About 40 years ago, you could have made a phone call from your 23 cm long, 0.8kg mobile phone – that is, if you were rich enough to afford one. Nowadays, nearly everyone in the developed world has a smartphone. Forget about just using your phone for texting or calling! Nowadays you can do anything from check your email and connect to social media, to starting your car (Directed SmartStart) and as a POS system to accept credit card payments (Square Register). The more technology we have, the more we want. But is it getting to be a little too much?
In the race for producing new “smart” products to make our lives easier, there have been some amazing products and some that don’t measure up.
Recently, we have seen a surge in tech wearables – Google glasses, smart bracelets, smart watches; you name it, and they are making it. One of the newest crazes to hit the market are smart rings. Through crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, concepts like the Smarty Ring, Fin, and Ring have gained a lot of support and media attention. However, while many manufacturers are offering up their version of a smart ring, none have been successful in creating one on a consumer scale. Why?
Most of the problems center on its size. When trying to fit all of the sensors and functions (not to mention the battery) into a gadget that is less than an inch wide and hollow to boot, you are going to have to make sacrifices. And the very first sacrifice is the wearability: all smart rings and prototypes on the market today are wide and thick, which could be uncomfortable for every day wear as they are intended for. Another factor is that they are made with materials like hard plastics and steel, which aren’t as durable or allergy-safe. There is a reason why silver, gold, and platinum are the standard metals for jewelry: they have stood the test of time.
For all of their promises of Bluetooth enabling, user interfaces with motion sensors, vibration and more, we have yet to see a fully functional example of a smart ring. The majority are currently in various prototype stages. Experts are concerned that the miniaturization will affect the smart rings’ performance. Don Lehman, an industrial designer based in NYC, agrees. “Wearables are hard. No one has gotten bracelets just right yet, so how can we expect that same tech to shrink down further to rings?”
Even if these new smart rings worked as they should, would it really be that useful?
Ring, for example, has a text transmission function the user to write a message in the air rather than type it out on a cell phone. But you still have to use the phone to select contact, and customize the message. Fin has a security authenticator feature that can be used as an extra protection to unlock your other devices. But like all other accessories, a ring can easily be lost, and it would be a hassle to unlock your devices without it. Other common features of smart rings include receiving social media alerts, remote control for home appliances, and storage of a small amount of data. Rather than simplifying, smart rings seem to just add another layer of interaction to what you’re already doing.
The idea does hold some promise for the future, as technology progresses. But as of right now, take a pass on that new smart ring.