The ‘Human Factor’ in Wearable Computing Design

 

Looking for users’ feelings and emotions

Designers and engineers often create software, hardware or devices without taking into consideration the human side of the technology. At a recent Intel workshop that might be seen as counter-intuitive, engineers were being trained to think about real-world applications first, the technology itself second.

“Don’t build with technology just for the heck of building a piece of tech. Build for a purpose, for the user,” said Carlos Montesinos, a research scientist at Intel on collaborative design who co-sponsored the workshop. “Design with the user in mind and then technology will follow.”

 

Wearables of All Types

“When we look for a solution, we look for the feelings and the emotions that a solution evokes in a person — what motivates people to wear technology,” said Ana Rosario, user experience researcher at Intel. “Once we understand the emotional feeling behind the things we wear, then we can design wearable experiences that people are going to be compelled to wear.”

According to Rosario, sensors embedded within fabrics are design to “understand” and naturally interact with the body, and often the resulting wearable extends functions of your body, even beyond what you have. For example, this scarf-turned-airbag-helmet designed by Hövding provides additional protection beyond the skull.

“You cannot control user experience, but you can design for it,” said Rosario on the framework for the workshop.

 

Engineering Real-World Solutions

These concepts were presented at the end of the workshop and voted on by workshop peers. Only the product concepts were part of the voting, the Galileo board development results were not.

Among the designs were:

  • “Well-belt” – a wearable for the elderly with built-in accelerometer sensors and communication outputs that detects when a fall has occurred and phones or texts a care provider.
  • “Baby Galileo” – tackled the problem of the shopping parent needing to amuse their young child while also helping the child’s motor development. Using accelerometers and motion sensors, wristbands worn by young children issue spoken commands (e.g., “lift your left arm”) in a motion-centric form of interactive play.
  • “Hush” – designed to measure how loud people are talking and give them an indication of volume. According to the team, this wearable could be particularly useful for noisy co-workers or yelling parents.

The winning concept was the “Fevometer,” which would use thermal sensors built into a baby’s outfit and cap to allow parents to be notified if their baby had a fever. As the makers of this design were parents, they pulled from real-world experiences to use technology to augment their lives. This was similar to the Mimo Baby wearable prototype from Rest Devices that Intel showcased at CES earlier this year. Rest Devices bills itself as a company that “makes simple and human-centered devices that keep people healthy and relaxed.”

 

Source: Intel Free Press