The haptic revolution of a watch

Today the Apple Watch was announced. It will not make it to the market until next January probably to give app developers chance to develop their apps and have a relevant watch experience from the start. And maybe also for other reasons we do not know.

In the media the reactions vary. Of course the stunning looks of the device and the sharp graphics are applauded. But on the other hand the features are criticised. Is this the leapfrogging device we were expecting?

I have to say, my first reaction when the movie was played was also a bit disappointed. Not for the lack of functions, I really don’t think that is an issue at all. I was however expecting a bit more a new type of product and not the pure watch. Still I could have known, Apple did not invent a smartphone or a tablet but improved the dna of it from the outside in. The real disruption is in the way the device works, the way it feels, the way we will use it and integrate it in our lives. And in that sense I think there is a true breakthrough innovation: the haptic touch.

I am wearing a Pebble for a year now and next to the real value of the concept of a notification device on my wrist, the most interesting part for me is the resonating interface. We are really able to distinguish different information signals by the resonation rhythm.

Next to that Apple introduced forced touch and heartbeat communication. Both are part of a whole new interface language I think, that brings the next level of intimate interactions into our digital devices. In the presentation some of these interactions are hinted but I expect this is just the start of a sixth sense, a way we will be able to make contact with the digital cloud around us, and with others.

Together with Digital Life Center, Labs is running a research project to look into the way trembling interfaces can be used to connect to digital coaches and to touch on distance. I think the ecosystem Apple created by sensor, display and SDK HealthKit can be more revolutionizing than any other functions that are introduced or did not been introduced. Looking forward to dive into this beyond touch interactions and develop for real intuitive use, for interfacing without a screen.

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

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