How Do We Define Wearable Technology?

How has the summer program at Open Style Lab challenged the definition of wearable technology?
Open Style Lab does not focus on creating wearable technology rather, most of the work produced at the lab favors low-tech solutions such as, magnetic seams or customized 3D-printed soles to accommodate a client’s leg cast. How can we quickly create a low-cost creative solution with minimal but meaningful functionality? But the lab has redefined the spectrum of wearable technology. What is wearable technology? What definitions of technology are considered when placed on the body?

The user-centered approach of Open Style Lab has provided an introspective look into the use of technology and design for the body and disabled body. The reliance of technology for creating wearable solutions is secondary to the user’s needs and desires. The fellow of the summer program were encouraged to sketch their ideas, create mood boards, and map out their client's journey (user journey). After this experience, I realized in bringing unique domains of expertise together are paramount to the interdisciplinary requirements of wearable technology. The teams redefined the terms “wearable,” “technology,” and “design” to best fit their client’s needs and desires. 

How did the fellows apply and redefine user-centered design principle to their designs?

After my lecture on user-centered design, the fellows began prototyping their first ideas for their clients. The teams exchanged their own perceptions surrounding the body and disabled body through initial sketches and interviews with their client. User testing and prototyping sessions reinforced the fellows to reflect on their creative solutions and misconceptions of what their client really wanted. The fellows were challenged to identify solutions that provided both functionality and aesthetics.

The interaction and prototyping sessions between the client and fellows highlighted the following insights:

1. The client (user) may not always provide consistent feedback. He or she may change her mind.

2. The fellow’s prototypes had to consider long-term and short-term solutions. The client’s disability may worsen, improve, or change over time.

3. Fellows referred to T.O.P (time, occasion, place). The fellows were encouraged to think of solutions that considered a specific place (Costco & food stores), season (winter snow for boots), or occasion (Sunday church attire).

4. The prototyping sessions had to consider the client’s fatigue level especially, when the client had to don and doff multiple times.