In the world of technology, there's the tech we see and constantly think about, and the invisible tech that, for one reason or another, fades into the background. And in the strangest of situations, that's precisely what happened on Tuesday during the Donald Trump impeachment trial.
According to a new report from Roll Call, seven senators, if not more, were caught wearing Apple Watches on Tuesday during the impeachment trial. They wore the smart watches despite Senate rules for the trial dictating no senators use electronic devices in the chamber.
Of course, news of six Republican senators, including John Cornyn of Texas, and one Democrat, Patty Murray of Washington, wearing the Apple Watch quickly spread online. And many folks went to their Twitter accounts to see if they had used the Apple Watch publicly during the trial.
While it's unclear who might be wearing Apple Watches on Wednesday, the story has broader implications than just senators breaking the rules during a historic impeachment trial. It also points to the impact invisible tech can have on our lives.
The fact is, computers and smartphones are relatively easy to police. They take up space, are always on our minds, and always easy to spot. Desktop machines, laptops, tablets, and phones are how the vast majority of us interact with technology. And, in some cases, it's believed that our communication with technology ends there.
But in reality, Apple and other companies have expanded our tech usage in very important ways through wearables. And although they might seem to be traditional watches or just fitness trackers to tell us how many steps we've taken, they've become in recent years just as fully functioning as smartphones or computers. And that makes them important tools -- even if they're often overlooked.
With those Apple Watches, senators could have done just about everything from their wrists that they could've done if their iPhones had been present in the chamber. They could have used them to place calls, send messages, and communicate over apps. They could also have recorded conversations in the chamber.
My guess is that won't be the last time that wearables are seemingly forgotten and used in the wrong places at the wrong times. In a not-so-distant future, many of us will also be wearing augmented reality glasses from Apple and other companies designed to look like fashionable eyewear, but that feature technology that will allow us to snap photos, send messages, and perform other computing functions from our face. In many ways, those augmented reality glasses will be even more useful than smart watches. And if they're fitted with prescription lenses, they might be even more of a requirement.
That eyewear, in other words, could prove to be an even more invisible piece of tech. And if overlooked in areas where they shouldn't be (locker rooms, jury rooms, and doctors' offices come to mind), the eyewear could also give those wearing it even more ability to capture what they want.
The face of tech is changing rapidly. And the tools we use to communicate are changing with it. As time goes on, look for even more changes -- and for more missteps when forgetting about invisible tech -- to pop up.