Wearable Services
Lab Project, Wearable Ecologies, Media Design Practices Art Center , Sponsored by Intel
Faculty - Professor Philip van Allen, Associate Professor Ben Hooker
in collaboration with Jenny Rodenhouse

photo© Philip van Allen

Wearable technology is in its infancy. The future of wearable devices is still open for interpretation and shaping. Currently wearables are designed by tech people for tech people. They exist as novelties; promises of a ubicomp wearable world. Anticipating a wearable future brands have started to collaborate with fashion lines, but one has to wonder if these collaborations will be nothing more than glorified licensing deals. If wearables are going to be adopted into our everyday lives then we are going to have to stop designing them with the idea of one size fits all in mind. Context and specificity matter. That being said, we wanted to tackle the world of nail art and looked into embedding sensors into layers of a gel manicure. All Investigations were part of Wearable Ecologies at Media Design Practices, Art Center.

Useless Wearables:

For the first part of the lab we designed wearables with the idea that they would be "useless". This was our first version of our nail service, which we called "ritual nail". We experimented with form, 3D printing cats with LEDs embedded in them and embedding a nano pixel into the nail.
Our "Sensor Extensions" pulled data from our lives and made a report for our "technician".

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Useful Wearables:

After our first round of making we decided to take a research trip to a nail art salon. While we were there we were fascinated by the process and negotiation that took place between the technician and the client. We really discovered the place of the service in the process. What would technicians look like in a electronically embedded salon service?

The process of making prototypes, some with "sensor extensions" others made extremely brittle from the z corp 3D plaster printer.

User Testing:

We tested out five sensored options during a workshop/ user test:
PROBE TOUCH: Flex Sensor + Vibration Motor
DO/DON’T TOUCH: Xbee/Distance Sensor + Vibration Motor
DIGITAL TOUCH: Xbee/Distance Sensor + Audio
DISTANT TOUCH: Video + Audio

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install of nails, customization and negotiation.

After user testing our early prototypes we decided that our project wasn't so much about the electronics embedded into nails, but more about the new services that will grow out of the need for wearables that can be specific and customizable. The new question is: who are the technicians in a new electronic fully customizable salon? We stopped looking for a solution and started looking for scenarios.

The Future of Wearable Services: A Proposal for a Pop-Up Sensor Nail Salon:

Our new salon makes fully customizable wearables. Your nails become a collaboration and a negotiation between you and your technicians. Not only does this new bespoke service industry provide manicurists it also provides for UX, Developers, 3D modellers, electrical engineers and medical doctors. The technology is simple, but the ways they are customized for the user is complicated. Our salon also challenges the idea that electronics must be made by a few companies and in mass quantities. Our decentralized salon of specialists can exist anywhere there is a demand. Depending on the client, the nails can provide bio feedback, behavior modification, reminders, haptic feedback or just a cool look.