We:ex Hackathon: Designing for Humans in a Digital World

By: Navriti Sood


Silicone putty, modeling clay, popcorn and a handful of entrepreneurs were some of the ingredients that created the playful vibe of our hack-a-thon last week.

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A coveted group of creative thinkers gathered around the cushy couches at Red Bull Studios. A hidden gem in the heart of Chelsea, we walked amongst an art exhibition, a fully stacked sound studio and some peculiar chandeliers with rainbow colored hands.

We asked all our guests to leave their professions at home and come play with us.

The aim of the night was left under cover until Billie announced  the mission: designing for humans in a digital world.

Designing for humans in a world that requires the user to be tech savvy are long gone. Technology has to catch up to our ways of thinking and living.  We love technology but we want to use it without needing to learn a new language. With this in mind, we knew we had to get creative. And there’s no better way to trigger our imaginations than getting back in touch with our inner child.

Shortly after our announcement, everyone gathered around and watched Mariusz Kujawski (@zedancer)  perform a hair raising contemporary dance number. His wavering arms and swerving twists showed off every muscle in the human body-- getting us in the groove of thinking about the human form the remainder of the night.  

Triads of techies and fashion designers circled around lab tables and started playing with the materials. The actual hack will have to remain amongst the floating rope chandeliers at Red Bull Studios.

Baskets of Sexy Pop Popcorn fueled our imaginations along with the exotic tastings of Rekorderlig hard cider sparked laughs and quirky chats.

There was a constant draft of musicians walking towards the green wall that constantly wafted creativity through the space.

One creative technologist from Milk Studios noted that the energy reminded him of the launch of the DOT COM days. A supportive and creative network of intelligent humans who really care about design.

 

"Do you work like this all the time?"  said Matt Lipchutz from Meural

 

With all the light musings and our imaginations running freely, it was hard to take ourselves seriously.

After several glorious hours of play, the winning team was announced--Madison Maxey, Mari Kussman, Daniel Goodwin and Sean Petterson-- a combination of computational neuroscientists, fashion designers and an engineer presented a design that was functional and well thought out. Their design kept the aesthetics of the garment in tact. A mesh of skills we should put together more often!

 

"There is nothing like an evening of making objects and feeling like you accomplished something."

-Maddy Maxey, The Crated

 

Our magical night came together, thanks to Paul Farkas and the supportive network of the wearable tech industry. Thank you to all who came and played with us! This event would not be possible with out out supportive sponsors; RF Digital, Red Bull Studios New York, Rekorderlig USA, Sexy Pop Popcorn, and the amazing team that helped put this together: Osvehanis Diyana, Stanley He and Ross Asdourian.


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Ben Moir, director and co-founder of We:eX presented at Vivid Sydney 2014.

“[In todays market] even an instantaneous response is too late”

In just over three months we took the Alert Shirt from concept to market, delivering 4,500 jerseys which have inbuilt electronic components but are also comfortable, washable and look good enough to wear out. We had already invested in the R&D and developed prototypes with custom circuit boards, haptic feedback and washable electronics so that when Foxtel’s creative agency CHE Proximity came along with the campaign we were able to respond immediately.

We believe that media consumers today want to be active rather than passive and in this project we saw the opportunity to bring a new level of interactivity to television viewing and create a real point of difference for Foxtel.

The project also aligned really well with the We:eX mission to bring fashion and technology together in new ways to deliver unique user experiences and push the boundaries of human to human connection.

Why This Directionally-Challenged Expat in Amsterdam Needs a Navigate Jacket

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I’m new to Amsterdam, I’ll admit. After nearly a year here I still have trouble blending in, but especially when biking. Coming from San Francisco I was thrilled with the idea of biking on flat land, as opposed to the oftentimes steep hills of San Fran. However, what I didn’t foresee was the often circuitous routes in Amsterdam, which are very un-grid-like, and difficult to navigate.


Thus, I have become “that girl” on the bike with the giant Samsung Galaxy Note in hand, swerving sometimes as I try to navigate my way through narrow canals, and complex routes. This method had been working for me, even despite the annoyance of continually juggling a mobile phone, while balancing on a bike. However, a friend suggested to me, “Why don’t you just turn on navigation, and stick in your earphones?” I thought this plan was rather ingenious, so I decided to try it out. Unfortunately for me, I decided to test this new method on a rainy day when I had scheduled an important meeting.


In Amsterdam the weather is like a perpetual nagging friend. Forget about good hair days, and on rainy days, forget about makeup altogether. On this particular day, it was indeed raining, and I had a long way to bike from one end of the city to the other. I wouldn’t say I left the house looking frumpy, but after about 5 minutes of biking in the pouring rain, I was beginning to look like a drowned rat. I had turned on some Beyonce in the background of my navigation to pump me up a bit thinking, “Ok, so my hair is completely wet, and my makeup is destroyed, but I am a powerful woman. I will rock this meeting!” Just in the midst of my self-pep-talk, that’s when it happened.


I must have been groovin too hard on Beyonce when I hit a pebble in the road, and my insanely large Galaxy Note went hurling through the air, right out of my jacket pocket. I watched in seeming slow-motion as the mobile phone somersaulted into the wet street. Of course, it landed directly in an enormous puddle of rainwater. I skidded to the side, and parked my bike to go retrieve my phone, which now lay in multiple components. Even more shockingly, as I walked the few feet to retrieve it, more bikers ran over my mobile, completely oblivious to it, nearly submerged in the puddle.


After hurriedly putting it back together, and attempting to turn it on, I realized my attempts were futile. The phone was inundated with water, and totally blank. After the obvious first thought of, “Oh God, now I have to buy a new cell phone!”,  I realized, “How am I going to get to this meeting?!”


Directions are not my forte. Having grown up in rural Tennessee, we’d often give directions like, “Past that big oak tree” or “After the blue house”. Needless to say, I was in quite a pickle after the loss of my GPS navigation. I thought I’d wing it, and asked various locals the way to nearby landmarks. But, it was hopeless. First of all, you really can’t rely on human beings to give adequate directions these days. I must have gone in circles for over an hour. And secondly, there is really nothing quite like being lost in an unfamiliar city, on a bike, in the rain. One hour and a half later I arrived to my meeting drenched, and quite out of steam. I’d like to think I still rocked the meeting, but there’s nothing like timeliness to really seal a deal.


Moral of the story: human society is more international than ever. We relocate all over the globe, and have to pivot quickly to make it. Part of this process includes navigating new cities, and potentially using different forms of transportation like biking. We’re also incredibly reliant on technology to help us through these new learning situations. And when technology fails, it can result in disastrous consequences. A Navigate Jacket could have saved me in this situation, and would be useful to me on a daily basis. I can’t imagine being able to learn the pathways of a city without having to constantly check a mobile device, or listen to a bizarre animatronic navigation voice over headphones. The Navigate Jacket would allow me to learn the ropes of Amsterdam’s streets in a natural, and stylish way. I can’t wait for the Navigate Jacket to make its way to Amsterdam! Best of luck!

SXSW 2014

As seen in Oyster Mag

This is our first time to SXSW and first time to Texas. We were invited to speak on a panel called 'Tech Off Your Clothes – The Naked Truth About Wearables.' There is nothing like the amazing amount of diversity that can be found on the streets in Austin during SXSW. Everything from half-naked performers to 3D printed Oreos and old school Texan BBQ. 

The reason to come to SXSW for us (apart from the amazing opportunity to present the new products from Wearable Experiments) was for the people that you connect with while in Austin. Below is Sarah Kunst in custom Texas print skirt and plaid shirt at the Driskill Hotel.

SXSW Interactive, Film and Music programs all cross over at many points. The music performers are the best in the world and it (almost) isn't surprising when you accidentally brush past Lady Gaga.

The best way to get around SXSW is the Pedicab service. My feet were blister-filled from running to and from speakers at different ends of Austin. "One pedicab, one selfie, one unicorn". 

The first few days of the interactive festival were jam packed full of amazing people, parties and then there was the rain. Billie would have complained more however she found this Maison Michel PVC hood at the Refinery 29 party sponsored by Kate Spade and it totally changed her attitude to the rain.

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The interactive festival is not just for loveable nerds. They built an interactive discotecha! What does that mean? It means that the floor plays music to the beat of your step.

The music is on rotation so it is not playing the same jams over and over again! Here Billie is learning how to play the floor!

Sunday brunch during SXSW is a big event. We attended the Crowd Tilt Brunch, the Glam Ladies Brunch and squeezed in an interview with Radio France. I loved these nails and claw rings by a fellow design entrepreneur at the GLAM brunch.

This Sunday was super entertaining. There wasn't one person who wasn't enjoying themselves in the streets of Austin! Gotta love some USA paraphernalia. Gesche Wai-Yi Haas celebrating life and female entrepreneurs at SXSW!

The Havas Panties Party was a highlight of all the parties we attended. Not just because we displayed our Fundawear live. But also the opportunity to have the models 3D scanned! I can't wait to have the 3D model from SHAPEWAYS of the Fundies on Eugenia and Steven. I love collaborating with the 3D community.

Monday 9:30am (a rude time for a panel called Tech Off Your Clothes, if you ask us). We discussed how to make wearables that are designed for comfort, elegance and simplicity. We posed questions like; would you rather a jacket designed by Zuckerberg or fitness trackers by Lagerfeld? And do you really want your knickers hacked? And who owns the data around how sexually active you are?

The premise behind FUNDAWEAR is to bring you closer to your partner when you can't physically be there. Yes, Billie is trying to teach Eugenia how to use the App. Talk about MAWKWARD! (Modern & awkward)

During the week in Austin we also launched the Men's Navigate Jacket. We use tactile communication to allow users to travel map free around a city. Ben Moir was photographed wearing the Jacket for Fleishman Hillard.

We left Austin just before the tragic accident where the driver drove into a crowd of people. Although Austin is filled with sensational culture, art and energy it is always important to be careful, no matter where you are.

At SXSW you need to keep your eyes peeled for all sorts of animal. 

The Austin Amber beer certainly went down a treat after we launched yet another product at SXSW on our last night.

While sitting at a bar in Austin we got the go ahead to release the information about the Foxtel Alert Shirt that we created in collaboration with CHE Proximity. I definitely needed a beer and a digital detox after this week.



Where do you wear your WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY?

If you own wearable technology.... is it a activity tracker that inhabits your wrist?

Last week during all the madness of SXSW we launched a new sports tech product.

It is not an activity tracker. Although we saw a plethora of these in Austin, some which are quite spectacular.

We have collaborated with FOX FOOTY & CHE Proximity to create the ALERT SHIRT!

The Alert Shirt is the ultimate fan jersey. You can now connect with your favourite AFL (Australian Football League) teams physically, emotionally and mentally all with real-time sports data!

Sports have never been more physical “The good thing about this is people at home will be able to feel the impact of what players feel on the ground’”, said Luke Hodge, Hawthorn Football Club Captain

CHE introduced We:eX to the captains of the AFL clubs so that we could test out our wearable tech products for real. (Swooooooon!!!)

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The FOXTEL Alert Shirt allows you to feel these extremes while watching AFL:

BAM!!! - Impact: the shock of a big hit when players collide

POW!!! - Pressure: a thumping heart whenever the game is on the line

ARGH!!! - Exhaustion: lungs burning every time your team puts in a hard effort

Badaboom!!!! - Adrenalin: a rush of blood when your team is on the up

Eeyouch!!!! - Despair: the sinking feeling of every costly mistake

 

We have built this language around the experiences in the game. This is transmitted via a Bluetooth module built into the electronics inside the shirt and communicates with the companion smartphone app.

This is just the beginning of the wearable technology market. Wearable Experiments turned this project around in a teeny tiny time frame. We work hard and fast and for the love of the future.

Get your Alert Shirt HERE

 

Behind the scenes.

TECH OFF YOUR CLOTHES

We think that sharing the knowledge we have with the wider community is extremely important. This is why last week we presented a workshop at General Assembly New York with other wearable technologists and technology enthusiast; The Crated, PrintAllOverMe, Rafael Balbi (Motif), Highline Venture Partners and Sylvia Heisel.

Also last week we presented at a Decoded Fashion MeetUp: 2014 The Year of Wearable? It is such a pleasure to share the stage with other companies and designers pioneering this “new” industry.

In 2013 we presented at the Wearable Technology Conference SF and Apps World Europe. In 2014 we will be speaking on a panel called "Tech Off Your Clothes" at SXSW and The PSFK Conference.

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The 5 stages of Vegas - CES 2014

Like the 5 stages of grieving, CES in Vegas is the same emotional roller coaster. 

 

1. DENIAL

These people are not my people. Regardless of being in the wearable technology space (Hardware is the new software), I am not a technologist. I am a designer and let me tell you CES 2014 is lacking some design. Hold that thought, VEGAS is lacking some design. It is a weird place that promises magic and when you scratch the surface it is nothing but Valium and Velcro.

 

2. ANGER

This is meant to be the showcase of the future of electronics. Not what other wrist candy can we call “wearable tech”. The abundance of activity trackers/ fitness monitors would make anyone want to consume their weight in doughnuts to avoid trying to differentiate one device from another. Real wearable devices will be intuitive to the daily routines of a human. Not yet another device that distracts you from living your life.

Anger 2.0 - There are so many people that you can't move, see or breath. CASINO's are horrendous and dirty.

Anger 3.0 - LED overload, yes adding accelerometers to your LED garments is interesting but what does it do for me other than instigate epileptic fits?

 

3. BARGAINING

Vegas turns out to be cooler than you think during CES. The highlight was definitely meeting the CEO of a major publishing house, who admitted to me that if he were my age he would do things differently. Instead of taking the commercial corporate route, he would be a creative entrepreneur and work for himself. VEGAS turns out to have people who have integrity… who da thunk it?

4. DEPRESSION

Waking up every morning even after having an early night with bloodshot eyes! Realising that regardless how hard you try, everyone always looks hung-over in Vegas. Did I mention that I decided the 8 am flight out was a good idea!

5. ACCEPTANCE

CES really is geeks and freaks week. And I guess that makes us one or both of those things.

 

NAVIGATE & FUNDAWEAR featured in FashionWare (CES 2014)

NAVIGATE & FUNDAWEAR featured in FashionWare (CES 2014)

3D printed shoes - extremely difficult to walk in!

Until next year!

Highlights:

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June by Netamo

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Muse by Interaxon

Hardware Vs Software

The Wired Pop up store in the Meat Packing District has some very fun technologies to play with... feeling like a kid in a couture candy store! Imagine if they had FUNDAWEAR on display!

Below is the Lady Gaga Binary Chair, featured in photography for the singer's new "ARTPOP" album. The hardware chair is covered in circuit boards, computer chips, LCD screens and hard drive disks of an outdated industrial printer. Designed by Benjamin Rollins Caldwell.

Innerwear as outerwear!

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Navigation Narration

We had some success with drawing attention to our navigation narration!

Although some folks couldn't get our name right and others used the article to make a comment on female map reading abilities! We were thrilled to be featured on these sites below;

Daily Mail

PSFK

Mashables

HUFFINGTON POST

These are 4 of the many articles about the new way to travel map free!

Check out the behind the scenes footage.

 

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