Will Super Watches Replace Smartphones and Tablets?

will super watches replace smartphones and tablets armdisplayA few days ago I wrote up the tour I had of HP labs, and the device HP engineers were building for the US Military called a Super Watch really intrigued me. In short, it’s a wrist-based device with about a 4-inch screen that will provide GPS information, friend-foe information for soldiers. In looking back at technology adoption, generally a new technology initially comes to market successfully by mimicking something else: Initial cars were very similar to carriages without horses, and the first TVs looked like radios with screens, for instance. They eventually evolve to an original form that is designed around the technology. For example, current cars and flat screen TVs look vastly different than their initial product offerings, and are vastly more capable as a result. The iPhone is basically a candy bar phone with an extra-large screen, and the iPad mimics a pad of paper coupled with an iPhone, but neither device has to have that form: Apple decided to use those form-factors because people are familiar with them. This suggests both could, and likely will, evolve into something else. If so, why not a consumer version of HP’s Super Watch?

The HP Super Watch

At the core of this watch is the flexible transflective display that is coming out of HP’s lab. Being flexible, the display can be bent around objects and even, for example, built into clothing. However, having a display on a jacket, shirt, or pair of pants, while possible, doesn’t strike me as being more practical than a tablet. However, putting it on an oversized watch could be really interesting, and clearly the US military agrees, which is why it commissioned this product.

HP didn’t tell me much about what this watch would do, but I suspect it will convey things like battle configurations, GPS location, approaching friendlies or hostiles, medical information, communications (text and voice), and feedback information about the soldier to command. Clearly it would have a touch screen, and I expect, a limited voice interface so that the soldier could interact with it while firing his weapon or changing positions. I would expect some automatic functions as well, like signaling when the soldier was in distress or injured, so that a medical team or other help could be automatically dispatched to his location.

Eventually there might be some limited scanning and analytical functions, which could identify potential threats either by aggregating data centrally and making determinations from it, or by local analytics. Sounds, scents (like those from explosives), thermal images or other details that a device could pick up might provide insight to both the soldier and his command that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Since HP is into sensors, none of this is that farfetched.

Consumer Super Watch

The advantage of something you wear is that it is potentially with you all the time, unlike a phone which you can drop or lose, or a tablet, which you may not choose to carry that much. I know a lot of people who regularly lose or break their cell phones, and even though I carry my Kindle constantly, even I leave it behind from time-to-time and miss it.

Typical features on a consumer watch could match what the iPad and iPhone currently have in terms of communications, Web access, GPS functions, and applications. However, because this device would be attached to your wrist, it could also pick up some of the things the military device did, like provide you with health information (critical to diabetics or those with heart problems), alert others if you are injured, help parents keep track of children or the elderly, both identify approaching dangers (storms etc.) and route you away from them, and monitor your surroundings (like look for rapid changes in barometric pressure or proximity to your favorite food) to provide advice on where you should go.

I can picture people trusting these to help them with exercise, diets, meds, and letting them know when the boss is approaching (though I’ll bet that feature is relatively unreliable fast). Like the military device, data entry would be by touch screen or voice, and I could expect accessories that would tie them into larger car or home screens in the future for more convenient or shared access. Cameras could do dual duty for video conferencing and taking pictures, though I’ll bet working out where they go on the device will be difficult. James Bond would likely have wireless camera accessories that could be worn like a name tag, but I can’t imagine folks wanting to share a player’s eye view of a sport wanting to do the same thing.

Wrapping Up

Whether or not a Super Watch is the next thing to eclipse the iPhone or iPad is debatable, but the concept will evolve into something else, and once these bendable, transflective, outdoor viewable displays become common, they are likely to appear in a number of devices. It may take a decade or four before we figure out where, but I’ll bet the tablet of tomorrow won’t be a tablet at all, it will be something entirely different. What do you think?

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Movies & TV

How I learned to stop worrying and love Robert Pattinson as Batman

Robert Pattinson playing Batman is big news, and it's far from the end of the world for DC's Dark Knight, despite what some fans have argued. Here's why the Twilight actor could mean good things for the DC Comics hero.
Computing

iTunes had to die to be reborn, and it’s making me nostalgic

Apple’s decision to kill off iTunes-as-we-know-it, as announced during WWDC 2019, makes me nostalgic because I still rely on iTunes today for the same reason it was created back in 2001.
Computing

How the Mac Pro’s modular internals prophesy a new future for PC design

Apple's new Mac Pro is here and it looks set to offer video editors a perfect blend of sheer power and expansive expandability. But what if the changes in Apple's new system bleed through into the PC industry as a whole?
Computing

The new Mac Pro was the only way to save the Mac from the iPad’s killing blow

The Mac Pro and the iPad were in the spotlight this year at WWDC 2019. Why? Well, the two products paint an interesting picture about the future of both platforms and where Apple is headed with them.
Mobile

As Google keeps racing ahead, where is Apple’s A.I. strategy?

The contrast between Google’s I/O developer conference and Apple’s WWDC on the topic of artificial intelligence is stark, but what does it mean? We take a look at how Apple has fallen behind and what it might do to catch up.
Movies & TV

Why choose? Disney Plus and Netflix are the peanut butter and jelly of streaming

Instead of debating which streaming video service is better, we should instead be talking about how Netflix and Disney Plus are two equally great and totally different streaming options that will go even better together.
Mobile

Sign In with Apple sticks it to Google and Facebook, for the good of everyone

Apple wants you to use its new Sign In with Apple service, which promises to free you from password hell, without selling your soul to the advertising devil. Is it worth using when it launches this year?
Gaming

Google Stadia’s platform for everyone promise is already broken

Google Stadia, the upcoming cloud gaming service, pitches itself on accessibility. It's a platform for everyone, playable on any screen. Except that's not quite true. Stadia has many restrictions, terms, and conditions.
Features

Orwell’s 1984 was nothing like actual 1984. But it’s exactly like 2019

70 years ago today, George Orwell published 1984: a dystopian novel that sat squarely in the realm of fiction at the time it was published. Today, however, the book is an astonishingly accurate depiction of the world we live in now -- and…
Gaming

Microsoft's Xbox Project Scarlett console is awesome, and it doesn't matter

Microsoft has set a release date for Project Scarlett, its next-generation game console. It promises incredible performance, stunning 8K visuals, and lightning-quick load times -- but none of that matters. The console's relevance is waning.
Cars

BMW’s i8 Roadster is the Mazda Miata of hybrids. And I mean that in a good way

The i8 Roadster is not best in class for power, speed, or outright abilities. What is does offer is some of the best driving fun for the money. Sounds exactly like the Mazda MX-5 Miata to us.
Gaming

Ubisoft says its games ignore politics. So why are they so political?

Prior to E3, Ubisoft reiterated again that it doesn't make political statements in games. At its press conference, however, we saw previews of Watch Dogs Legion and Ghost Recon Blackpoint that suggest otherwise.
Computing

The true advantage of AMD’s next-gen chips isn’t power, it’s platforms

AMD announced some impressive new processors and GPUs at E3 this week, with plenty of muscle to flex. But the real strength of AMD in the future isn't its power or even its price. It's cross-platform scalability.
Computing

I bought a four-year-old MacBook Pro instead of a new one. Here’s why

The new MacBook Pros have a ton of advantages over the older options, but when it came to buying a replacement machine for myself, I found myself returning to 2015 rather than picking up Apple's latest and greatest.