The Wrist Assistant

By Linas Mockus, Alicia Swaggerty, Carmen Strand, Allie Martz, Wenyi Ho Ph.D., John Buckwalter, Damien Bilka, Jen Kach, Laura Scott,

July 20, 2016


The following story is a fictional account of one week in the life of a World Campus nursing student, based on real research on a variety of smartwatches by the World Campus Mobile Learning Research Team. In this story, the student is a home health nurse pursuing an online graduate degree in Nursing. She is married with a husband deployed overseas in the military and a teenage son at home. In one of her courses, she has been assigned to test and report on a new piece of technology.

Monday, September 12

As part of the Testing Technology Assignment, I decided to use the smartwatch my husband gave me before he deployed. I’m hoping this watch will make being a student and working parent easier.

Last night was the first night I wore the smartwatch while I slept. I used the alarm as a backup, and it woke me right on time at 6:00 a.m. The light tap on my wrist telling me to get up was a nice change from the reactor-is-about-to-explode alarm on my smartphone. The sleeptracker app told me that I’d gotten 7 hours and 13 minutes of sleep. Will have to see whether that amount improves throughout the week.

Another app was able to turn on the heat and the lights, which kept my son from complaining about how cold it was when he got out of bed. And I was able to get to my coffee two minutes faster! That alone may be worth the cost of the watch.

Tuesday, September 13

Finished with all of my home health patients early today. Checked the weather from my watch as I got ready to head home. It looked promising: 72°F and partly cloudy with a 20% chance of rain, so I decided to fit in a short jog before my son’s soccer practice.

This is cool: The watch tracks my steps and even monitors my heart rate. I got bored running the same old path, though. Surprisingly, it found a new route to a park with a running path I didn’t know about. To get motivated, I played music from the watch to my Bluetooth earbuds. At the end of the run, the watch told me I achieved an average pace of 8 minutes per mile. My next goal is 7 minutes, 45 seconds per mile.

Wednesday, September 14

Today, I found an app for the watch that helps me manage my nursing duty list as I work with my patients. It’s also able to remind me what medication I need to give my patients and to check for the doctor’s order updates. It’s very convenient to access information from my wrist.

After meeting my client, I needed to go downtown, but I didn’t want to drive (parking is terrible). Didn’t have to worry—the watch found a bus stop that was a short walk from my client’s house.

The route guidance isn’t perfect, though. The other day it sent me through an unfamiliar neighborhood because it was the shortest route. But I’ll forgive it as long as it keeps getting me to where I’m going on time.

Speaking of imperfect, why do computers crash only when you need to get something important done? Thankfully, I was able to log in to my class, two-factor authentication and all, on my smartwatch. Only a news article submission due tonight, and the article ended up being pretty easy to find. Crisis averted.

Wanted to find a way to relax before bed. Turns out there are guided meditations and breathing exercises on the smartwatch, along with some ambient nature sounds. Nothing like falling asleep to the sound of ocean waves after a long day.

Thursday, September 15

I was completing paperwork after meeting one of my clients, and the watch noticed that I wasn’t being active enough. It encouraged me to take a break, stand up, and move around. I did a few things around the house and returned to my paperwork. As soon as I sat down again, the watch reminded me that someone was coming to look at the dishwasher at 12:30 p.m. (OK, I admit I had forgotten.)

Friday, September 16

This is actually a pretty funny story.

At the hospital, I sometimes work with patients who don’t speak English or are more comfortable speaking their native language. My watch knows 44 languages and will translate what patients say so that I can make sure I understand their needs. I used this feature a couple of times today.

At one point, I was checking the vital signs of a patient who spoke only Chinese. He told me that he would like to get some sleep (the word he used was shuijiao). The watch didn’t hear it quite right, though. Instead of telling me that the patient wanted to get some sleep, it told me that he wanted to get some dumplings. I began trying to figure out a good place to get takeout service until we played a bit of charades. Thankfully, sleep looks a lot different than dumplings when you’re trying to act them out.

Saturday, September 17

My son was rushing around looking for his cleats this morning before his game. Naturally, Mom always knows where he leaves his things (not true). I was on shoe-searching duty when the watch sent me a notice from the social media group set up for the team’s parents: The field location had changed, which was good to know because we were already scrambling to get to the right place on time. (Too bad smartwatches don’t also track soccer equipment. Maybe one day.)

During warm-ups, I was able to check a few e-mail messages and work on some flashcards for class until the game started. You can never spend too much time studying medical terms.

The kids played really well. My son got the assist for the game-winning goal. I wanted to congratulate him afterwards with a victory dance, but he begged me not to embarrass him. I promised not to if he would help me make dinner tonight. Didn’t take much to seal the deal there.

We chose a recipe together that afternoon and shopped for our ingredients at the grocery store. Once I marked off everything on my watch’s list, we checked out. The cashier read my total, and my son prepared his eye roll, expecting me to dig through my purse for my credit card and loyalty card. Instead, I used my smartwatch for both. As I held the watch up to the contactless reader, I saw a hint of pride or maybe admiration on my son’s face—a rare thing to see from a teenager.

Sunday, September 18

My husband called this afternoon, but the ringer was off on my phone, and I couldn’t find it. I started to panic because he doesn’t get the chance to call often. Fortunately, the watch has Bluetooth, so I picked up the call from the watch instead. I was able to fill him in on our son’s soccer game. It was so nice to hear from him.

I also updated him on how the smartwatch was working out so far: It helps me take care of myself and my patients, improves communication, helps me make better use of my time, and provides a wealth of information in a small package right from my wrist. I told him I call the smartwatch my “convenience” device. He seemed happy to hear about it. While we talked, I remembered (on my own) that I needed to do some studying. I told the watch to remind me later this evening, and my husband joked that reminding me to study was his job. I assured him that there were plenty of other things he could help me with once he gets home (like doing the dishes). Eventually, I had to let him get off the phone. Besides, this Testing Technology Assignment is due tonight at midnight, and one thing the watch can’t do is write this assignment for me.

In the end, it does feel like I have my own personal assistant, though. If I had to sum up my entire experience, I know exactly how to word it: a solid five out of five stars for my brilliant wrist friend.


Notes on Methodology

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