Join me in Austin at SXSW!

Join me in Austin at SXSW where I will be sharing a vision for what’s next in wearable technology. Here’s a hint: wearable technology represents an entire new era of interaction. It has the potential to change our relationship to technology altogether by making it more discreetly, smartly integrated into our lifestyle, and ultimately, giving us superpowers. With the plethora of trendy new products like, Google Glasses, iWatches, the smartphone as your fitness coach – wearable technology is on the verge of going beyond media buzz to becoming mainstream. In a few years virtually everyone will be wearing some tech piece on their body. The question is: How do we avoid becoming cyborgs and create new wearable technology experiences that make us more human? Continue reading at

Join me Saturday, March 9 2013 @ 11am at the Radisson Town Lake Hotel in Austin, TX. Click here to register.

image source.



Wearable Technology Conference Recap

I spoke at the Wearable Technology Conference in San Francisco this week and the day was a success! The conference was a packed house with 21 speakers presenting their ideas and new product developments in just one day. It was a sold-out crowd with a wait-list of attendees that ranged from technologists to researchers to start-ups launching new products. It was great to see such a growing interest in this space and I hope this will inspire the coordinators to extend it out for a couple of days instead of just one. I approached my talk around what makes technology wearable and shared  four principles that the industry can use toward creating more compelling consumer products. Others focused on topics such as manufacturing and feasibility. All around, the talks presented opportunities in this space along with mountainous challenges. Even with the barriers, the tone of the room throughout the day confirmed that we are just beginning a wave in this field and everyone there was excited to be on it.

In general, the conference focused on the consumer electronics and technology side of wearables, but was very weak on eTextiles or any of the work that’s being explored with smart fabrics. There were a couple of references to garments, but even those were focused on the ones that had hard-casing components attached to them, not necessarily integrated into the fabric itself. The topics also lacked a user experience perspective and this is an area that we shouldn’t omit from the conversation.

Here are some highlights from the conference:

Power in the software

There was one talk in particular that was very impressive by Dave Dickenson from Zeo Sleep Manager. He was one of the few that presented his sleep management product from the perspective of the user experience and talked about how interpreting sensor data in meaningful ways is one of the core opportunities for these new types of consumer electronic products. I couldn't agree more! He shared with us a catchy phrase that the company uses: Device & Advice, which he defined as taking data from the device, making sense of it and making recommendations to the user on what to do with it. This aligns nicely with one of my principles, Connected, where we have the ability to use software and smart algorithms to interpret the data in more meaningful ways to the user. For example, rather than simply showing you how you slept that night, provide recommendations on what to do to improve your sleep based on that data. This brings more value to the experience and helps people not only understand themselves better (aka quantified self) but understand what to do to improve their lives.

Creative funding for innovation

I enjoyed Eric Migicovsky’s talk from Pebble who presented their story and the overall product experience. What’s interesting about his product is that it represents new business models and ways in which these types of innovations are being funded. Migicovsky and his colleagues raised their funds through Kickstarter, a crowdsourcing investment service, originally asking for $100K but earning over $10Mill with nearly 85K pre-orders! The format is a great low-risk way to get early stage funding while also getting a sense of consumer demand. And in this case, with so much investment, it’s clear that consumers are ready for this type of device.

Trends in form-factors

After Google’s announcement of their new Google Glass concept aimed for prime-time in the short term, headsup displays are all the rage. So I couldn’t help but take notice with Kip Fyfe’s product that he shared from 4iii Innovations. They have developed an attachable device aimed at cyclists that turns your bike shades into a headsup display. It’s a first version product so the styling isn’t quite refined yet, but the product includes an interface that is pushed to the side and in your periphery rather than in front of you and disruptive. Conceptually, this is moving the heads-up display experience in the right direction as opposed to the disruptive experience that I have seen from the Google Glass concept video so far.

Breaking through the manufacturing barrier

It was clear that manufacturing is still a big hurdle in this field. Since wearable technology requires a close collaboration between very different types of products and fields (i.e., electronics vs. garment making) the manufacturing facilities are not set up to handle production for all aspects of these types of products. Dr. Chih-Cheng Lu from AiQ Smart Clothing Lab talked about the variety of products and garment accessories they are making with embedded sensing technology. When making the garments, however, they run into all sorts of manufacturing hurdles due to fragmentation. For example, they develop softgood accessories such as underwear with embedded technologies and have products for both men and women. But the apparel manufacturers specialize in only one or the other so they have to go to one facility to produce the mens underwear and an entirely different facility to produce the women's. Overall, the production workflow is not set up to manufacture these types of products in a streamlined fashion. This adds a lot of logistical complexity and cost to the process.

Powering our devices

Powering wearable devices and getting batteries to a small enough size to be worn is still a big challenge right now. Brooks Kincaid from Imprint Energy gave an inspiring talk about improvements in batteries made specifically for wearable technology. He shared his super-thin solution that is as thin as a sheet of paper, bendable and you can even punch a hole in it without effecting the performance and power. The only downer for his product is that it won’t be available for another 2 or 3 years. Nonetheless, it’s a promising advancement in this space.

Applying the four principles

Collectively, the talks presented ideas and new products that could really benefit from applying the four foundational principles to their experience: contextual, discreet, connected, and fashionable. Most products are doing one or two of these, but lack the others. It’s a step forward in carving out a new field, but as the industry matures, so will the need to apply better end-to-end processes and methods of design and development. I would like to see more thinking across these four principles, which will help us create much more compelling consumer experiences and technology products that we want to wear and that, ultimately, improve our lives.

For more info on the four principles, go to the article here. For more info on the conference, go to their site here.

I'll be speaking at 2 events in SF

I'll be at two events in San Francisco this week sharing my latest project Move and talking about 4 principles that can help us create better and more compelling wearable technology solutions. During my talks, I'll share four design and development principles for wearable technology, an example of how these can be applied through my latest product Move and other industry products, and how our immerging industry can collaborate toward more compelling consumer experiences. The four principles include:

  1. Contextual: Understanding your audience, their context, & what they need to improve their lives
  2. Discreet: Pushing the technology to the background so it’s non-disruptive & ambient
  3. Connected: Connecting to software & services that bring more value to the experience
  4. Fashionable: Removing the geek-factor toward a broader consumer market

Here's where the events will be:

Come and join me in the discussion if you're in town!

Book your tickets to Smart Textiles Salon

The Smart Textile Salon is coming up along with an exhibit that will showcase a variety of prototypes on April 21 in Ghent, Belgium. The projects range from child monitoring to reactive rugs. If you can get yourself to Belgium, you don't want to miss this line up:

  • PROETEX - Final prototype (Carla Hertleer, Ghent University, Ghent, BE) - An advanced E-Textile system bringing together sensors, connections, transmission systems, and power management to be used in smart garments of emergency disaster personnel.
  • ODITH - Interactive wheelchair posture monitoring system (Riccardo Marchesi, Texe srl, Firenze, IT) - A portable posture monitoring system "ODITH" especially developed for wheelchairs. Two textile pressure analog sensors are integrated in the chair backrest cover and two in the armrest covers, allowing a continuous monitoring of the upper body and arms.
  • Active Belt to capture & process ECG signals (Kunal Mankodiya, Dept. of Rehabilitation Science & Tech., University of Pittsburgh, USA) - winner of SYSTEX Student Award 2010 - A wearable ECG chest belt named "Active Belt" which contains stitched textile electrodes for ECG detection and analog preprocessing circuits embedded in tiny cell-phone plugs.
  • Heatable Coverall (Vera De Glas/Geert Hebbrecht, Sioen, BE) - A coverall including heating elements, connection wires with energy supply through a battery.
  • Dance with Light - UGent TextielMobiel (Nicki Vlaemynck, University College Ghent, Ghent, BE) - A garment that can be used for playing the Sync-in-Team - social dance game. Integrated LEDs, accelerometers and a textile antenna ensure interaction between the players.
  • A delicate phase of matter: a collection of liquid crystal colour-change surfaces (Sara Robertson, Heriot Watt University, Galashiels, UK) - A collection of flexible colour-change surfaces that demonstrate design potential for future directions in responsive surface design.
  • Saturday Light Fever Super Hero (Evelyn Lebis, Swedish school of Textiles and Boras University, Boras, SW) - Saturday Light Fever is inspired by butterfly bio-mimicry and blinds the bad with brightness! A super hero costume with which the evil will be beaten through innocent appearance and dazzles with surprise effects.
  • Flexible Light for Health and Wellbeing (Frank van Abeelen, Philips Research, Human Interaction & Experiences, Eindhoven, NL) - A 'blanket' for treatment of neonatal jaundice. Early born babies often suffer from this condition, which is visible as yellowing of the skin and must be treated with blue light.
  • Human-computer Device integrated into Fire Fighter Jacket (Patrycja Bosowski, Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) der RWTH Aachen, Aachen, GER) - A garment that helps fire-fighting personnel on duty through integration of a keybord in the sleeve or the garment and textile buttons and textile transmission lines.
  • Prospie 1st prototypes (Hein Daanen, Thermal Physiologist, VU-University Amsterdam, Department of Human Performance, TNO Defence, Security and Safety, Soesterberg, NL)
  • A garment that incorporates a cooling and a warning system for the industrial worker in the heat.
  • Communicating child's jacket and mother's purse (Inese Parkova, Institute of Textile Materials Technologies and Design of the Riga Technical University, LVA) - a smart child's jacket and a mother's purse, which are communicating using a wireless data exchange protocol
  • Remote control pillow (Patrycja Bosowski, Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) der RWTH Aachen, Aachen, GER) - A pillow that incorporates a textile matrix serving as switch or remote control.
  • UMIC Healthnet Shirt (Melanie Hörr / Till Quadflieg, Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) der RWTH Aachen, Aachen, GER) - A shirt that measures your measure pulse through textile ECG electrodes.
  • Canvas (Malte von Krshiwoblozki, Fraunhofer-Institut fuer Zuverlaessigkeit und Mikrointegration IZM, Abteilung SIIT, Berlin, GER) - A canvas that gives light which can be adapted to different shapes and rooms.
  • AXON superhero (Joost Aanen, Eindhoven University of Technology, NL) - A superhero that has full control over the energy in its body. The superhero directs his energy into his hand to vanquish his opponents with a stunning blow of light.
  • Lightening Textile (Melanie Hörr/Ivana Cujic, Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) der RWTH Aachen, Aachen, GER) - A multilayered textile with integrated conductors and light emitting diodes.
  • LUMINOUS CURTAIN & COVER (LC) (Miguel Ridao, SENSING Tex, Barcelona, SP) - A textiles with new functions for covering spaces or upholstery, and the emission of light.
  • Intelligent rugs as pressure sensor (Ignacio Chanzá/José Gisbert, European Affairs -Textile Research Institute, Brussels, BE) - A carpet that stimulates blood circulation or can be used to control video.
  • The NO Mosquito Shirt - From the idea to the market (Hélder Rosendo/Manuel Pinheiro, Technological Centre for the Textile and Clothing Industries of Portugal, PT) - A shirt that provides several levels of protection through micro-encapsulation of active repellent.

More at Smart Textiles Salon.

Events, events, events!

There are a lot of wearable technology events happening now through the next few months. Here's the growing line-up to keep your eyes on: (above image from FashionWare SXSW)

TransNatural - March 4-April 1, 2011 - Amsterdam TransNatural shows interesting attempts from art, design and science to fuse technology with nature. More info.

FashionWare - March 18-19 - Austin, Texas Syuzi Pakhchyan of Fashioning Tech is curating a show at #sxsw's new fashion component in Austin, TX. Stop by her booth if you're in the Austin area. More info.

Soft Circuit Weekend - April 2-3 2011 - San Francisco, California Led by Instructor Lara Grant at The Gray Area Foundation for the Arts will start with the history of wearable technology and end with a hands-on workshop. More info via talk2myshirt.

Smart Fabrics Conference - April 4-6, 2011 - London, UK The 7th annual Smart Fabrics 2011 will take place on 4-6 April 2011 at the Hotel Russell in London, UK and will cover topics such as the current status of innovative smart fabric technologies in the marketplace, as well as recent application breakthroughs and adoption. More info.

Intelligent Textiles Workshop - April 2011 - Ghent, Belgium Just before the Smart Textiles Salon, theUniversity of Ghent in cooperation with Plug and Wear and Systex organize a two part, three day workshop on Intelligent Textiles. More info via talk2myshirt.

Smart Textile Salon - April 18-21 2011 - Ghent, Belgium Besides informing people about intelligent textiles on a theoretical level, this workshop emphasis the practical application of the knowledge – from theory to application in real prototypes. More info.

Popkalab Wearable Technology Workshop - April 27th to 29th - Sede Tecnológica de la UNIA, Málaga/Spain In this 3 days workshop participants will be introduced to wearable technology, special flexible and conductive material (conductive fabrics, threads, yarns and other soft and squishy materials), basic electronics and will develop a wearable project using the learned techniques. More info.

Pretty Smart Textiles (PDF) - May 2-3, 6-8, 16, 19 2011 - Herning, Denmark The Exhibition Pretty Smart Textiles shows how fashion, art and technology elegantly work together to become smart textiles. More info (PDF).

Pretty Smart Textiles Workshop (PDF) - May 4 2011 - Herning, Denmark In the textile industry of the future, innovation, technology and development are key words. Students will get a unique hands-on chance to learn about future textiles and the technologies behind. More info (PDF).

DMY International Design Festival - June 1-5, 2011 - Berlin DMY Berlin is an international design network for contemporary product design. At the yearly DMY International Design Festival Berlin both renowned and young, experimental designers launch new products, prototypes and foresighted projects. More info.

ISWC 2011 - June 12-15, 2011 - San Francisco, California The fifteenth annual IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computers, is the premier forum for wearable computing and issues related to on-body and worn mobile technologies. More info.

DMY International Design Festival Berlin, June 9-13

The 8th edition of DMY International Design Festival 2010 will kick off with a grand opening ceremony in the evening of June 9 and it's looking promising. Over 10.000 square meters filled with inspirational prototypes and new product evolutions by over 400 designers invite you to explore the latest developments in the fields of contemporary product design. Continue reading the event description here. According to V2_labs: Participants of the V2_ E-Textile Workspace will be submerged in the world of wearable technology for a day. Experienced workshop leaders will explain the aims and key concepts of the field, and assist participants to build a simple soft interface into one of their own existing garments. The workshop will be beginner level. Continue reading on V2_labs.

Visit electricfoxy's events page for more conference goodness.