In a previous post of ours—Biowearables: Tech Gets Skintimate—we introduced the concept of biowearables: wearable technology that isn’t just, say, strapped to the user’s wrist, but interacts WITH their wrist. It’s technology that is, in a sense, part of the user and requires the user to operate.
Now to clarify, biowearables are still wearables, but they’re the most personal kind yet. Think technology that has a symbiotic relationship with the user, one in which the user even serves as the actual interface. And far from turning us into cyborgs (a legitimate concern among any somewhat tech-phobic human who’s seen one too many sci-fi movies), it’s tech that simply allows for more understanding of our own bodies. A biowearable is a responsive and communicative implant that allows us to glean data and respond accordingly.
“There’s this idea that technology is, in a sense, making us less human,” says Chaotic Moon creative Technologist Philippe Moore, “but biowearables are helping us know more about our bodies, allowing us to have a better understanding of them. Biowearables have the potential to get us closer to ourselves. In a sense, we’re becoming more human.”
And, as we consider biowearables the future of wearable tech, we’ve compiled a few commandments of sorts to consider when innovating in this space.
INTEGRATION INTO THE USER’S LIFE SHOULD BE SEAMLESS
This is the goal with all technology: to be user-friendly and work with the user, rather than against them. And the concept of creating tech that’s user-centric isn’t a new idea either; in fact, it’s becoming the only acceptable standard.
This is even more the case with biowearables. This should be technology that is so integrated with the user that it almost becomes a part of them. Technology that they might even forget about themselves. Basically, the simpler and less intrusive the biowearable is–the more it fits seamlessly into the user’s life–the more they’re going to connect with it.
MAKING IT PERSONAL IS KEY
Take, for example, Project Underskin, which we detailed in our last post on biowearables. The digital tattoo—a two-node circuit board—is implanted into the wearer’s hand, and at that point it can be customized to serve the functions of the user. “It’s completely personal,” founder Gadi Amit told Wired UK. “No one knows what it means, because the context is made in your mind. That’s the beauty of it.”
So, as Wired explains, whether the user wants their tattoo to display info like blood sugar and heart rate or to send near-field communication signals to lock doors, they can decide how they want that information to be transmitted and displayed. And there’s an element of privacy: The user is the only one who understands the info they’re receiving.
In a nutshell, while you can choose the color of your Fitbit band (pink is so you!), biowearables take customization to another level entirely, connecting the user with their technology and making for a more personal experience than ever before.
INVISIBILITY IS IDEAL
Much like the biowearable should fit seamlessly into the user’s life in a practicality sense, it should also fit into their life seamlessly in an aesthetic sense. A biowearable isn’t something you show off; it’s personal, and it should be treated as such.
In terms of the progression towards this ideal, currently wristbands are getting smaller and smaller without sacrificing features and data collection. They’re just as functional as they’ve ever been, but far less obvious. Meanwhile, under-the-skin tech like sub-dermal implants can’t be seen at all.
Basically, as we’ve mentioned time and time again, the idea is wearable technology you can’t even see, and the end goal is total integration and essential invisibility.
THAT BEING SAID, EXISTING AESTHETICS MUST BE APPEALING
When it comes to typical wearables, one of the design tenets we discussed featured the importance of aesthetics. After all, while everyone wants to be on top of their tech game, no one wants to look ridiculous…or look like Tron.
An example of aesthetic failure in the wearables department is Google Glass. This is tech that tried to be seamless, but actually looked alien. It drew attention—typically for all the wrong reasons–and people shied away from it.
Biowearables should serve the opposite purpose. As the most personal types of device, the real idea is not to call attention to them. And while the goal for biowearables is to make them as invisible as possible, the parts that are visible need to be aesthetically pleasing. After all, while the aforementioned digital tattoo is discreet, it is still slightly visible, and if it came in the form of a dolphin on the lower back, it’s likely that most people wouldn’t be so inclined to go for the idea.
THE END GOAL IS TO IMPROVE USERS’ LIVES
When it comes to biowearables, the primary purpose is to make the user’s life easier and, really, better. Ideally, they do this by taking the place of an existing tool or eliminating an existing hassle.
Take Google’s smart contact lens, which we also referenced in our last post on biowearables. The lens is equipped with a tiny sensor that has the ability to measure the glucose level in tears. By design, these lenses are simplifying diabetics’ lives by eliminating the need for them to prick their finger multiple times a day.
Through the use of this biowearable, which is integrated to the point that users are likely to forget it’s even in, people are able to enjoy a more carefree life that isn’t bound by the constraints of constant testing.
In the end, while this quote from Chaotic Moon CEO Ben Lamm might have been referring to CM’s Project Freewheel, when it comes to biowearables—or any kind of tech—it still applies: “At the end of the day, the goal of technology is to improve people’s lives.”
Can’t really argue with that.