#Trending: Future tech to enhance our social lives, not ruin them

From emotion sensing to VR hang out spots, you'll never tech alone
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How you feel about gadgets, apps and how social you are depends on a few things. What you define as 'social' and whether that includes likes, hearts and comments. Where you fall on the introvert/extrovert scale and whether spending time with other people gives energy or takes it away.

That's why for every million, loud arguments that our screens are tearing us away from the faces of our family and friends, there's one quiet story piping up that spending time alone is useful, fun and even therapeutic.

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With so much news swirling around at the moment, though, time alone can often be lost to scrolling through Twitter or refreshing live blogs.

So, can connected self tech and apps help us to stay sane, talk to each other and avoid feeling lonely without getting our brains frazzled? There's some damn interesting concepts that are, at least, trying.

I don't need a gadget to be social.

Well good for you. One of the great things about wearable tech is that it can be super specific - certain sensors, body placements, form factors or software can be lifesaving or game changing for one person even if they're useless to the next.

Like what exactly?

Take MIT's new emotion sensing project which measures audio and bio-signals to detect how the wearer is feeling.

The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence lab behind it reckon that this system could be developed into an AI social coach to help people with Asperger's or social anxiety to play back awkward/scary/damaging conversations and work on their interpersonal skills for next time.

Oh, I get it - who else could use help?

Glad you asked. Elderly people are another group that often find themselves lonely, physically cut off from activities and with dwindling social circles.

#Trending: Future tech to enhance our social lives, not ruin them


I know, bless their ironed cotton socks. So one project that's looking at the connected social life of OAPs is Spirit, Ideo's installation at the Design Museum's New Old exhibition.

One of the neatest ideas is the concept of an artificial fluttery feeling within the user's stomach. This would be created by ingestible nanobots, obviously...


... And it would be triggered when they are physically nearby someone who shares a similar profile or interest, helping to make connections in a way we're used to from our romantic "butterflies".

By the time we have nanobots, won't we all be living in VR?

Maybe, maybe, San Junipero style? Before we get to 80's Black Mirror virtual towns, the likes of Oculus and Intel are working to make VR more social in the near future.

Like online multiplayer?

Not exactly. So Oculus Rooms, out on the Gear VR now, builds on Oculus Social with avatars to allow users to hang out together, play games etc. And Intel's Project Alloy scans your living room to allow more than one person to wear a 'merged reality' headset and experience the same environment.

What if I'm just exhausted to 'hang'?

Wearable tech has the answer for that too - enter Emora, a smart bracelet that lets you signal your mood to those around you by flicking your wrist to change the colour. Sounds pretty nice right now, huh?

How we test


Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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