You may now ditch your trainer

I recently wrote an article for Seattle design firm, Artefact, about the exploding trend in wearable fitness devices that are entering the market. Here's an abbreviated version. Read the full article here. ......

Make some room in your junk drawer – that old pedometer is about to find a new home.  The market is exploding with new technology targeting both consumers who want more control over their personal fitness and those looking to change their lifestyle to improve their overall health.  This emerging trend centers on the idea that we want to collect biometric and environmental information on what we do, how we eat, when we sleep, and even how we feel.  Some folks call it the Quantified Self movement, which is a fancy name for people that like to collect data on their daily habits to analyze or share with others.  From established brands like Polar and Nike, to upstarts such as Jawbone and other independent manufacturers, the personal fitness space is getting crowded with wearable devices that can collect personal data and talk to our ever-present smartphones.

Despite the proliferation of gadgets, it’s difficult to pinpoint one that really stands out.  A lot of the new wearable devices count calories and track users’ movements, so companies are trying to differentiate themselves through accessories, add-ons, and feature sets that, for good or bad, approach the challenge of data collection and analysis in similar ways.  Still, there are some interesting options out there, so let’s take a look.

  • It’s all in the wristWhat’s old is new again.  Wristwatches are ubiquitous, making them ideal for companies like Polarand Garmin to convert them into wearable computers. Capable of handling many functions that were up until very recently, the domain of much larger devices, these multitasking timepieces are becoming more robust, offering a lot of functionality that let runners and bikers leave their phones at home so they can exercise without distraction.
  • New wearable options. Beyond the wrist, other solutions come in designs that can be clipped, Velcroed, or hung form your body.  Despite their migration away from the wrist, the data collection options remain similar.
  • Make it social. Where once products differentiated themselves with social networking capabilities, we’ve come to expect our products to share with the world.
  • Not-so-everyday products. Just as TVs are becoming more and more connected, so too are other common household items.Fitbit has been doing a nice job with their Ultra wearable device/iPhone app solution (a lightweight clip/iPhone app combination) and is now extending the experience into everyday objects.
Continue reading the full article at Artefact.

A fashionable, wearable camera

Artefact has created a fashionable, wearable concept camera and display that encourages users to snap, share, and wear their photos in an instant called Meme. According to an article published by Fast Company about the project, "by transforming the traditional lens camera into a wearable screen (it can be worn as a necklace or attached with a pin or clip), Artefact tapped into the idea of using tech as a means of self-expression--an especially smart strategy for attracting the Lady Gaga generation. The e-ink display uses the same technology as Amazon’s Kindle, but here, the 32-bit grayscale monitor renders moody, black-and-white images that complement the retro-cool, color-saturated effect of Instagram."

Here's how Artefact approached the concept:

The traditional point-and-shoot camera is becoming marginalized as camera phones continue to improve in quality and functionality. We thought about how to re-imagine this device as a product that teens and young adults would want to use as much as their phones. But rather than try to displace the cell-phone as a camera, we wanted to find a solution that integrates into the existing tech ecosystem (mobile, app, social media).

Young people enjoy sharing experiences right at the moment they happen and define their identity through creative outlets. Artefact wanted to design an affordable yet disruptive camera that offers instant gratification and relevance to its user. Emphasis has been placed on fun and self-expression rather than tech specs and functions.

As a fashion accessory, Meme goes with everything! Users can change the picture as frequently as they change their mood, interests, or style. Meme can be worn as a necklace, or attached to clothing with a pin or clip.

Continue reading on Artefact


modwells: Personal modules for wellness

[gallery] I've been working on another wearable technology project via Artefact. The project is focused on the topic of healthcare and takes an integrated approach to the design that combines technology garments, industrial design and software.  Here's an update on the project, the concept, and where I'm at with it, which is only scratching the surface of the many possibilities of this platform. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Healthcare today

Today there is a significant conversation around health, wellness and healthcare experiences and an equal amount of investment happening in the consumer arena. So, I put on my thinking cap and started asking a few questions around this topic:

  • How can we motivate people to live a healthier lifestyle?
  • How can we engage people more in preventative care, and how can we increase their health awareness?
  • How can we teach people how to stay healthy?
  • How can we make health data more accessible?
  • How can a personal health product adjust to the needs of different people? There are many systems which track a single set of data very well, but nothing that adapts to the personal needs of people and tracks multiple data combinations.
  • How can this be done in a way that inspires us to want to use it and wear it?

I've been dissecting these questions into bite-sized chunks and came up with the following platform solution (read about some of the research findings on the Artefact website here):

modwells: Personal modules for wellness

The modwells system is a platform that delivers a consumer-focused healthcare experience integrated into your daily life. It improves your physical and emotional health, and enhances your quality of life. The system respects the unique health and wellbeing needs of each user and accommodates those needs through a customizable solution that blurs the line between traditional medical products and consumer products. The system consists of:

  • Mods: a collection of input and output sensors that collect and assess health data, provide basic feedback and alerts.
  • Trestle: A trestle that presents data and interaction. The trestle also recharges the mods wirelessly.
  • Accessories: A collection of optional accessories that extend the mod’s capabilities. In this case, it is a body positioning garment.
  • A cross-platform software application: enables users to work with their personal health data, manage goals, share experiences with friends and connect with healthcare professionals

Continue reading on the artefact website ...

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