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Wearables and Privacy

When you use a wearable, everyone uses your wearable

Privacy and respect are key. That’s why we made it a priority in the development of the Hooke Verse.

Sneaky Google Glass On The Subway! Don't be this guy. Sneaky Google Glass On The Subway! Don’t be this guy.

Scary Wearables

Scott Sullivan from FastCoDesign.com said it best in his article “Are Your Wearables Invading Someone’s Privacy”:

“Google’s very public experiment with Glass in 2013-2014 provided an important lesson for the designers of wearable devices. Glass failed not because of the product itself but because the design generated socially awkward situations at every turn.

The idea of designing for context isn’t new, but to date it has been applied to mobile web and applications, where “context” meant taking advantage of GPS and sensors on the phone to offer information relevant to the user’s immediate surroundings. But for wearables, context means something else altogether: you have to design for the people in the surrounding environment as much as you design for the wearer of the device.”

Scott goes on to outline three key design rules for socially responsible wearable devices:

1. It’s not a secret, but it shouldn’t be distracting.
2. You should know exactly what it is when you see it.
3. You know when it’s on.

These are three rules that govern Hooke Audio at every turn and we follow them strongly. To break them down further:

It’s not a secret, but it shouldn’t be distracting

You’d be surprised at how many companies pass this up. Wristbands, cameras, microphones — it’s incredibly easy to sacrifice form for function. With wearables being a new frontier, many companies are simply trying to get the device to operate properly on a human body, while throwing aesthetic out the door. But form is not only for looks. With wearables, form is also function.

The article showcasing this product reads The article showcasing this product reads “Distracted? Slap this Hitachi gizmo on your forehead to focus”. I can think of several ways to increase focus, “slapping” this cumbersome head visor on is not one of them. I would find this incredible distracting.

When developing the Hooke Verse, it was important that they look like a regular pair of earbud headphones. Quick and easy consumer adoption aside, they let us also avoid distracting the rest of the world when recording. Imagine a video captured in 3D Audio where at some point or another, everyone in it visibly grimaces at the sight of the the microphones.

The Verse earbud is hardly visible when being worn and practically invisible from the front and back.

It Should Also Not Be Distracting For The User

Hooke is meant to be worn on the go. Its slim and durable design mean it can go anywhere and also take a beating. Its wireless capabilities mean it’ll never get tangled when trying to capture that perfect moment. Its over-the-ear memory wire means a tight fit for all, with absolutely no cable noise.

The Verse is also very lightweight. Though capturing video with headphones in may take some initial adjustment, with Hooke, the fact that it feels almost as if you aren’t wearing headphones at all helps the experience greatly. As does ambient pass through monitoring. This means that whatever you’re recording is actually amplified in real time through the headphones. You have the ability to adjust how much sound comes in.

You should know exactly what it is when you see it

If you look at some of the most popular products at the moment: Apple’s iPhone, the GoPro Hero cameras, Android devices, and Apple headphones, you’ll notice all of their microphones look the same. Pretty much just a black circle.

This circular shape is usually an indication that a dynamic microphone is being used. Dynamic microphones are often analog (not digital) and utilize a small movable induction coil, positioned in the magnetic field of a permanent magnet, which is attached to the diaphragm. When sound enters through the windscreen of the microphone, the sound wave moves the diaphragm. When the diaphragm vibrates, the coil moves in the magnetic field, producing a varying current in the coil through electromagnetic induction. Since the coil is a circular spiral, a rounded diaphragm and windscreen is optimal.

Hooke uses analog microphones, so the round shape is ideal. Funny thing is, most consumer products use either digital or condenser microphones so the rounded shape is unnecessary — the diaphragm barely moves in a condenser mic, because it isn’t trying to absorb sound energy; it’s only trying to sense the changing air pressure.

Nonetheless, they use this shape — because it is familiar.

You should know exactly what it is capable of when you see it

A camera should look like a camera, not a camera and a microphone. When you see the device, you should know, it can’t see me, but it can hear me and vice versa. The features should be as obvious to the owner as they are to a stranger seeing them for the first time.

You know when it’s on

For me, this is the most important. I ride the subway a lot. Sometimes I get terrible looks from riders across the car who think I’m taking a picture of them with my phone, though I am not. For them, there is no way of knowing either way.

Reducing the possibilities of awkward social interaction is key to a product’s development. I believe the more comfortable others are with you wearing your device, the more comfortable you will be wearing the device.

We’ve made a handful of significant steps in the Hooke Verse’s development to reduce these awkward interactions.

Primarily: the illumination of the Hooke “H” button when recording.

When paired, the Hooke button will glow blue about every 7 seconds like a heartbeat to notify both the user and viewer that Hooke is on and kicking.  When paired, the Hooke button will glow blue about every 7 seconds like a heartbeat to notify both the user and viewer that Hooke is on and kicking.

I was surprised after implementing this feature to find myself at a crossroads between customers who actively wanted people to not know they were recording and customers who demanded others knew. Almost a 50/50 split.

Many Kickstarter backers attacked me for it. One backer wrote: “To be blunt: as for me, ‘glowing H when recording’ is a no. It has absolutely no use at all. I’m not a show off and I like being discrete. So thanks but no thanks.”

I’m not a fan of technology that hides what it’s doing from the public. If Google Glass is meant to be worn in public, the public has a right to know what it’s doing. When I took the picture of the guy on the subway at the top of this post, I had no idea whether he was recording, viewing, or searching. And I don’t think that’s right. So illuminating not only when Hooke is paired, but when it is recording is mandatory.

You know when it’s doing specific tasks

In addition to knowing when a device is on, a consumer has the right to know when it’s taking a picture, when it’s recording, when it is in standby mode, and when it is off. All of these features are important to considering a product’s social application.

A wearable that respects the world respects itself

I’m putting the power of binaural 3D Audio recording into the hands of consumers because I feel a lot of product companies don’t give the consumer enough credit. I am all about empowering people to use Hooke in creative and human ways. Respect and privacy for all parties involved, however — user and viewer alike — is mandatory.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this photo. Let it be a warning to all future inventors.

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Founder

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