This is the billion-dollar question: “How do we create the iPhone or Walkman of wearables?” and “How do we create sub-ecosystems around these wearables?” At the CES who this year, you can still see everyone displaying their newest or not-so-new wearable ideas. No one can afford to miss the train but most of the wearables out there now are just toys and eventually will become thrown always. I can’t find a reason anyone would want to buy most these so called wearables.
The path to mass adoption of wearables will not be a straightforward one. There are numerous technology, user behaviour and production economics barriers to cross. With all this buzz and emerging innovative conceptual designs competing for the dominance, there are still many questions to be asked about what the future holds and how consumers will adopt a different product paradigm. Even the smartphone is still shaping our behaviour and we are still actively reprogramming ourselves. The smartphone is becoming the operating system of our professional and personal lives, our relationships with the outside world and emerging systems around it. When it comes to the operating system, the main battle will be an OS that will interoperate across all devices. This is the big play. The success of any dominant design for wearables will be based on successfully tackling of the 4Bs:
Balance, Benefit, Beauty and Behaviour
Balance: To design wearables, one must ensure that they are, indeed, wearable. That means comfortable and adaptable to the various places and spaces the body inhabits in the world. To do this, design needs to include studying the anthropometric measures of the human body and of the equilibrium between the various zones of the body. One key to success is ensuring that the form or shape of the wearable fits the body and its actions in the world. Nerdy high-tech designs will not cut it. Balance reflects the highest level of design excellence, seeking unselfconsciousness in interactivity languages, adding a sense of space to that of place with engineering overtones that are human at the same time.
Benefit: Designers must first determine the real problem the wearable concept is trying to solve, needing to solve, able to solve. Focusing on needs means designers can concentrate on the things that deliver the highest value. The benefit doesn’t have to be a known benefit today and there could be some needs users don’t even know exist until they see them. Sometimes these benefits appear to be small but actually can make a big difference in behavioural change. Contained product moments and the tiniest interactions are important in designing the customer experience of wearables, and designers must try to transform them into opportunity.
Beauty: The consumer needs to love the design. It needs to have visual appeal so, to the user, it doesn’t look like something you see in a Sci-Fi movie. The design needs to be expressive and not only limit to the form factor, but the overall interactive experience. The connectivity piece is key – it needs to allow for seamless wireless connection. The interactions or interface design is the trickiest part. The designers must translate the mass into energy, form and relationship. This is about creating order out of chaos, to put order into things, to make things simpler, to give meaning to objects through the presence of a design language.
Behaviour: This is the least predictable part. Just look at all those health tracking devices, there is a tremendous gap exists between collecting and reporting data and changing behaviour, there are little evidence to suggest that these wearable is making people healthier. But for sure, the most successful wearable would be those who can influence our behaviour as a mechanism for human behaviour change and reinforcement. The subconscious mechanisms by which a human brain forms habits are still a bit of a mystery and this can let us down a path to come up with devising tools for changing them.