The following insights are from Dr Raymond Oliver – Director, Arrow Science Consulting and a professor at Northumbria University and a senior Research fellow at the Royal College of Art.
Dr Oliver’s current research interests span from electro photo bio active polymers, applications in Ambient Intelligence, portable power, printable light and rapid prototyping of conductive polymers.
According to Dr Oliver, wearable technologies is heading towards a “soft machines” future.
He stresses the importance of “TRUST” when working with new technologies from the material and product from everyone in the supply chain but ESPECIALLY the consumers, the people who will purchase and ultimately use these new ‘smarter’ products.
Dr Oliver feels that this may be one and element missing from current Smart Fabrics and Wearable Technologies and hindering the progression of these new technologies.
The products and prototypes that are being produced today need to have real life applications and offer some improvements (that are clear) to a general audience, or they face the possibility that they will remain on the shelf and will not be developed further.
In designing wearable technologies and smart textiles, products and services must respond to human needs and not the other way round. Products and services have to become relevant and important to people for them to become an acceptable and essential part of our everyday life’s.
In conclusion Dr Oliver stresses the point that “trust” is key, if not smart fabrics will stay ‘in the slow lane.’
Looking to the future of smart fabrics, ones that will lead the way in pushing the development of this type of technology will be ones that are in the body, on the body and around the body.
I personally find the discussion of “trust” quite interesting and relevant. Wearable technologies, by their nature, are intimate as they deal with the space around the body. Although I find it slightly confusing why embedding technology directly into a coat or a dress is any different than wearing a cellphone in your back pocket (as mine currently is). Perhaps it’s a perceived difference which insinuates a need for a cultural shift.
When I observe children (and I mean kids from 3-5) playing around with electronic gadgets it appears to be a “natural” extension of their nervous system a la Marshall McLuhan.
If anyone who went to conference could further expand on this topic, I’d appreciate it.
How important of a role do you see trust playing in the acceptance of wearable technology?
Thanks to the lovely Joanne Hodge for her extensive notes and coverage.