By Srivatsa Krishna
It is rare that one comes across technology which has the power to change the world, sometimes in both good and bad ways. I have been using two very different wearables which add value to everyday life in remarkable ways. The first is Ray Ban and Facebook’s smart glass eyewear called “Stories”. It is a pair of sunglasses, available in both polarised and non-polarised variants, and can do many things. Once turned on, it pairs rapidly with the View app (which can be downloaded via a VPN in India). Then a single click on the right records a reasonably high-quality video and a long press takes photos. These then can be transferred and then onto Instagram or Facebook. It also has Bluetooth audio for phone calls with gesture controls for volume, song skip, etc. It features dual 5-megapixel camera sensors, embedded Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi and enough storage for 500 pictures and links to Google Assistant. It costs $299-$379 and is tough to lay one’s hands on it right now.
What doesn’t work well is the connection to transfer photos from the frame to the app, as it has glitches and takes time to connect. Also, the battery life is decent but not exceptional. Simply place it in the case for charging. Facebook is obviously putting in place the building blocks to move towards an AR/VR/MR platform and eventually the metaverse.
This would set the bar for Snap’s Spectacles 4 to supersede when it comes out next year and there is enormous anticipation around it. Given that a lot of electronics development has moved to India and Vietnam, Snap and Facebook should consider both a premium line with partners such as Persol, Ray Ban, Burberry, etc., and an affordable mass market version with brands such as Lenskart or Warby Parker, to develop the broader metaverse ecosystem and thereby encourage creators to engage deeply to build for this next phase of the new economy. Luxoticca and Facebook have a winner in their hands and can create a whole new BlueSky range of products and sub product lines, pretty much like what Apple and Google did with their respective smart watches.
The second product is Oura’s new smart ring. It is in its second iteration and looks extremely promising. It costs about $299 upwards and tells you most of the stuff a smartwatch would but is much less obtrusive and looks like a regular ring. It is perhaps the best sleep tracker in the market, far better than most of the smart watches for it gives a measure of heart rate variability (HRV) which is a barometer of one’s health. It tracks sleep wonderfully and has a long battery life on a single charge. Its upcoming Oura Ring 3 pushes the boundaries further and does SPO2 continuous monitoring (not spot monitoring like the watches do) but when you sleep. In the post Covid-19 era this would be of immense value. Oura helps users view post-workout insights, as well as data such as location, distance, and heart rate recovery.
Oura is a Finnish company headed by an Indian-origin CEO, which has succeeded where many others have failed. It could perhaps add continuous glucose monitoring, and perhaps an AOD (always on display) to show just the time (instead of having to wake up in the middle of the night and search for your watch). It is perhaps the best smart wearable ring out there and one hopes Oura 3 will add to the aura of the blue skies market that it has succeeded in creating for itself, globally. It remains to be seen what other new features they will add to make it even more desirable.
In sum, both above wearables give one a quick insight into what the future will look like especially with the world going the metaverse way which promises to give us an alternate land, and alternate world with avatars of ourselves as soon as in the next five to 10 years and these would be perfect companions to hang out in that other world.
The author is an IAS officer. Views are personal. @srivatsakrishna