THE FUTURE OF WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY
What if your clothes could express your emotions and feelings? What if the fabric interacted with the environment and buildings within your vicinity? These are only a few of the ideas nestled in the mind of artist and designer Kristin Neidlinger.
One of my first interactions with Neidlinger’s work was sometime last fall during a beta testing of an interactive gaming event. Of the many wonderful options for testing, Neidlinger’s mood scarf—better known as Sensoree—piqued my interest. Considering that it necessitated my staying indoors and being relatively still to participate, my aching feet were more than pleased. But I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Neidlinger and her team introduced themselves and explained the technology and purpose behind Sensoree. The object of the game was simple. Each group comprised approximately five to six people. A designated person was selected to wear the mood scarf. The remaining teammates were tasked with changing the color of the scarf based on the emotional color guide provided by Neidlinger. Some teammates were tasked with turning the scarf red, which they did by telling stress-inducing stories. My team was assigned with turning my green scarf, which represented peace. This was done by having me close my eyes and follow the simple breathing and meditation exercises. They were successful.
After testing the scarf, it made me wonder: What would it be like if this became common practice—to externalize your emotions? How would this idea change our physical and emotional interactions? When asked about the future of wearable technology, Neidlinger touched upon this idea of intimacy.
“The future of communication,” she believes, “is bio.media—body sensors monitoring heart rate, stress, and position and display the data with light, tactile, or sound responses. This synesthesia—sensory swapping—neurologically creates new forms of communication, with our body learning how to speak and achieving a voice. This body awareness enhances dialog and insight with ourselves and others. This phenomenon is called extimacy—externalized intimacy.”
Historically, Neidlinger has worked with circus performers, classically trained dancers, and individuals who have suffered from severe nerve damage, since their bodies are hyper-aware and sensitive to touch. In the long-term, she proposes, “the future of wearable technology becomes a part of us. Emotional displays and bio.media will be woven into our garments and architecture, so they are responsive. As an evolution from the ‘smart’ wristbands of today, we will have ‘sensitive’ fabrics.”
Strangely fashionably and something I would probably consider wearing, it was unique, with its LED lights and built-in sensors that change color based on the mood of the wearer. It made the body speak in a way that I had never experienced before. New-media artist and designer Kristen Neilander envisions a future where our gestures take part in the communication. Our bodies speak so much of what they want and don’t want within our surroundings, but do we actually “listen”?
You can learn more about Kristin and her work on sensoree.com