March 20, 2013

Q&A with Jennifer Darmour, design director of user experience, Artefact

Posted by: in North America

One of our 10 Trends for 2013 is Intelligent Objects: the idea that everyday objects are evolving into tech-infused smart devices with augmented functionality. As more ordinary items become interactive, intelligent objects, our interactions with them will get more interesting, enjoyable and useful. While researching our trend in November, we spoke to Jennifer Darmour, design director of user experience at technology product design company Artefact and expert in wearable technology (which she covers on her blog, electricfoxy.com). Darmour lives in Seattle, where she is designing on-body and technology products for brands including Xbox, Microsoft Surface, Windows Mobile, HTC, Blackberry, Google, Lenovo, Panasonic, Sonos and American Eagle. She talked to us about the advantages of tech-infused apparel and some of the opportunities for brands and marketers looking to expand their product lines.

What are some of the key factors you see driving the advent of wearable tech into the mainstream right now?

There are a few areas that are happening simultaneously that are making wearable technology more interesting to both consumers and brands. Bio-sensing technology is becoming smaller and cheaper; it’s easier to integrate into smaller devices that are more wearable. And as technology gets smaller and more performant, it’s easier to start pushing for more wearable technology, as opposed to things you carry with you. And once you start thinking about technology you wear, you start to think about the expressiveness of that object, because what we wear is part of who we are.

I think also consumers are becoming more used to carrying around technology and therefore expecting more. We’re already walking around with the most ubiquitous “wearable” technology device, which is our cell phone. So people are becoming used to the idea of always being connected, always having access to data, having instant feedback, etc. And they understand ecosystems and frameworks, and they’re longing for better experiences that are less bulky or disruptive, and more integrated into their lifestyle. People start to think that taking out the cell phone and launching an app to do something is too much work. So the more educated the consumers are, the more opportunities there are to introduce new types of experiences.

Another area is manufacturing. Manufacturing techniques are continuously evolving, and there are a lot of different areas where manufacturers are looking at how they can integrate technology into everyday objects. As part of that, the entire field of material science is generating a lot of interesting solutions, like flexible batteries that can revolutionize the way we wear computing.

The term “wearable technology” seems very broad, encompassing all kinds of devices, from smartphones to pedometers. What are some of the most innovative examples of wearable tech you’ve encountered?

It’s all innovative right now, because it’s very new. But I think you’re absolutely right—the term is extremely broad. For example, you have the consumer electronics field; they’re looking at how can we miniaturize hardware solutions. Then the fashion industry is kind of independently exploring wearable technology too. One of the foundational fashion designers is Hussein Chalayan, who has created all of these really beautiful technology-embedded runway couture pieces. But they’re not usable in the mainstream and they’re not really solving any real need or problems. It’s more of an artistic expression of how technology can be embedded into clothing.

There’s a lot of work being done in the entertainment domain, where celebrities and the Blue Man Group and stage performers are integrating technology into their costumes and their stage gear. Anouk Wipprecht has been working with a lot of celebrities and musicians in incorporating some great technology into some of the costumes. It’s a lot of garments that light up and shift form and do things like that that creates a more entertaining environment.

What kind of functional value can wearable tech provide?

The sports category is the first industry that is starting to integrate technology in a way that’s adding more value to the mainstream consumer. You take Nike, for instance, which was one of the first in 2005 with the Nike+ and now they have the FuelBand. They’re really taking technology and innovating within that space and trying to add the fashionable aspect to it.

When you’re looking at the lay of the land, wearable technology is still very new, and it’s very disparate.  You have these different industries that are trying to figure it out independently and not necessarily playing well together. You’re seeing a lot of light-up clothing that doesn’t necessarily add a lot of value to consumers. They’re more novelties. But then you are starting to see some specialized domains, like medical, that can really help people improve their lives.

Another area that can be broadly applied is the “quantified self” movement. People are more self-aware, and they want to have a better understanding of themselves. The quantified self movement is focused mainly on biometrics and figuring out ways for people to understand things like your heart rate, your movement. But I think it can be expanded further—things like understanding the environment you’re in and how you move through the environment, and how that can impact your experiences with both the environment and people. Then you can apply this to areas like the workplace and then, what if architects were to rethink the workplace design based on the biometric data of teams?

One example of trying to push the envelope with that is what Google is doing with Google Glass. They’re creating this product that really has the potential to change the game and provide this new interaction paradigm that once you use this, you could have a completely different experience with other people and in your environment. It could bring you, if they designed it correctly, it could bring a better understanding of who you are, your own biometrics, your environment and your relationships with other people. They’re not there yet; no one really is there yet.

One of the benefits is this idea of being discreet. We have our phones, which are actually—some of them are getting smaller, but some are actually getting bigger. The phone is becoming more of this consumption device, where you have the optimized screen. Wearable technology has the potential to take some of the moments you would have with the technology you would access on your phone. For example, checking into Foursquare—rather than taking out your [phone], which is bulky, launching the app and checking in, why not wear something that you can easily wave your hand or tap it very discreetly to check in to Foursquare? I think one of the benefits is to have more of these personal discreet moments with your technology and content.

Also, lifestyle integration: Consumers want things that look good and feel good and make them feel good. And when you’re wearing technology, you want it to look good and be cool and be comfortable. Once we start wearing it, one of the benefits is to integrate it into more of our lifestyle and into more lifestyle objects and objects that are more fashionable.

There are also a lot of brand opportunities for wearable technology.

For brands, it seems like there are opportunities not only to provide consumers with data about themselves but to get the consumer to share their data—it’s sort of a feedback loop.

Exactly. A really good example of that is in the insurance industry. Imagine if you had some device where the consumer is opting in to provide data on health care or even in driving. So if you could opt in, would there be a way to change your health care benefit based on good behavior or understand driving patterns or when your heart rate is raised in certain areas of the city or something like that? Could it benefit or could it impact the services and products that companies offer?

While brands might benefit from embedding sensors in more places, do you think consumers will feel anxious about being tracked?

Absolutely. We as wearable technology designers will need to find that threshold, we’ll need to find that sweet spot, because consumers are becoming more savvy, and they are going to be more concerned. Even looking at what used to be trusted brands such as Facebook, people were using Facebook and posting all sorts of pretty secure and private information. Now there’s a huge question around, What is Facebook really doing with all that data and how can I trust them with my data?

That’s going to be an ongoing challenge where, as we’re creating these new experiences, one, we need to make sure that the brand and the experience is trustworthy. Two, always ask for opt-in to help establish that trust.

There’s also this idea of, If I’m wearing this device, I don’t want to look like a geek. So it has to come down to being fashionable, it’s got to look good. It’s got to fit my lifestyle; it has to make me appear as if I’m within a certain lifestyle. So there are a ton of novelty-type products and products on the market today that solve a real problem, but they are just not good-looking.

Price also has a huge impact. Technology is getting smaller and cheaper, but because there are so many variables that are unknown when you’re going through the design and development—such as having to come up with new tooling processes, which can add to expense—some of the products are still quite expensive, so that can deter consumers.

What recommendations do you have for brands looking to get into wearable tech?

You really need to have a designer who understands the language and impact of fashion design—which is a whole design discipline—industrial design, which is a whole discipline, electrical engineering, which is a completely different field, and then experience design. So it’s a pretty rare trait right now, and some designers are starting to come together and explore what it means to pull those disciplines together and create these new types of experiences.

It really comes down to four areas, and that’s this person or central experience designer being able to pull together an experience that is contextual—so, really understanding the context of the user, what they need, what their problems are that they want solved. How to make it discreet? How can you take the technology and integrate it into the objects you already wear or make it small enough that it’s not a bunch of bulky stuff you have to strap onto your body? Making it connected: We don’t want to create a bunch of dumb objects or LED light-up clothes that that’s all it does. We want to create something that can be connected to software services and add more value. And then the last is somebody who can really make that fashionable and bring in the lifestyle aspects and make it just look good.

What do you think about the potential for something like Google Glass?

I think they’ve got a ways to go. There’s a huge opportunity there, and I’d hate to see it missed. There’s an opportunity to change our interaction paradigm. For example, it looks like they’re adding graphical user elements to some of the display UI, which does things like obscure your view when you’re trying to walk downstairs and things like that. There’s an opportunity for them to use the periphery around our natural cone of vision—i.e., move the UI to the sides and also use haptic feedback or sound rather than just graphical elements to provide feedback.

But I think a form factor like that—I don’t know whether it’s going to be Google Glass or not—has the potential to change how we interact with our data and with each other and with our environment. What I mean by that is, if you have glasses against your skin, you have the ability to detect biometric data. You’d be able to understand what’s going on with yourself when you’re moving through the world. Then there’s also a display, so you have the ability to overlay information in the world and also to consume information, and to be notified of things. And then through wearing it, it’s also mobile, so it has the ability to react to your environment and where you’re at or even who you’re talking to.

There’s a video out there called Sight. It’s a vision piece done around the notion of heads-up display. It’s very visionary. They’re using contact lenses that are connected. It’s an interesting vision of how this type of technology can change the way we interact with our environment and people. I personally find it quite scary in terms of some of the scenarios they were showing with how we can interact with people. There was a scene where there’s a man and a woman on a date; the man was wearing the contact lenses and getting all sorts of personal information about his date, and she was unaware. At that moment where you’re hiding that from somebody else and the other person doesn’t know you’re using this system, that’s where it breaks down for me and becomes something that could cause distrust.

Looking to the future, what do you imagine will be next for wearable tech?

Right now we have the chance to define what the best wearable technology experience could be. If it’s defined well and we make good, useful, delightful products, then I think in the next five years we’ll be seeing a lot of wearable technology solutions, and it’ll stick; it won’t be a fad. But we’re at a pivotal point right now where we really have the chance to push this technology to enhance our human experience and not become another object for distraction, disruption and disengagement.

No Responses to "Q&A with Jennifer Darmour, design director of user experience, Artefact"

Comment Form

New: 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond

The Brazil Opportunity

Updates

Sign up for Email Updates

JWT AnxietyIndex

Blog Authors

Russell Martin - Cape Town
Gonzalo Franseca - Buenos Aires
Meghan McCormick - Emerging Media
Sarah Siegel - New York
Mennah Ibrahim - Beirut
Alex Brousseau - New York
Ceren Coskun - Istanbul
Peta Bassett - Bangkok
Davina Wertheimer - Johannesburg
Alex Pallete and Ramon Jimenez - Madrid
Pam Garcia – Manila
christine
Christine Miranda - New York
Hajime Kato - Tokyo
Colette Henry - Dublin
Aaron Baar - Chicago
Marian Berelowitz and Christine Miranda - New York
Maria Orriols - Barcelona
Sigrid Jakob and Rodrigo Maroni - New York
Geri Kan - Singapore
Alex Morrison - New York
Ahmed Mahjoub - Dubai
Yael Shpiller - Tel Aviv
David Linden - Emerging Media
Harsha Prag - Johannesburg
Andrew Knight and Jessica Vaughn - New York
Deanna Zammit - New York
Marian Berelowitz and Maria Orriols - New York
Aparna Jain - Calcutta
Marian Berelowitz and Sarah Siegel - New York
Patty Orsini - New Jersey
Alec Foege - New York
Alexandra Stieber - Atlanta
Marian Berelowtiz and Patty Orsini - New York
Nina Yiamsamatha - Emerging Media
Rasika Fernandes - New Delhi
Marian Berelowitz and Will Palley - New York
Carlos Fernandez - New York
Adrian Barrow - New York
Vannya Martinez - Mexico City
Nina Hammerling Smith - New York
Marina Bortoluzzi - São Paulo
Lois Saldana - New York
Jessica Vaughn and Sarah Siegel - New York
Nick Ayala - New York
Dylan Viner - New York
Katerina Petinos - New York
Tal Chen - Tel Aviv
Katie Fitzgerald and Jessica Vaughn - New York
Soh Chin Ong - Singapore
Deborah Frenkel - Melbourne
Susie Uzel - London
Juliana Cubillos and Jessica Vaughn - Bogota and New York
Jordan Price - Tokyo
Tobei Arai - Atlanta
Jessica Vaughn - New York
Marian Berelowitz and Nick Ayala - New York
Lina Maria Aguirre - New York
Kimberly Douglas - London
James Richardson - London
Marian Berelowitz and Aaron Baar - New York and Chicago
Andres Colmenares - Bogota
katerina
Marian Berelowitz - New York
Ben Hopkins - London
Anil Bharadiya - Singapore
Andrew Hwang - Emerging Media
Thomas McGillick- Sydney
Megan Foley - New York
Sharon Panelo - New York
Ann Mack and Jessica Vaughn - New York
Michael Koenka - Amsterdam
Katie Fitzgerald - New York
Ana Hernandes - Sao Paulo
Ann Mack - New York
Mollie Hill
Ramon Jimenez - Madrid
Lindsey Stafford - New York
Ken Fujioka - Brazil
Sean Aaron - Emerging Media
Will Palley - New York
Mariko Kataoka - London

Things to Watch

  • Uniqlo, H&M and Retail As the Third Space
    April 15, 2014 | 4:30 pm

    “Retail As the Third Space,” one of our 10 Trends for 2011, is rapidly accelerating: As digital commerce becomes habit for consumers, brick-and-mortar is increasingly focused around experiences, unique environments and customer service, giving shoppers new reasons to visit retail spaces. Uniqlo’s flagship in New York is a good example. A newly renovated floor incorporates a Starbucks (a favorite brand among teens) and, as MarketWatch reports, “lounge sofas, tables and chairs and an iPad station, allowing shoppers to stay and mingle.” Thanks to a partnership with the nearby Museum of Modern Art—resulting in a range that uses images from famous artists—the floor’s design is museum-like, with T-shirts in framed display cases.

    Another recent example in Manhattan is H&M’s flagship, which opened in late 2013, which one writer dubs “The most retail fun you can have with your clothes on.” For more on Retail As the Third Space, find our 2103 report Retail Rebooted here. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Uniqlo

  • Bitcoin middlemen
    April 10, 2014 | 2:45 pm

    Given its volatility, security issues and legal concerns, merchants interested in accepting bitcoin have a lot to worry about, especially with the possibility (as some see it) that looming regulation could upend the entire system. To mitigate the risk and open merchants up to new revenue streams, startups such as BitPay and Coinvoice make it easier for companies to accept the cryptocurrency.

    These payment processors act as middlemen: A shopper pays in bitcoin, but the merchant can decide whether to be paid in bitcoin, fiat currency, or a combination. This allows companies to shield themselves from the uncertainty of the currency or to dip a toe into accepting it as payment. Until bitcoin becomes more stable and regulated, payment processors such as these will be a safer option for merchants. (For more on bitcoin, see also our post on the Inside Bitcoins conference.) —Nick Ayala

    Image credit: BitPay

  • Delta’s Innovation Class
    April 3, 2014 | 2:15 pm

    Delta’s new Innovation Class allows the influencers of tomorrow to spend a flight with a current industry leader—the airline calls it a “mentoring program at 35,000 feet.” The first mentor was Pebble smart watch creator Eric Migicovsky, on his way to Vancouver for the recent TED conference, who was paired with visual artist James Patten, a 2014 TED senior fellow. The next flight, in May, will feature chef Sean Brock as he heads to the James Beard Awards.

    While Innovation Class isn’t the first such initiative, it’s the first to leverage existing social networks on LinkedIn, where potential seatmates apply to Delta. The program illustrates creativity in using the plethora of touch points marketers have access to and can leverage to create valuable experiences both online and off. —Matt Goldenberg

  • Virtual reality rugby
    March 27, 2014 | 1:00 pm

    While the Oculus Rift headset doesn’t yet have a launch date, brands are already using the virtual reality platform to amaze consumers. To promote Game of Thrones, HBO made fanboys’ dreams come true at this year’s SXSWi with an experience that took viewers on an immersive trip up the show’s famed “Wall.” And U.K. phone company O2 has created “Wear the Rose,” a rugby training experience that combines footage from GoPro cameras with an Oculus headset to give fans the experience of training with England Rugby.

    “Rugby balls are thrown at you to catch, charging players run at you to teach you tackles, and at one point you find yourself in the middle of a scrum,” writes Eurogamer. O2 recently debuted “Wear the Rose” at a stadium match and will showcase it in select U.K. stores starting in June. —Aaron Baar

  • Security as a USP
    March 20, 2014 | 12:45 pm

    As we note in our wrap-up of SXSWi, security is fast becoming a unique selling proposition. Rather than treating it as an afterthought and scrambling to compensate if user data is compromised, more tech companies will build highly secure environments for their users from the start—selling security as a point of differentiation until it becomes a right of entry.

    The secure-communication app Wickr is offering up to $100,000 to any hacker who can crack its defenses and is selling a suite of six privacy features to developers and apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp. Another such app, Telegram, offers a bounty as high as $200,000 to anyone who can crack it. Meanwhile, the upcoming Blackphone is described as “the world’s first smartphone which places privacy and control directly in the hands of its users.” —Ann Mack

  • Watson, AI and customer service
    March 13, 2014 | 1:45 pm

    IBM has been promoting the commercial applications of Watson, its artificial intelligence service, with CEO Ginni Rometty announcing a Watson challenge for mobile developers at the recent Mobile World Congress. Rometty also noted that North Face is testing a website that incorporates Watson intelligence to answer customer queries, as seen in this video of an IBM demo at the MWC. Watson could serve as a “personal shopping concierge” for e-commerce brands, as Ad Age put it.

    At this week’s SXSW in Austin, where IBM has Watson powering a food truck to demonstrate its multifaceted potential, an IBM exec talked up Watson’s potential in the customer-service arena. We’re seeing the beginnings of a world where artificial intelligence powers (and personalizes) an array of brand interactions with consumers. —Marian Berelowitz

     

  • Spritz
    March 7, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    Slate may have to adjust the Minutes to Read feature on its articles. In line with our Age of Impatience trend for 2014, Spritz is a new reading app that uses a new visual technology to help people read at Evelyn Wood speeds or faster.

    Pinpointing the “Optimal Recognition Point,” at which the brain begins to recognize numbers and letters, the program highlights that space for each individual word and places it at the same place on the screen, reducing eye movement. The program can push reading speeds up to 500 words a minute. (You can see it in action here.)

    Sprtiz will be available on Samsung’s new line of wearable technology. —Aaron Baar

    Image credit: Spritz

  • Virtual fitting rooms
    March 4, 2014 | 11:45 am

    PhiSix, a 3D virtual technology company recently acquired by eBay, plans to bring more of the outside world into physical stores’ dressing rooms in an effort to increase sales. We’ve reported before on websites that offer 3D virtual try-ons at home and brick-and-mortar stores that have become living, breathing websites. But PhiSix’s technology takes the virtual fashion experience one step further, allowing shoppers to see how specific items of clothing look on them, in a variety of sizes and contexts, without actually trying them on. With PhiSix’s computer graphics, which will be made available to third-party retailers, shoppers will be able to enter a store dressing room and view themselves wearing clothing in a number of active settings (e.g., swinging a golf club, walking down the street). The technology also recommends other items to consumers, based on a few basic measurement inputs. Although virtual try-on technologies, which have existed for a while, haven’t succeeded in displacing trying on actual clothing, PhiSix’s sexy timesaver may draw more shoppers into physical retail outlets. —Alec Foege

    Image credit: PhiSix

  • Daily Mail’s Just the Pictures app
    February 25, 2014 | 3:15 pm

    The U.K.’s Daily Mail, whose digital content is dominated by photographs, is planning to release an app called Just the Pictures that strips out the text for smartphone readers—or non-readers, in this case—who are looking for snackable content while on the go. At a Mobile World Congress panel in Barcelona, Melanie Scott of the Mail Online said the app will be out in March. Per Scott, the Daily Mail’s current iOS app attracts about a million daily users in the U.K., and they’re opening it four or five times a day for 12 minutes at a time, largely for the pictures. 

    Just the Pictures is another sign of images replacing words in our increasingly visual culture, one of our 10 Trends for 2014. For more on how this trend is affecting the mobile platform, watch for our annual mobile-trends report in April. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Daily Mail

  • Full-fat comes back
    February 20, 2014 | 6:00 pm

    Bring on the brie! Last week NPR reported on two studies finding that “whole-fat dairy is linked to reduced body fat,” research likely to boost a recent shift away from lower-fat dairy products. Butter has been bullish lately: Annual sales in the U.S. have increased 65 percent since 2000, with per-capita consumption reaching a 40-year high. And while milk sales in the U.S. declined in 2013, full-fat fared relatively well (with sales declining 0.8 percent vs. 4.1 percent for reduced-fat). 

    The trend ties into a growing preference for foods that feel less artificial or newfangled, as well as the ongoing urge to Live a Little (one of our 10 Trends for 2012).  —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: liz west

  • RSSArchive for Things to Watch »