Google Wellbeing and the New Relationship with Tech

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Harping again on one of the original motivations of the Ubi — it was to free us from our devices and being heads down. In 2011, Blackberry was still Bold and iPhone was 4s. Android devices were horrible, with high latency touch interaction and clunky interfaces. There was a good argument for services like RescueTime and Time Doctor.

Fast forward seven years and the etiquette and attitude towards smartphones has changed. There’s the movement of Device Free Saturdays, the cellphone bowl for parties, and it’s become verboten to be looking at your device in meetings.

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Not the cellphone bowl you’re thinking about. This device has an oddly specific target market: people who like to eat unshelled seeds while watching shows on their phone.

What’s interesting in this week’s Google announcement was the focus on wellbeing by exposing data it already knows about us: when we go to sleep and wake up, how much we move, and how much dopamine release we try to get from using our phones. We’re now seeing the device as not the centre of our attention but a tool to do more meaningful work. Services like night mode to remove blue light remove, automatically silencing calls, or only allowing certain calls to come through, are more prevalent among devices on the market.

The next step will be device freedom. The combination of ubiquitous interfaces, biometrics, and movement data will mean that in 5–10 years, having your own screen based device might be less important than carrying a sensor pack or a means for the AI in the environment around us to identify us.

The next step after Google Wellbeing could be to start to link together Duplex (for letting people know you’re not doing well, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, or calling for help), Email pre-writing, and other AI-based features.

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