The One Wearable We Didn't See at CES / by Damon Lavrinc


For all the coverage and detritus surrounding wearables at CES, the one thing we didn’t see is the one thing we’ve been seeing in every near-future sci-fi flick for a decade: a small, discrete headset.

In Kyle VanHemert’s piece on Her and its vision of a connected world, the thesis revolves around technology fading away into ubiquity. 

You could say that Her is, in fact, a counterpoint to that prevailing vision of the future–the anti-Minority Report. Imagining its world wasn’t about heaping new technology on society as we know it today. It was looking at those places where technology could fade into the background, integrate more seamlessly.

And one key to that seamless integration is voice control. 

Indeed, if you’re trying to imagine a future where we’ve managed to liberate ourselves from screens, systems based around talking are hard to avoid. As Barrett puts it, the computers we see in Her “don’t ask us to sit down and pay attention” like the ones we have today. He compares it to the fundamental way music beats out movies in so many situations. Music is something you can listen to anywhere. It’s complementary. It lets you operate in 360 degrees. Movies require you to be locked into one place, looking in one direction. As we see in the film, no matter what Theo’s up to in real life, all it takes to bring his OS into the fold is to pop in his ear plug.

So where’s my damn ear plug? 

I’m one of the few hapless saps that still uses a Bluetooth earpiece. Albeit not in public and rarely for calls. But I’m constantly pining for some way to control Google Voice Search on my phone, skip a song while riding my bike, and get a steady – but subtle – stream of information into my head.

We’ve been promised an ultra-compact, wireless earbud that’s constantly connected for years. There’s no doubt that power and microphone management are big hurdles to overcome, but with everything getting faster, smaller, better, and less power hungry, why isn’t it here yet? And with such a massive focus on wearables, why wasn’t it at CES? Maybe the inherent douchiness of Bluetooth headsets has stifled development, but voice is the future of control, and without the right hardware, we’ll never get there.