Wearable computing is the next big thing in the sports world, as evidenced by all of the existing technology: sensors for runners to wear on their shoes; goggles for skiers that feature heads-up displays to track their speed; and even shirts worn on the practice field in sports like rugby and soccer that track an athlete's performance. Companies such as Nike and Google see the future for wearable computing, and as such are investing heavily into the idea.
However, despite the fact these sensors and their related devices are dropping in size and cost, and that it has become easier than ever before to send all data collected by the device to the user's smartphone or online portal, the devices are still quite obvious, some much more than others.
Changing the Game
A user experience designer for Artefact, Jennifer Darmour, knows things need to change. Darmour has designed a prototype Pilates shirt, dubbed Move, that will change the wearable computing world forever, as well as give you an edge in your Pilates class.
The shirt relies on sensors woven directly into the fabric to monitor your body position and the movement of your muscles, and is the next step for the wearable computing world. The sensors can tell if your body is not in the proper position, and alerts you with a vibration.
Darmour isn't out to create a new business with this idea, but rather to alter wearable computing to the point everyone finds value in the technology. She feels that if we take these devices and change the way they look to the point it doesn't even look like you're wearing the device at all, more people will want it.
In the case of the shirt, she says that it is desirable because it looks just like an ordinary Pilates shirt, with no evidence of the sensors at all. She will present the shirt and the concept of wearable computing at South by Southwest this weekend.
Artefact and Concept Products
Artefact is no stranger to the world of concept products. The company designed the prototype of an innovative printer, called SWYP (See What You Print), a touch screen driven printer that connects to your phone, camera, computer, or tablet seamlessly.
Choose and edit your photo right on the screen of the SWYP, and when you're ready to print, simply swipe downward on the touchscreen. They also aided in developing the CR200 controller for the Sonos music system, as well as helping to improve user experience on the BlackBerry Playbook.
The Challenges Ahead
Darmour knows there are always challenges with innovative products. In the realm of wearable computing devices, it is no different. She says one of the first challenges to overcome is the fact that most people think “device” and envision a gadget encased in plastic rather than a more flexible fabric.
Secondly, a lot of data is generated as the sensors are recording every single muscle movement, vital signs, and position information of the user. Lastly, users typically need to stop what they are doing just to interact with the device.
She feels she's addressed these issues with Move. There are a total of four sensors woven in the front, back, and both sides of the shirt that monitor muscle movement and body position constantly. The shirt will vibrate around the hip and shoulder areas to alert you to an error in your position.
Why Pilates? She chose Pilates because she enjoys the exercise program herself. However, she feels that same design principles could be applied to many different garments, such as a golf shirt to help a golfer with their swing, to a dress shirt to aid the office worker in improving their posture. Ultimately, with Move, the garment interacts with us, rather than the other way around. Who's the interface now?