How Wearable Technologies Can Position The Body As A Natural User Interface [PSFK London]

Digital Art Director Dhani Sutanto talks to PSFK about his explorations in creating seamless physical and digital interactions through wearable technology.

We are excited to have Digital Art Director Dhani Sutanto as a speaker at PSFK CONFERENCE LONDON. Dhani is the creator of the Oyster Card Ring, a RFID-based transit card implanted in a ring that can be used to pay for rides on public transportation in London. On September 13th he will share his explorations into the future of wearable technologies and the disappearance of the user interface.

The Oyster Card Ring is wearable technology that merges a physical object with a virtual identity. How will we be able to access digital information about ourselves in the future?

I think more and more physical items will be linked to your virtual preferences. With a debit card, for example, you could go to the ATM and wouldn’t need to enter your PIN – instead, just touch your card to it. In this scenario, the ATM would recognize the preference you established online and give you the £20 or however much you decided.

In this way, wearable technology would create seamless services for anyone and for almost any transaction. Imagine a blind person using an ATM and fumbling with the buttons or touch screen. If they had wearable technology in the form of a ring, for example, they could approach and just touch it. The ATM would say, “Welcome, Mr. Smith. Here’s your £20.” I want design interactions without buttons- to remove the user interface completely and instead personalize the experience for each person.

In other words, a reinterpretation of what we consider the user interface?

I think what we think of as “user interface” will become more natural by working with our body to access technology. For example, we could use our eye movement or pupil dilation to control an interface instead of a mouse. Or it could be having a blink trigger a reaction to a “yes” or “no” question to further help us interact seamlessly with technology. If you think about it, maybe the interface itself will be your body and your thoughts or brain waves are how you navigate. Users with disabilities could use other parts of their body to interact with technology to access information.

So user interfaces will also become more personalized?

The future user interface will be much, much simpler and would be user customizable. The information will be less formatted for you, but it’s more about how you want to see it. People are getting used to interacting with digital things and they want to make their own interface too.

I’m hoping that wearable technology will help people activate and customize an interface to their preferences and needs. The more personal the interface, the more personal the service.

Any concerns regarding this?

I think in the future, people will expect things to automatically track their transactions. It’s similar to how your credit card can tell where you have been and what you have purchased. What that means is that someone can always track your history and so a big concern for wearable technology comes with security. For me, security is always a big thing; one of the challenges in creating the Oyster Ring was investigating those security concerns and patenting it. That is the biggest challenge for this technology.

What other technologies are you currently exploring?

I think access to mobile technology plays a big part in the development of current technologies. When you store information on the cloud and then your phone dies because you forgot to charge it, you have no way to access that information. I’m lost and can’t access any emails, maps or information that I had stored. This leads to carrying a lot of digital baggage just to power up and stay powered up. With NFC technology in the future you would still be able to pay with your phone even if it died. With RFID technology and credit cards and such, they still work. They need power, but they can work without batteries at least.

Having technologies independent of batteries or the need for a charged device would give people a sense of security. In the future, people will expect to have technologies where they can access information, whether their own or general information, without depending on a power source.

Ideally a power source could be generated by the user, whether by body heat, by the sun or by kinetic movement and things like that. That would be the ideal scenario, even as people try to make it happen by way of mobile. That tension between accessing mobile technology while trying to keep up with how long that mobile’s power can last is very interesting to me.

How has your background in traditional media techniques influenced your current work?

Working in marketing and advertising, we’re always looking to use the current trend to interact with the market. I see the latest and greatest in technology and then step back to ask, “OK, these are the things on the screen. How can we bring them into more physical things that interact with an audience?” Instead of just creating another website I’d like to mix art with technology to create touch devices – mobile, kiosks – as a hybrid of design and advertising, art and technology. More and more I’m focusing on the art side: how to interact with people in a more tactile way, how to use code to make patterns and things like that.

Thanks Dhani!

Dhani Sutanto / @dhanisutanto

Come hear Dhani speak more on the integration of physical products with a virtual identity at PSFK LONDON CONFERENCE on 13th September.


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