Five Ways to Use a Smart Watch at Comic-Con

Pebble Smart WatchI was reading up on wearable computing today, and with the SDCC badge presale looming, I found myself wondering whether a smart watch would be useful for Comic-Con.  (No plans to actually buy one, I’m just thinking.) I don’t normally wear a watch these days, but it does get annoying to have to reach into my pocket when I want to check the time. For this reason, I make a point to wear a watch at conventions so that I can see the time at a glance and avoid missing events or meetup times.

So, keeping in mind that the current generation of smart watches (Pebble, Galaxy Gear, etc.) mostly pair up with a phone to do the heavy lifting…what might a smartwatch do better for a con than a phone (or a regular watch)?

1. Messages. Between the noise and the walking, it’s already too easy to miss calls or even texts when you’re out on the floor of the convention. It’s easier to notice a buzz on your wrist than a buzz in your pocket, and less intrusive to glance at your wrist to see if it’s something urgent when you’re interacting with people in the real world. You can also tell instantly when you’re crowd-weaving to meet someone whether that text they just sent is “I’m here,” “Running late,” or “Change of plans, meet me at Hall G lobby.”

2. Schedule reminders. Put the event, time, and room number on the screen. How to make it more awesome: pull down the floorplan and use your location to calculate how long it’ll take to get there, and notify you far enough ahead of time that you can make it, Google Now-style. This is more useful for smaller conventions or at least smaller panels at SDCC, since the big ones require you to line up way ahead of time anyway.

3. Wi-Fi hotspot detector. Even if the watch doesn’t support wi-fi, your phone does, and it can ping the watch to let you know.

4. Breaking news alerts. Ironically, I feel like I miss more news when I’m at Comic-Con than when I’m following along from home. This would have to be very well filtered in order to be useful without pulling you out of actually experiencing the convention.

A step counter would be interesting, but I can probably find an app for my phone.

I doubt I’d use a wrist-mounted camera like the one on Samsung’s Galaxy Gear much. Google Glass would be more practical for the blink-and-you’ll miss-it moments, and if you have time to compose a shot, you have time to pull out a phone or dedicated camera. OTOH, a wrist camera is probably a little less creepy than Glass. (On the gripping hand, maybe not.)

Of course the absolute best use of a smartphone at Comic-Con:

5. Get one that can actually handle calls, and wear it with a Dick Tracy costume.

What uses can you think of?

Photo: Pebble watch by Chris Keene, used under terms of the CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

SDCC Lottery: The Least-Bad Option?

SDCC is moving to lottery-based pre-registration for 2014 to even out the crush of everyone hitting the site in the first 10 seconds after launch. Instead of first-come first-serve, you sign in anytime within a window and it randomly assigns your place in line.

I think we’re at the point where there just is no good way to handle the demand. A lottery — or rather, a pair of lotteries, one open to past attendees and one open to everyone — may very well be the least-bad option for now.

Originally published as a comment on SDCC Blog’s discussion of the change.

How Disneyland is Like Comic-Con

Gateway to Adventure(land)

We took the kid to Disneyland this weekend. It’s been a few years since I’d been to the park, and with NYCC happening at the same time, I couldn’t help but compare the experience to San Diego Comic-Con.

  • It’s expensive to get in, but once you’re there, most of the events are free.
  • It’s hideously crowded.
  • Everywhere you go, people are stopping for photos with people wearing costumes.
  • You spend a lot of time waiting in line. (But at Disneyland, you can usually be sure you’ll get in!)
  • Food is overpriced and mediocre, unless you leave and come back.
  • You can’t possibly do everything in one visit.

I Survived Comic-Con 2013!

And this year, that’s saying something. (I’ll get into that later.)

Sometime Thursday afternoon or Friday morning I concluded that we’d remember this year’s trip more for the circumstances around it than for the con itself. I had no idea.

For starters: We had tickets for Thursday and Friday, and planned to drive into town Wednesday afternoon and drive home Friday evening. Sure, Comic-Con is stressful, but we always used to drive home Sunday evening and I was fine.

Of course, most of those times we weren’t bringing a toddler along.

Under Pressure

Comic-Con is a stressful, high-pressure, taxing experience. Vacationing with a small child is also a stressful, high-pressure, taxing experience. And so many little things went wrong the first two days: Leaving the stroller behind and having to buy a cheap one on the way, the leg cramp in stop-and-go traffic, having to search for outlets to plug in the lamps in our hotel room (and having to unplug them in order to charge more than one phone at a time), the fit at dinner that had strangers commenting on how J must be tired (actually, ma’am, he acts like this regardless of sleep quotient). Getting out too late to take the shuttle back and having to take the trolley instead (though that actually worked out fine, as J loved the idea)…at which point we learned that the routes had changed since we last rode the trolley, and we got off one stop too early to make the transfer.

Thursday morning we had everything planned out: We’d go to breakfast at Broken Yolk Cafe, then pick up our badges, then I’d take J around while Katie tried to catch the first big panel of the day. So what happened? We missed the shuttle because they moved the stop from where it had been last time we stayed on this route. Then I ordered blueberry crepes and managed to spill them on my shirt and shorts. They went into the con while I went back to the hotel to change clothes and try to rinse out the blueberry syrup before it stained.

And the first taste of Comic-Con is always overwhelming. Always. Add in these circumstances and you won’t be surprised that when I finally caught up an hour and a half later, Katie was ready to swear off ever coming back.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Always bring spare clothes. (Done, fortunately.)
  2. Don’t start the con with a breakfast that might stain if it spills.
  3. If you’re bringing a small child, find some way that you can start the con without them, then bring them in later.

Overheard: “It was! It was! It was Reptar!”

Settling In

Fortunately, things improved over the course of the day, and the rest of Thursday actually went pretty well. Friday, on the other hand…well, we’ll get to that.

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Going to the ER at Comic-Con: Not the Peanuts I was Expecting

I’ve been attending San Diego Comic-Con for more than 20 years, but this was the first time I left the con in an ambulance.

I’m OK now. Though I might not be when I see the bill.

It started at lunchtime. We went to New Break, an independent coffee shop near Ralphs, which we’d been to before. They were offering samples of a blended peanut butter banana coffee drink, and while I really wanted to try their blended mint mocha, it was safer to skip something made on the same equipment.

What I decided on was a Mexican Mocha. Generally, these add cinnamon, maybe nutmeg or chili powder. I’ve had drinks with that and similar names, and Mexican hot chocolate, plenty of times. I didn’t ask what was in it, but I had just told them I was allergic to peanuts when I decided to skip the blended drink.

I considered getting it iced, but there was some confusion as to what was included in the lunch deal, so I got it hot instead. That turned out to be a wise decision, since I probably would have started out chugging a few ounces of a cold drink.

Two sips in, the back of my throat and my lips started tingling — a bad sign. I stopped, flagged over one of the baristas, and asked whether there were any nuts in the drink. She didn’t think so, but said she’d check.

I pulled out my emergency kit, took my Benadryl and Pepcid, and set my Epi-Pen on the table in case it progressed. I probably should have just taken it right then, but who wants to spend the afternoon in the emergency room instead of Comic-Con?

Meanwhile, the coffee shop staff had been unable to find ingredients for the mix, and had to call the owner to confirm that yes, there were peanuts in it.

Great.

Over the next hour, it felt like the reaction was under control, so I figured we could return to the convention center. Unfortunately, anaphylaxis can take several hours to run its course, and medication can wear off before it does.

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