Could wearable computing free humans?

While some may fear wearable technologies such as Google Glass could make people less human, entrepreneur and Esri director Amber Case believes they actually free people to be more human.

Case is the co-founder of Geoloqi—acquired by Esri in 2012—an app that sends users notifications and messages based on their location.

“The best technology is really this invisible stuff,” Case said at the itSMF LEADit conference in Canberra. That doesn’t mean it won’t have a physical shape or interface, but “it gets out of your way and lets you live your life, and lets you connect with people more and be more human. It amplifies your humanness”.

“A lot of people keep trying to make these apps that say, computers are going to act like humans now,” she said. “But that doesn’t work. It makes an uncanny valley.

“Computers should be doing what computers are best at: chugging through tons and tons of data [and] making a curated list. And then the human as a curator can then look at what is actually happening and make the executive decision.”

Computer interfaces should adapt to humans, not the other way around, and nobody is bad at computers, she added. “Computers are bad at you, and they have been for years.”

However, Case stopped short of embracing the idea of implanting chips in people’s brains.

“I’m very concerned about getting implants because of a number of issues,” she said. Technology doesn’t last long enough and is frequently unreliable, she said. “Can you imagine having that embedded inside your brain? Oh, blue screen, sorry. Blue screen, sorry.”

“If it were programmed in COBOL, like sure, I’d have something installed inside my brain. Maybe. But I don’t want to have to go to the Apple care or Google care medical ward to get it upgraded every two years.”

Case is a beta tester of Google Glass and wore her digital glasses as she delivered her keynote. The interface expert said she sees room for improvement with the device.

“The problem with Google Glass is that it’s basically a computer screen that floats in front of your vision, but it doesn’t augment anything or diminish anything,” she said. “It doesn’t do live real-time replacement of an advertisement, for instance.”

Privacy concerns about the photo-taking and video-recording capabilities of Google Glass may be overblown, Case said.

“People are just as terrified of this as they were when cell phones came out with cameras,” she said. At the time, many raised concerns that people would constantly be taking clandestine pictures with camera phones, she said.

However, that proved not to be the case, she said. “Life is actually very bland and boring, and no one really wants to do that.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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