch was announced this week, and because it’s Apple, it will be insanely great, for starters, and do about a million things beyond the pedestrian task of telling time.

Insanely great, for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to tech since the launch of the Princess phone, is at the core of what the late Steve Jobs wanted every Apple product to be. That was a high standard, intimidating really, since for most people “pretty good,” “not bad” ­— or “better than a sharp stick in the eye” — are sufficient in life. But “The Apple Watch, Better Than a Sharp Stick in the Eye’’ wasn’t going to make products fly off the shelf, unless at a substantial discount.

Before the announcement, speculation suggested that the watch might skip smart and move right on to genius, though stopping short of having a time travel function, which really would be great, insanely so. Apple could be holding that back to 2016.

But why stop with watches? There’s a need for many other smart devices:

∎ Smart Belt: A speech-enabled smart belt would be motivating to those who chronically ignore minor increases in belt pressure. “Oof,’’ it might say, as you cinched it, or a friendly little “Suck it in, buddy.” A vibrator could send an alarm upon proximity to a gelato shop or other danger zones. The smart belt’s mini-shock would be activated by controls available only to the wearer, and not a spouse.

∎ Smart Shoes: Never learned the Fox Trot? Let your smart shoes take the lead. Or take a stroll around town and never fear taking a turn into the wrong neighborhood, the one with mean dogs and potholes. Extreme smart shoes with a solar battery pack would be just the thing for stroll up from Georgia on the Appalachian trail. No need to train, as the smart shoes would do most of the work. Amaze your Upper Valley friends!

∎ Smart Socks: They’d change color depending on your fashion of the day. You’d never again blow a perfect ensemble by wearing the wrong shade of salmon.

∎ Smart-E-Pants. You’d always be the smartest person in the room with these trousers, which would regulate your swagger, keep pleats in perfect order, and inform you when you’ve been sitting too long. (Research has proven that tushy breaks are essential to good health.) The E is for low energy consumption. Smart-E-Pants would generate energy with each step, so pleat power would never be depleted. The social blunder eliminator function would make sure that pesky fly is never where it should not be.

∎ Smart Glasses. Most glasses make you look smart, but the road from smart to geek to dork is a slippery slope. An internal stabilizer would keep your glasses on a perfect horizontal plane, and a self-repairing nose bridge would help avoid unfortunate repair tape. Not only that, but smart glasses could offer the wearer a quick excuse for the boss in a time of need. No one else would hear the voices just outside your head.

∎ Smart Tie: No more stains, as the high-speed smart tie would detect errant meatballs or runaway bordelaise sauce, and avert disaster with evasive action.

∎ Smart Hat: You wouldn’t forget your smart hat, because it wouldn’t forget you.

∎ Smarth Watch Assistant. This little remote, which would fit with ease into pocket or purse, would complement the smart watch ­— mastering its complex functions. Some day you might actually need to see the time, and not your pulse, latest text or the exact time of sunrise in Cupertino, Calif., and you wouldn’t have to fumble like an idiot with menus and screens, thanks to the smarth watch assistant. As devices get smarter and smarter, and we do not, smart assistants will be our friends ­— in this case a very smart friend.



Dan Mackie is the Valley News’ editorial page editor.