While wearable technology is one of the most hyped topics in the interaction field over the last years, everyone is asking himself ”Where is it leading?”, “How will it effect people and how will they interact with it?” and after the Edward Snowden case: “How much data are people really willing to release?”.
About all these questions, Barbro Scholz, an artist and textile designer from Germany, was thinking about in her master thesis “Your balance: what could be the role of textile user interfaces in the digital age” (Swedish School Of Textiles Borås 2012). Her presentation was actually a summary of her masterthesis, which is also published online here.
Barbro started her speech with an interesting quote of J. Redström in IT+Textiles, that textile often has an appearance as “soft, warm, memorable and close to our bodies, technological devices often feels quite opposite” (IT+Textiles, Redström, M, Redström, Mazé R, Helsinki 2005). So she said that textile user interfaces could have the chance for changing the way people interact. Nowadays there are already tangible user interfaces, which are interfaces with which the users interact through physical objects. For her “ textiles, with their sensorial characteristics, could be an alternative TUI for current feedback-less communication-devices.” (Scholz (2012), Masterthesis, Page 10). She introduced a few examples of tangible interfaces like the well known ReacTable or the Hug Shirt by CuteCircuit, which is a shirt with sensors. These sensors can measure warmth and heartbeat which can be then sent to another Hug Shirt, so that another person can feel a “hug”.
Barbro has exposed herself with textile user interfaces over several years at the Swedish School of Textiles, and developed a few projects as “Do you like that pace?”, a “textile interface made out of common felt and conductive felt” (Scholz (2012), Masterthesis, Page 13). In this project she was experimenting with how people perceive time and how time is controlling our daily life.
For her final project “Your balance” Barbro Scholz used the “critical design” approach to experiment with the idea of surveillance in working environments. Wearable technology in this project surveil the employees and sent data about their life-balance to the employer. For the design of the textile interfaces she was inspired by insects like dragonflies. The critical design method by Anthony Dunne want to ask questions, don’t find solutions. It should find problems, not solve problems.
Even though the project sounds futuristic and surveillance on workplaces is not common and seems to be absurd in the first place, when we look at today’s situation we can find in the market first approaches in surveillance supported through health-being and fitness devices.
The second speaker, Serna Ucar, Assistant Professor and Head of Fashion Design Department, Faculty of Fine Arts at Okan University in Turkey/Istanbul was talking about “A haute-tech design project based on luminous textiles”. She presented a very interesting bag, which supports woman in finding their items in big bags. When opening the bag, the whole bag lights up.
It was interesting in which ways people think about wearable technology. In a few years we will see the trend…
Scholz (2012), Masterthesis.