Ah, wearable computing. Whether it’s geeky wristbands you can wear in the shower or the Seattle bar that’s already banned Google Glass, the discussions and ideas for embedded electronics on our bodies are heating up.
To learn more about this potentially lucrative space, we sat down with Jennifer Darmour, a designer for Seattle-based technology design firm Artefact. Before flying to Austin this past weekend to speak at SXSW, Darmour shared her presentation on wearable computing with us.
Though several companies are already trying to dip their feet in the industry, there are still several existing barriers to mass adoption; for example, gadgets are still clunky and aren’t seamless enough.
Darmour, a wearable technology expert who also runs a blog called electricfoxy, noted three big challenges right now in this space:
1. Devices right now are hardware focused — think about Nike+ FuelBand, FitBit, etc. — and not exactly fashionable.
2. Data is becoming too big and complicated — how do you make sense of it and make it consumable?
3. Interactions with wearable computing today are still disruptive and get in the way of the user.
Darmour envisions a world where technology can help our every day lives instead of interfering with our daily doings.
“I’d like to see us move away from bolting technology onto us to seamlessly integrating it beautifully into our lives so it enhances the human experience, as opposed to obstruct it and distract us,” Darmour said.
Darmour has four building blocks that can help “move us away from being cyborgs,” and are necessary ingredients to get common people to consider wearable computing.
1. Beauty — When people are asked to wear these devices, the aesthetic value becomes extremely relevant.
2. Responsiveness — Wearable computing needs to be more responsive and require less initiation on the user’s behalf to activate.
3. Peripheral — This relates to the visible vs. non-visible space and how we can use our periphery “almost invisibly” to consume data without a phone She used an example of shoes that have an embedded GPS system with lights that point users in a given direction.
4. Meaning — The data has to make sense us and something needs to tell us what to do with the information.
To demonstrate how to address these problems, Darmour is currently working on a prototype Pilates shirt called Move that is pictured above. It’s a wearable garment that has four stretch-and-bend sensors located on the front, back and sides. While doing Pilates, the shirt can read your body’s position and provide real-time feedback. The data is sent to a mobile app so you can assess your performance.
While she doesn’t have big plans to get the Pilates shirt onto the market quite yet, Darmour said the prototype is more to show everyone what benefits can come from wearable computing, whether it’s Pilates, a golf swing or something simple like keeping your back straight while working at the office.
“We shouldn’t have to interact with the technology,” Darmour said. “It should interact with us.”
I’ll leave you with this crazy futuristic video called Sight that you may have already seen. Darmour showed it to us as an example of “obstructive technology.” It shows how computing contacts — essentially Google Glasses — could ruin social interaction. The hope, at least to Darmour, is that wearable devices eventually will help enhance the human experience rather than degrade it.
Previously on GeekWire: No Google Glasses allowed, declares Seattle bar