Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Using a wearable to enhance in-person interactions: My new Ringly

I've been in a lot of meetings this quarter, and it's allowed me to notice what I--and others--do with our phones during these sessions. And it ain't pretty. Some text continually, others keep checking when a notification comes through, others give away their boredom while scrolling something else.

But as a speaker coach, it's often my job in these meetings to pay attention to the speaker, usually to evaluate his or her performance. I may need to know about a notification, but I don't want it to distract me, or the speaker. So I've invested in my first piece of wearable tech, a Ringly.

Ringly--Bluetooth-powered wearable jewelry that buzzes and emits light to share notifications when it's synced to your smartphone--first came to my attention while I was watching this year's TEDWomen talks. Ringly CEO Christina Mercando spoke, and I was intrigued: Real gemstones, a box that acts as a charger, and options for a wide range of notifications that come to you either via a subtle light on one side of the ring, or a series of buzzes that only you can feel. The light signals are keyed to colors that represent different types of notifications. You've got to choose and learn which notifications mean which channels, but that's about as complex as it gets. And you need not get every notification this way. If all I'm concerned about is email, that can be the only alert I get via the ring.

Here's what I notice: I'm paying better attention. I can leave my phone in my handbag, watch the speaker, take part in the conversation, and still know what's coming in. If I choose to check my phone, it's a rarity rather than a regular habit. No one really notices the ring--only I can feel the buzzer--and it works in a wide range of settings, relying on a Bluetooth connection.

I think we'll see more options like this one, given the awkward ways we've adapted to using devices and keeping up conversations. MIT's Sherry Turkle, whose new book is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, writes about the issue this way in a New York Times op-ed:
I’ve been studying the psychology of online connectivity for more than 30 years. For the past five, I’ve had a special focus: What has happened to face-to-face conversation in a world where so many people say they would rather text than talk? I’ve looked at families, friendships and romance. I’ve studied schools, universities and workplaces. When college students explain to me how dividing their attention plays out in the dining hall, some refer to a “rule of three.” In a conversation among five or six people at dinner, you have to check that three people are paying attention — heads up — before you give yourself permission to look down at your phone. So conversation proceeds, but with different people having their heads up at different times. The effect is what you would expect: Conversation is kept relatively light, on topics where people feel they can drop in and out.
Wearables have many advantages, including the ability to be viewed more easily in outdoor and direct-sunlight settings, among other things. I'm delighted with this one, and am looking forward to finding other ways to put it to use. Next on my list (as in, I've already contributed to its IndieGoGo campaign): The Dipper Audio Necklace, which serves as earbuds and microphone for music and phone calls...and as a wearable necklace.

I've got a workshop on Creating a TED-quality Talk coming up in January 2016 in Washington, DC. It repeats twice in that month: on January 14, and again on January 28, and I'm limiting them to 5 seats per session. All registration closes at the end of December or when all seats are filled, whichever comes first. Please join us, whether your goal is TED, TEDx, or just an elevated, current presentation style.

No comments: