How Billie Whitehouse’s Wearable Experiments is changing the way we think about clothing
Wearable clothes are automatically capturing and broadcasting contextually relevant information at key moments to enable a seamless flow of communication between people. Companies are tapping into this growing ecosystem to enhance our daily experiences. One company that is taking initiative in this space is Wearable Experiments.
We caught up with expert Billie Whitehouse, co-founder of Wearable Experiments, to better understand not only how her business is revolutionizing the idea of clothing, but how the nature of wearable clothing is increasingly taking cues from the Real World Web.
- Please tell us about the Alert Shirt. Can you share any inspiration behind the project?
Our inspiration is always: “We live in a complex world; we must do what we can to stay connected to the people and places we love.” A unique blend of fan merchandise and wearable technology, the ‘Alert Shirt’ allows fans at home to experience what AFL football players are feeling, live, as it happens during televised games. The connection between players and fans is made possible by a Bluetooth smartphone app that transmits real time game data to electronic components inside the jersey. These components then convert the data into powerful physical sensations that are experienced instantly by the wearer. What Wearable Experiments is doing differently is we are thinking about wearable technology as an opportunity to enhance experiences not just quantify them.
- In regards to the Real World Web, PSFK is witnessing a trend in shared awareness. Do you see this trend manifesting on a wider scale? How so?
Once the collective becomes more aware of their addiction to their smartphone they will realize the importance of subtle communication rather than invasive communication. This trend will manifest on a wider scale as we become more creative about its applications. Entertainment and travel are the first, the broader spectrum will include many other industries.
- The Alert Shirt lets fans feel what their favorite sport stars experience in real time. Do you think audiences are expecting more immersive type experiences? In what direction are entertainment experiences moving generally?
Entertainment experiences are all about immersion. I think we have realized the capability of technology to heighten our emotions through immersion. We do not want to only be in front of a screen for the rest of time. We need to connect emotionally with the people and places around us. Entertainment has the ability to connect with these emotions more thoroughly in a “4D” environment. This is the direction I believe it is going; entertainment through all five senses.
- In terms of form, do you see wearable devices being more integrated within apparel becoming more commonplace? Is this important to wearables becoming more mainstream generally?
Wearable technology needs to become as invisible as possible to be fully integrated into the daily lives of mainstream consumers. By integrating technology into apparel there is an opportunity to make everything that goes on your body smarter. We wear clothes 99% of our day; why not make them more efficient. The mainstream will adopt when the look and feel of the garments that they love are not compromised. They do not want to resemble a computer, the comfort and simplicity of the clothing is extremely important.
- What challenges do you see implementing these types of feedback systems? What makes them successful?
The challenges are often related to battery power and changeability. Now that the technology has miniaturized it’s more easily integrated so that the clothing remains elegant. To be successful the design must always come first. The garments must never be disfigured for the purpose of the technology. The consumers want their garments to make them feel good. If you can empower people with elegance, comfort and efficient tech then you can be successful.