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You’re at a club, dancing to a great DJ, and suddenly your wristband vibrates, signaling that one of your friends hasn’t responded to her wristband’s attempt to make sure she’s still conscious and in control. So you search the club and find your friend, extracting her from a potentially dangerous situation.

That’s one of the core features of Vive, a technology concept created by University of Washington design and user experience students. It was one of the more noteworthy concepts presented this week at the annual Design Expo at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit in Redmond.

Vive is a non-working prototype, for now, but it’s well-thought-out and raises some interesting ideas for the future of wearable sensors. The technology exists to make it work — including sensors to monitor alcohol and dehydration levels.

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Judges at the Microsoft event praised the project and the way the students implemented the concept — such as the need for users to squeeze their wristbands when it vibrates to “check in,” to indicate that they’re having fun and in control.

One of the judges, Tom Igoe of NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts, said he appreciated the “intentionality” of that approach. “That is not the Internet of things — that is good design,” he said.

Another of the key elements is the fact that it isn’t just about preventing sexual assault or other compromising situations. There has to be another reason to get people to use the technology, so Vive would also connect to a smartphone and let users make connections at a party by tapping their wrists together with people they meet.

Here’s a video by the UW students showing how the concept works.

Microsoft Research’s Design Expo was started more than 10 years ago by Microsoft researcher Lili Cheng, seeking to include student design teams from around the world — not just computer science students — in tech development. This year’s theme was, “In a world with a billion sensors, how will we make sense of it all?

Students involved in the University of Washington Vive project are Mason Catt (Interaction Designer, Motion Designer, Branding); Kristina Colleen (Film director and Editor, Sound Editor, Interaction Designer); Dan Doan (Technical Director, Photography, Interaction Designer); Courtney Dutton (Information Architect, UX Designer, Researcher); Gwenyth Hardiman (Creative Director, UX Researcher, Copywriter) and Abigail Steinem (Visual Designer, Marketing, Branding, Researcher.)

Their adviser is Axel Roesler, associate professor of Interaction Design in the UW School of Art.

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