The recent explosion of fashionable smartwatches and headwear have proven that not all wearable technology has to look like it belongs in a science-fiction movie.
A panel discussion hosted by Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education last week explored how wearable devices, or electronics incorporated into clothing and fashion accessories, are changing their aesthetic to look more appealing for everyday wear.
“In the past, we’ve thought of wearable tech as LED lights and more flashy items,” said Renn Scott, a designer and inventor. “Now it’s changing to something that’s not obviously technology and is more ubiquitous.”
Scott, the panel’s moderator, has been in the industry for over 15 years. She founded the fashion-friendly technology company Daily Goods, a company out of the Ryerson Fashion Zone.
In her presentation, she mentioned tech and fashion collaborations that are producing more stylish wearable devices, such as Opening Ceremony and Intel’s MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory) luxury jewelry bracelet and the Tory Burch for Fitbit collection.
“If I’m going out for dinner or going to a meeting I don’t necessarily want to wear a sporty and rubber (wearable),” Scott said. “People want something that is more fashionable, so technology is trying to collaborate more with those expectations to create things that we will wear on a daily basis.”
In Scott’s presentation, she said that one-third of consumers stop using their wearable tech within the first six months. Companies are now asking what they can do so that doesn’t happen. Interactive media designer Llyod Gray said that it could be a result of the “ugly hypothesis.”
“Are consumers throwing away their wearable tech devices because they weren’t useful, or because they are ugly?” said Gray, one of the event’s panellists.
Both Gray and Adriana Ieraci, another panelist, are founders of wearable tech startups in Ryerson’s Fashion Zone. Gray cofounded Gray & White, which is developing a system to remotely detect and triage battlefield wounds. Ieraci cofounded Heart to Heart, which presented its first prototype at the panel.
“What could this device be used for? What do people want to use this for?” Ieraci said. “We are testing our ideas before investing too much into the product.”
Scott said it’s important for companies to be aware of who will be buying wearables and what are the expectations of the product.
“The (wearables) market is a test bed right now,” Scott said. “We are seeing what people will use instead of their phone.”
Scott said that millennials are an important consumer group to look at, as they’re already incorporating technology on a daily basis and aware of what’s trendy.
“(Millennials) are the ones that are wearing things like the Fitbits and the Nike+ FuelBand. How they use these devices is starting to change what is being designed,” Scott said. “At Ryerson there is a strong fashion and engineering group, so when students like this start to communicate and collaborate you see new changes in what they might develop and create for people to wear.”