In Japanese, the term doki doki represents the sound your heart makes when it’s pounding. It’s often used in anime series to represent nervousness or anxiety. In one of my favorite shows, whenever the main character saw her crush in the halls, everything in her world would narrow down to one thing: the sound of her heart pounding furiously as he approached. Doki doki. Doki doki.
One of the features that most intrigues me about the Apple Watch is the one that lets you share heartbeats. It’s the sound you hear when you’re being held by someone you love. It’s something that encapsulates our humanity. It’s one of the first ways an expectant mother connects with her child—the fetal heartbeat heard via ultrasound.
Technology has a way of both shrinking and amplifying intimacy, depending on the circumstances. Having dinner with a friend who is constantly checking their emails? Not good. Being able to hear the heartbeat of your partner when you’re far apart? Cool.
This little feature has been overlooked in many of the product reviews. I am fascinated by a technological connection that fosters intimacy between two people physically regardless of where they are. Unlike FaceTime or Skype, which replicate a lesser version of someone’s visual presence, sharing a heartbeat pioneers a new realm of digital intimacy that links our bodies and our devices in a new dance of tactile connectivity.
As a futurist, my first thought was to wonder what Apple does with this feature. What markets might be created around it? How could it commercialize this type of intimacy? Celebrities instantly came to mind. Social media has enabled fans to connect with their idols in new ways. Stars can now share video clips, images, tweets, messages, vines, and all sorts of other media that create the illusion of accessibility. Teen idols such as One Direction, Taylor Swift, or any relationship where fans are intensely invested with their heroes could be a potential market.
Think about it: if you were obsessed with Taylor Swift, what could be more intimate than having her heartbeat transmitted to your Apple Watch at random intervals? What if for $3.99 you could subscribe Harry Styles’ heartbeat? A few times a day your wrist would buzz and you would be able to feel it—instant intimacy, of a sort.
What about sports fans? What if during the World Cup or the World Series or the NHL Playoffs you could get a burst of your favorite player’s heartbeat while he’s playing the game live? You’re sitting at home glued to the screen and your player is about to take shot—your wrist vibrates and suddenly both of your heartbeats are pounding in anticipation.
Media executives already know people watch their favorite shows and movies on multiple screens, but what opportunities would this feature of the Apple Watch create for content? We consistently seek more interactive experiences, so why not an app that syncs to your Netflix and activates during a moment of high tension? When Frank Underwood gets increasingly caught up in his own web of lies, what if you also had a link to his metabolism?
You may think I’m crazy. But in the Roman Age, people would buy vials filled with the sweat of their favorite gladiator and wear it as perfume. Is a digital heartbeat really that farfetched?
There are also interesting ways this might be valuable in our daily lives. For military families whose loved ones often can’t give out the details of where they are or what they are doing, an app that regularly sends a snapshot of a heartbeat to the family worrying at home might be reassuring. Or an app that alerts you if your elderly parent or young child’s heartbeat becomes erratic could be a practical safety measure, or a tool to help diagnose a health problem. And what physical indicators might Apple help us share in real time beyond the heartbeat? The sound of breathing? Our cholesterol levels? Facial expressions?
Ultimately, we are at the beginning of a new age of tactile digital communication that I believe will redefine how we communicate with each other. Apple has now created a world where we are literally only a heartbeat away.