Most growing technology platforms share a common characteristic: They all have great user experiences. It’s what makes us eager to pay monthly membership fees for streaming services or download apps to order food, be social and find romance. In these cases, the value proposition is clear, a user engages with technology that streamlines a process which results in convenience for them.
Unfortunately for wearables, providing a continuous value-proposition to consumers is an ongoing struggle. As an advocate for wearable tech, the concept is attractive; a customer buys a wearable under the impression it will help them to improve a feature of their life. But in order to accomplish this, the user has to keep up with using the device.
From personal experience, I can say that my Fitbit use lasted all of two weeks.
“…the abandonment rate of smartwatches is 29% and 30% for fitness trackers because people do not find them useful, they get bored with them, or they break.” – Gartner Inc.
I wanted a device that could help track my sleep and it’s additional functions as an activity tracker were only secondary features. I quickly found the device uncomfortable to wear while sleeping, and using it to track sleep patterns meant that I couldn’t charge it overnight. Coupled with the fact that I took it off to play most sports (when the fitness monitoring function’s would have been most useful), issues with accuracy and the fact that I still wear an analog watch almost daily for style/function, the novelty of the device wore off quickly.
As this was only my personal experience, I still think devices like the Fitbit are a great idea to help motivate those who find them useful and that therein lies the question for wearable manufacturers:
How do we push past novelty and provide real value to encourage continued use?
CREATING A “SEAMLESS” EXPERIENCE
Many wearables have gained a reputation as clunky devices that you attach to your wrist, neck or clothing in order to operate. In recent years, the focus has shifted to complementing the value-proposition of user experience by perfecting the consumer-interest formula that defines the balance between stylish and functional wearables.
“Wearables have transformed into items that you would wear anyway; they just come with an intelligent twist.” – Krista Jäntti, UX and UI Designer at Reaktor
Moving away from accessory and wristwear-based technology, other producers are in the process of further paring down the potentially cumbersome process of using wearables by integrating them into everyday clothing.
Companies like Athos, Hexoskin and OMsignal are close to finding a balance between attractive apparel and wearable technology, but one manufacturer already has a major consumer retail partner and an innovation they’re bringing to market very soon.
ENTER PROJECT JACQUARD: THE GOOGLE-LEVI’S PARTNERSHIP
In partnership with Levi’s, inventors of the blue jean and America’s oldest denim producer, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects division (ATAP) launched Project Jacquard to redesign the Levi’s Commuter Jacket, with a technological infusion.
The Commuter line of products is intended for use by the modern cyclist, and required the redesign to be conscious of the product’s mandate to provide practical clothing for everyday cycling use, while understanding how a user would interact with the technology’s interface.
“Fashion and technology have to work together, but there is inherent tension between them.” – Dr. Ivan Poupyrev, Technical Lead at Google ATAP
Using their partnership’s interdisciplinary approach to the redesign, Jacquard developed a conductive yarn that could be used to create interactive textiles. Sewn directly into the sleeve of the jacket, the fabric creates a sensor grid and acts as an interactive surface. This surface communicates with a removable digital ‘cufflink,’ which then interfaces with the user’s phone to control functions by using gestures on the sleeve.
Dr. Ivan Poupyrev, Technical Lead for Project Jacquard, noted that “fashion and technology have to work together, but there is inherent tension between them.”
To dispel this tension, the important features in the jacket are ultimately designed to minimize inconvenience and combine ideas from both perspectives. The jacket is an everyday item that can be thrown in the wash and the operational piece of technology, the cufflink, is detachable, thereby making it functional.
Created with the intention of sharing Jacquard’s discoveries, Google has already stated that the technology is intended to be used by other manufacturers and has hinted at partnerships in athletics, business and enterprise.
With the Project Jacquard Commuter Jacket scheduled for release in the fall of 2017, Google and Levi’s are among the first making progress towards solving the larger problem of wearable adoption, creating seamless, frictionless experiences by integrating technology in a natural fashion.
Learn more about the project here.