The Apple Watch: what you need to know

apple-watch-selling-points

The Apple Watch is the imminent offering from the world’s biggest company. It promises, like so many gleamingly post-modern, well-designed products before it, to change our lives for the better. With a disciplined publicity machine accompanying the global rollout, the watch became finally available to order last Friday, although it may take you a while to get hold of one.

What does it do? Well, not much unless you already have a late-model iPhone, which it relies on for much of its functionality. It tells the time, with a variety of customizable watch faces available. It shows text messages, email and social media notifications. It can monitor your heartrate and use it as part of a digital health regimen. It will show the weather and your calendar. It can change the music you are listening to on your phone. It can take calls (the ‘Star Trek‘ dream finally coming true!) and communicate with Siri. It can be used to make payments and unlock hotel rooms, and provide turn-by-turn navigation.  But almost all of this functionality is ultimately a glorified remote control; something to spare you the immense chore of pulling your iPhone out of a pocket.

The much more interesting elements are part of a suite applying what Apple calls ‘haptic feedback‘, including a gizmo on the back that can tap you on the wrist, which can be used in conjunction with suitable apps and enabling users to share a heartbeat; the intimately personal mediated via a server farm in California.

watch-heart

The idea of a smartwatch is not new, nor is the idea of a watch that can assist in tracking your fitness. The health aspects have been pushed hard as part of the hype; unsurprisingly – over one-third of US adults are now considered to be obese with similar rises across the rest of the West, and the potential to finally be fit is an easy sell.  Some commentators have gone further and suggested that the watch will be a powerful tool in changing habits. However, the real ‘killer apps’ that expand the market beyond early adopters will likely be built not by Apple but by external developers; as with the iPhone, a lot of the application heavy lifting is done by third parties.

So far, so tech-evangelistic, now for the bad stuff, starting with the daily charging required, requiring yet another different, expensive proprietary charger. Most models are large, heavy, and 11.5 mm thick which may put people off, and the design – square, weighty with rounded corners – has divided people (personally, I think it’s a hideous throwback to the 1980s, but your mileage may vary). The fact that developers cannot take advantage of all the most unique features yet. The lack of a full suite of working apps. The slowwww load times.  The lack of GPS, which pretty much ruins any advantages for runners. The fact that it isn’t fully waterproof.

But for me, easily the most egregious of all the Apple Watch’s issues is the price. The base ‘Sport’ model costs $349 (£299 in Britain) for the watch and a plastic pastel strap; if you want a stainless-steel version with an attractive leather or metal strap, you are suddenly looking at $649 (£559) – more than a new iPhone. There are also versions in rose and yellow gold, which vary between $10k and $17k (£13.5k).

Apple-Watch-Gold-Wireless-Charging-1280x716

The gold version is a spectacular piece of legerdemain. Apple will sell a handful to those keen on conspicuous consumption (and perhaps a few in China), but the real point of offering such a high-priced option is its ability to act as a price anchor. What is price anchoring? Let me illustrate it for you in a different context, with a menu from Balthazar in New York:

Demand-and-Supply-Balthasar-Menu

Apparently, the first place most people look on restaurant menus is the top right hand corner, where your eye is drawn with a picture to two eye-wateringly expensive plates of seafood (Le Grand and Le Balthazar). They probably sell only a handful of these a month – no matter. The point of them and their prominent placing is to make the more humble seafood orders below seem like a relative bargain. Note the box around ‘Shrimp Cocktail’, drawing the diner’s attention.  Is $21 such an indulgence for a shrimp cocktail? Not next to a $155 blowout, it’s not. And similarly, next to a prominently displayed $10,000 luxury watch that will likely be obsolete in a year, a $649 one doesn’t seem nearly so ridiculous.

It also needs to be firmly pointed out that $10k will buy you a Rolex or similar that will work for decades and likely appreciate in value, rather than depreciate at a gathering pace as the technology inside antiquates.  Whichever model you choose, you are essentially, right now, paying a large amount of money for a fashionable remote control, something to stop you reaching for your phone in your bag or your pocket. That’s the bottom line. It’s a smartphone accessory. If you think that represents value, then go right ahead.

_______________________

So what does any of this mean for archers?  The range of apps available for scoring and recording increases every year, and I have been keenly using the excellent ArcherZUpshot for some time. A watch-based app that could be used to quickly score a round by tapping on a target face would be an excellent addition to the arsenal, and possibly a wider product or products that tracked my fitness along with total arrows shot could actually improve my shooting (if I could get used to the extra weight, although I have seen people on the range using smartphone archery apps in sport armbands). You could perhaps see the potential for scoring tournaments too, in the unlikely event that every single person attending owned a compatible device.

Essentially, the future is wide open. This first hardware outing may be the public beta edition, and in a few years time, a slim, cheap smartwatch with five full days of battery life may be the norm for all archers  – and indeed, all athletes – perhaps feeding information to remote coaches, who could use the physical feedback mechanisms as reward and reinforcing tools. Future models will apparently include blood-pressure sensors and a host of other data gatherers (with all the privacy implications that implies). Maybe indeed, we’ll soon wonder how we managed without one.

But right now, I think the Apple Watch is a disaster – and here’s why: it’s a turbo-charged distraction engine, custom-made to interrupt your training or your train-of-thought, in a Western world where distraction is now common currency.  It’s the smartphone that is always face up on the table.

The increasingly strident warnings initiated by author Nicholas Carr, starting with his 2008 article ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid?’ claim that the internet is actually rewiring our brains and making deep thought and concentration more and more difficult to achieve. There are numerous warning signs (some of which I have seen in myself), suggesting that the dopamine rewards of continuous distraction become addictive and difficult to remove from your life. A slightly disingenuous Wired article about the watch claims that the intention was to free people from their phones and allow cleaner, shorter interactions with the world, but it also gives the game away by revealing that the watch came first and what it actually does came after that. Steve Jobs must be turning in his grave.

You may not believe that the digital sky is falling, but even the most noob archer can see that the slow, deep, complex processes necessary to become a great shooter on any level, the ‘mind like water’, the Zen calmness and inner strength, are going to be swiftly torpedoed by having something on your wrist begging you for attention and tying you in to distant networks – taking you away from the present.

true meaning of zen

 

Archery, like all martial arts, requires a burning focus to do well, as well as encouraging a level of responsibility and self-reliance, rather than outsourcing expertise to a technology corporation. I wonder if the ever-higher drop-out rate amongst junior archers – all now ‘digital natives‘, of course – in the sport is down to the difficulties of making archery fit with an always-connected lifestyle.  Despite the speed of a launched arrow, archery is essentially a slow, meditative sport and may be well seen alongside current ‘slow movement’ trends, e.g. food, journalism and living in general.

I’m definitely not a Luddite (or an Apple hater – I’m typing this on my MacBook ;) ) but I am increasingly of the opinion that the internet, now so firmly entrenched in all our lives, needs to be observed mindfully from time to time. I actually think the digital age represents an almost limitlessly powerful force for good, but we need to remember that we are still just upright apes desperate to fit in with our troop. It may not always be the case that tools that help us to be always-on are always a good thing.

 

back to katniss

Untitled

“In every class, I ask them what makes them want to do archery and at least one will say Hunger Games or the little ones its ‘I want to be Merida in Brave’,” Ms Norman said.

So is quoted an archery coach in Victoria, Australia, and you can read the full article and watch the video here:

http://www.theage.com.au/national/katniss-everdeen-increases-girls-hunger-for-an-archers-game-20150323-1m23qx.html

“Archery Victoria’s president Irene Norman said its membership had shot up over the past four years from 777 members in 2010 to 1740 in February this year as it rode a wave of popular culture references that was drawing new members every week…  It is not just little girls and teenagers either. Ms Norman said there were women in their 30s who came to archery clubs wearing Mockingjay pins.

“Sometimes I have to explain they won’t be able to get the effect they want if they use the same type of bow as in The Hunger Games,” she said.”

So it appears the ‘Katniss Effect’ is still packing them in to beginners courses around the world. This article is just one in a long line of similar newspaper and media features in the last couple of years, from the New York Times (twice) to NPR to the Guardian and the Telegraph amongst many others. It’s almost become a cliche – the interest in and take-up of archery, especially recurve and especially among teenage girls, has gone through the roof – what’s more interesting is that it seems to be sustained.

Jennifer Lawrence with US Olympic archer Khatuna Lorig, who trained her for the role. Photo: ESPN

Jennifer Lawrence with US Olympic archer Khatuna Lorig, who trained her for the role. Photo: ESPN

The main problem for archery as a community is sustaining all that enthusiasm and interest when the fantasy meets the reality, probably via a battered Samick Polaris in a chilly sports hall. Some are directly engaging with this, such as the publicity work of Archery 360 for the ATA, but it may well be on the ground that people really needs nurturing. Often, people’s entire experience and future in target archery hinges on the personality of the local club secretary or archery shop staff –  who might just be having a bad day, or (in the USA) may be busy explaining the penetration capabilities of scary-looking broadheads to a guy dressed in camo instead.

Everywhere, the image of the sport needs modernising.  There needs to be an ever-simpler and clearer path to welcome a wider demographic to the sport from the groundswell of interest which, with another film due in November and Rio on the horizon, seems set to continue.

The entertainment in the film and the various others is just that – it’s not the sport – but it can take people places. I’ve mentioned several times on this blog why I think the ‘Katniss Effect’ is a good thing (with plenty of reservations about the posters, and I’m not the only one). I personally know someone who took up archery after watching the film only a couple of years ago, and last December made the cut in women’s recurve at the UK Indoor National Championship besting several current UK internationals in the process. It’s entirely possible that the Olympic champion at Tokyo 2020 (or even sooner?) will owe that original spark of interest to a movie.

 

back to business

 

Ki Bo Bae

Ki Bo Bae

The hardest archery tournament in the world. The Korea Archery Association have finished their yearly recurve selection tournament in Donghae City, a brutal week involving six 70m rounds and three days of head to head shooting – and apparently in miserably cold and rainy conditions, too. The top eight, in order, in each gender are:

MEN

1. Kim Woojin  (2011 world champion), who absolutely dominated the men’s division.

2. Lee Woo Seok  (2014 Youth Olympics champion)

3. Shin Jae Hun  (promising Korean cadet in 2008, fallen off the international radar for a few years)

4. Im Dong Hyun  (what hasn’t he won?)

5. Oh Jin Hyuk  (2012 Olympic champ, amongst much else)

6. Lee Seungyun  (2013 world champion) – had the top 70m score with 695.

7. Ku Bonchan  (brought home silverware last year)

8. Lee Seung Shin  (seems to be new on the block)

WOMEN

1. Ki Bo Bae  (2012 Olympic champion)

2. Jeon Sungeun  (Team LH pro, Bangkok 2014 indoor champion, 2013 WA Youth champion, 2013 Vegas shoot champ too)

3. Chang Hye Jin  (Team LH pro, 2014 Antalya individual champion, 2014 Asian Games team gold)

4. Choi Mi Seon  (20 years old, and on the Guangzhou University team – that’s all I’ve got)

5. Heung Soo Nam  (Cheongju City Hall team)

6. Lee Tuk Young  (2006 and 2014 Asian Games team gold medallist)

7. Kang Chae Young  (was a cadet in 2011)

8. Park Mi Kyung  (last seen on the international stage in 2003!)

Archers who didn’t make the cut include veterans Yun Ok Hee and Joo Hyun Jung (who has apparently retired), and perhaps most surprisingly, Jung Dasomi, last year’s Asian Games individual champion. There are further warmup tournaments next month which narrow down the eight to a front-line four that will likely contest the big events.

The biggest story of all is the triumphant return of Ki Bo Bae, after failing to make the 2014 squad due to a shoulder injury. She had maintained considerable form, managing to shoot a 1391 FITA last year for her pro team – even though a TV news piece at the end of last year hinted she might be retiring from international archery. Also, Im Dong Hyun, who was slightly in the wilderness in 2014, has achieved a truly staggering 13th consecutive selection for the national team.

Lee Woo Seok. Photo: Xinhua

Lee Woo Seok. Photo: Xinhua

It’s an interesting mix of familiar faces, veterans and youngsters; the real ones to watch might be the young wunderkinds Choi Mi Seon, who was leading the ranking round for two days, and Youth Olympic champion Lee Woo Seok (who, rumour has it, scored 710 for a 70m round earlier this year). If they deliver this season, who would actually bet against an Olympic medal next year?

News piece here (in Korean).

 

EDIT: and here they all are (via the KAA)

10834884_801157619960105_4205532373391660859_o

dot games

Via Chuck Cooley’s blog, this mesmerising video from Bow Junky focussing on the movement – or lack of it – of top compound shooters, from a camera on a tripod. In Chuck’s words:

“No matter how rock steady you are the dot moves… it really does. The question is, does yours move as little as the best in the game, or more? Either way the goal should be to trust your shot, shoot through the movement and not try and overdrive it or overcontrol it. Get it in the middle, let it float there, execute… it’ll be good.”

There’s something else here – this video looks and sounds amazing. Calm and elegant. Zen. Relaxing. I could watch it for hours.

Enjoy.

#tbt – archery on coins

Did you know that some of the first coins of all, and the first thought to have borne royal or imperial likenesses were of Darius the Great, ruler of Persia in the 5th century BC, and they depicted him as an archer?

5kings

The coins played a major part in making the modern world. Via Wikipedia:

“Darius introduced a new universal currency, the daric sometime before 500 BCE, which came in gold and silver versions. The gold daric had a standard weight of 8.4 grams with a purity of 95.83%, and it bore the image of the Persian king or a great warrior armed with a bow and arrow.  Darius used the coinage system as a transnational currency to regulate trade and commerce throughout his empire. The daric was also recognized beyond the borders of the empire, in places such as Celtic Central Europe and Eastern Europe…  Trade goods such as textiles, carpets, tools and metal objects began to travel throughout Asia, Europe and Africa. Their use ended with Alexander the Great‘s invasion in 330 BC when they were melted down and recoined as coins of Alexander. “

Achaemenid_coin_daric_420BC_front
“In ancient times, the coin was actually nicknamed “the archer”. For instance, the Spartan king Agesilaus II remarked that he had been driven out of Asia by “ten thousand archers”, referring to the bribes distributed by the Persian King.

It wasn’t just Persia; the archer was a potent numismatic symbol in antiquity and appeared on coins in India and the Parthian Kingdom during the same period.

(Not to be confused with an Archer.  Or Spanish Archer. For the archery fifty pence piece produced for London 2012, go here.) 

The Archers Of Bhutan

Untitled

Just watched this documentary from the early 2000s about Bhutan featuring archer Tshering Chhoden, who competed for the Himalayan nation in the Olympics. It might be the only country in the world where archery is the national sport, but it takes serious dedication to be an archer in a region where the selection competition might be a terrifying 20-hour bus journey away.

Tshering had an interesting Olympic career, which you can read about here (no spoilers). The film also covers a traditional archery competition in a nation where literally every village has an archery field. Most archers compete hit-or-miss at a distance of about 145 meters (476 feet) – interestingly, the same standard distance as Korean traditional archery.

Archery, luck, tradition and religion are closely intertwined in Bhutan. I’m willing to bet your local county tournament doesn’t involve specially composed songs sung by everyone’s wives, ritual magic involving menstrual blood, or a ban on sex the night before. The star of the film is really the extraordinary country and its culture, poised on the precipice of modernity – although it’s reassuring to see that rude jokes and playing cards for cash are cultural universals, amongst much else. Enjoy.

FYI: this seems to be a re-voiceovered version of a German documentary called Die Bogenschützin von Bhutan (The Archer Of Bhutan) – with a barely-edited English translation, and the credits stripped off for some reason. Anyway, enjoy. 

More on Bhutanese archery: this article on the national championships from the New York Times in 2013.