Art Center College of Design in partnership with Intel is hosting a Symposium today titled, Connected Bodies: Imagining New Wearables. I will be speaking on a panel that will be focusing on the topic of "reflections on today’s wearable landscape", which will include myself, Eric Olson (Karten Design), Steve Holmes (VP Smart Device Innovation, New Devices Group, Intel), Lama Nachman (User Experience Research, Intel Labs), and moderator Syuzi Pakhchyan, Art Center's Intel Technologist-in-Residence. It should be a great discussion as this space continues to heat up. For more info on the event, go here.
My colleague at Artefact, Craig Hajduk, recently wrote an article about the business of wearables. As this new industry continues to pave its way, there are a significant amount of challenges not only with the technical, design, manufacturing, and experience side of a wearable product, but also the business side. "Both consumer electronics and apparel are notoriously difficult businesses competing in mature industries. Wearable technology — everything from activity trackers like Fitbits and Misfits to watches like the Pebble to jewelry like the MEMI bracelet — blends two notoriously difficult, mature industries together: consumer electronics and apparel. Success is not guaranteed.
Design is often touted as the secret to success here, but what’s often overlooked is the business models that will ensure wearables will take off. Because the fact remains that like many cool new ideas, some wearables may just be technology in search of a problem to solve. And even when they do solve a problem for users, the unanswered question still is how to create new and sustainable businesses around them.
That’s where design thinking — with its ability to tackle complex problems from the perspective of deep user empathy — is the right approach to designing a business model strategy for wearable tech. In fact, the business model for wearables can be a key part of the product experience itself: The very tools that help create the product can be used to identify which models will support and enhance the customer experience.
Digital music services is a great example where the business model was a critical piece of the iPod product experience design and its success: Apple understood that a feeling of ownership was critical for digital music, and focused its attention on making purchasing and owning digital music as easy and intuitive as possible. Many pundits predicted streaming or rental models would overtake iTunes, since they were more affordable or provided access to more music. Yet, without a sense of ownership, the long-term value of those streaming and rental alternatives was harder for users to “get.” The results of those design-driven choices — and of course other factors — are clear: Apple iTunes business generated $4B in revenue this past quarter, while streaming and rental services continue to struggle.
As with digital music, wearables companies need to understand consumer expectations from these technologies. We can’t just create aesthetically pleasing products that generate interesting quantified self (QS) data — we need to create compelling experiences that connect emotionally with customers, to help them realize their goals and aspirations."
Continue reading on Wired
Image from The NY Post
The internet and smartphones have made it much easier to converse with people who speak different languages to you, with services using these technologies providing both instant text-to-speech and speech-to-speech translation options. Sigmo, a simple Bluetooth device which uses existing online translation services to translate from one language to the other and back again in real-time, is designed to be the middleman in the equation, thus removing the need to constantly shove your smartphone in people's faces.
The Sigmo prototype is a small square box that features a microphone, speaker, an on/off button, and first and second language buttons. Rather than performing any translating wizardry of its own, Sigmo pairs with a smartphone (iOS and Android devices will supported out of the box, with plans for more to be added later) via Bluetooth and relies on existing online translation services such as Google Translate to do the bulk of the work.
It cannot be claimed that Sigmo is quite up to the standard of the Universal Translator from Star Trek, but it's a step in that direction. Through the use of an accompanying app provided to buyers for free, users would be able to translate between 25 supported languages. These include English, French, Spanish, German, and Japanese, but the Sigmo team says this number will automatically increase as online translation services roll out updates.
Jake Evill, a recent graduate of the School of Design at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, has created the ‘Cortex Cast’, a fully ventilated, super light, shower friendly, hygienic, recyclable and stylish exoskeleton and his design is absolutely beautiful. It's a breath of fresh air to a tired old medical device. Ville's take on casts can be compared to Bespoke Innovation's take on prosthetics where both designers consider aesthetics, comfort (including fit and breathability), and unique manufacturing techniques in their innovative new approaches. "Unlike the stinky plaster casts that we’ve begrudgingly become accustomed to, the cortex cast allows in plenty of airflow to prevent that itchy, uncomfortable feeling. The cast is also far less bulky, allowing the patient to still easily wear a long sleeve shirt.
Nic Wallenberg's The Human Speaker is a curious electrical collar that allows you to vocalize electronic sounds without using your voicebox. Usually when singing or speaking, vibrations originating in the voice box are transported up the throat to the mouth, before emanating from the lips as sound waves.
The Human Speaker works much the same way, except the collar, rather than voice box, is the source of the vibrations. The pitch of the notes that emerge is determined by the collar, which, Wallenberg writes, can produce up to two notes at a time. Wearers can manipulate the sound with their mouths much as they would normally.
Wallenberg points out that the two-note limit can be cheated if you have multiple collars, or access to a camera and some video-editing software, apparently, judging from the below.
Continue reading on Gizmag
From geometric caravans to homes in a cart, the idea of having a portable shelter wherever one travels can be an enticing one (depending on your disposition, of course). Australian design company Sibling has made what is probably the most provident of shoes, a pair of sneakers with an integrated shelter hidden in the back.
Designed as a concept for shoe company Gorman, these "Walking Shelter" shoes are meant for instant shelter whenever it's needed. Say the designers:
The Walking-Shelter is a human shelter stored within a pair of sneakers. Stored compactly in integrated net pockets within the shoe, the shelter expands out and around the body to form an enclosure that relies on the human frame as a supporting structure.
The shelter accommodates for the body in a variety of ways and can be customised by the user to adapt to a variety of contexts and environments.This project was developed as a one-pff prototype and auctioned off, with all proceeds going towards Little Seeds Big Trees.
It may seem like a pretty wacky design at first, but it could have enormous potential in situations like disasters, homelessness or travelling extremely light. Whatever it is, it makes conventional shoes twice as useful.
Continue reading on Treehugger.