Going Beyond the Screen
The next wave of digital innovation is incredibly exciting and transformative. This new phase is already taking place with the arrival of connected and living things. As our cars, home and devices become smart, this will inevitably change how we communicate with technology and design.
Among the internet of things, wearable technology has become a prominent focus and familiar trend. In the past year, wearable gadgets thrived and will continue to as more devices and services become smart. But as we continue to move forward, instead of innovating the next new gadget, why not tackle something we already wear everyday? Clothing.
It is no surprise that athletic wear is one of the first apparel categories to pursue connected clothing. Athletes and workout enthusiasts want connected clothing that will help improve their performance without attaching an additional accessory. Lumo Body Tech and Wearable Experiments are two brands that have already responded to this demand by introducing their own smart athletic pants. Lumo launched Lumo Run pants and Wearable Experiments released Nadi yoga tights. Both pants are made of light-weight and high technology fabric that collects data as you work out and directs you with real-time cues, either audio or sensors, to help improve your overall performance. Another great feature is that the technology appears hidden, so the garment looks like other non-tech athletic wear. However, the drawback is that the pants do have large sensors tucked inside that can become a nuisance while working out and require much care. The sensors also need to be charged and can only survive a few washes, which makes the product short-lived.
How Connected Clothing is
As more clothing companies continue tackle this trend, Google’s Advance Technology and Projects (ATAP) lab is expected to revolutionize technology, fashion and design with their newest project, Project Jacquard. For Project Jacquard, Google and Levis joined forces to create the first pair of connected jeans. Unlike wearable gadgets of the past, the technology will appear invisible. Ivan Poupyrev, one of the Technical Product Leaders at ATAP, and his team are innovating smart threads that will transform your everyday jeans into a interactive surface. This is possible because of conductive yarns and two other small components, a circuit and bluetooth controller. The reason why Google and Levi’s journey begins with jeans is because of their difficult and harsh production process, which involves stretching, washing and even burning. If the conductive yarns can survive jeans, then any fabric is possible.
The conductive yarns woven into the jeans will transform an area or the entire garment into an interactive surface. With simple gestures like swiping or tapping, the user can control the phone in their pocket. They could control actions such as silencing a call or pausing music by tapping on their jeans. The touch wouldn’t be as sensitive as a touchscreen, so the actions would have to be intentional. With this technology, the user becomes the interface and can control more than just a phone. We will be able to control any smart thing or service without any communication or pairing complication.
With the launch of Project Jacquard, Google and Levi’s will continue to transform all fabrics, not just apparel. Smart fabrics will allow us to interact with services, devices, and environments in a more harmonious way. Additionally, the fabric can be reconfigured at any time. Connected fabrics offer endless possibilities. Imagine the arm rest of a couch acting as a remote or a pillow becomes a switch for the lights? Connected fabrics will begin to remove the barrier between the user and device and allow for a more enjoyable relationship with technology.
Goodbye to UI
This new wave of technology will impact not only the technology and fashion industry but also digital design. There will be less visual displays and less time spent interacting with our devices and other services. Some have begun to refer to this approach as Zero UI or No UI.
Zero UI was introduced by Fjord’s Andy Goodman, and No UI was presented by Golden Krishna at SXSW. Both ideas share the same concept and belief that no interface is the best interface. This introduces a new challenge for UI/UX designers. This does not mean screens will disappear, we will always have some sort of screen. The goal is to reduce the amount of visual displays and focus on what really matters. This approach will challenge us to think beyond the interface and focus on the user’s experience. Zero and No UI will teach us that not every solve is in a screen or app. We can tap into other senses to help us create a more natural and seamless relationship with technology. Golden Krishna gives us three ways in which we can begin to practice No UI.
3 Principles of No UI
The following principles are pulled from Golden Krishna’s Toolkit for Designers
1. Embrace typical processes instead of screens
The first principle is to develop a more natural interaction that feels innate to the user. This can be a tough challenge, but we can begin by observing people. Through observation, we can see how people communicate and the problems they face everyday. This will move us away from solving problems in screens and, instead, make us embrace the typical processes.
2. Leverage computers instead of serving them
We have become slaves to our technology. We must charge, update and fix our devices in order for them to function. Instead of us serving technology, we can begin to make them serve us. Once we reduce the number of interfaces, we can then think of screens as a leverage or secondary element. This forces us to think beyond the visual display and we will have to tap into other senses to do so.
3. Adapt to individuals
Each person is unique, however software is not designed for the individual. Instead software is designed for most people, not all. We can’t begin to design software for each individual but we can find another solution – data science. Data science is currently being use for Facebook ads and Google searches but it could do so much more. For example, the Nest thermostat uses data science to help learn and think about the user. Over a period of time, Nest collects data and learns your routine, such as when you leave the house and come home. If we use data science to it’s advantage, this will allow us to create a more pleasant experience. As a result, we will spend less time using the device or service.
At Spark DSG, we will be looking for opportunities to incorporate these concepts into our design thinking as we move closer towards the future of connected clothing. With the rise of connected and living things, we want to create a more seamless and enjoyable experience with technology and design.