Nov 222014
 

The Metamorphosis line from Younghui Kim is a clothing line that detects alcohol levels in its wearers. A female dress responds to the wearer’s level of alcohol consumption through the use of colorful lights and expanding sleeves, while a male’s blazer responds by an expanding collar that slides out to cover the wearer’s face.

The project is meant to express the impact alcohol has on a person’s self-esteem, and was specifically focused on the role of drinking in Korean society. The interesting point of the project is the grounds for its creation. When first exposed to an article on Bustle, the title “A Dress that Detects when You’re Drunk? Younghuo Kim’s Wearable Tech will Draw Attention to the Fact that you’re Sloshed” I was left with the initial impression that the project was intended to act as a deterrent to over indulgence. After further reading, I have come to the realization that it is not technology meant to support sobriety, but rather as commentary on the way in which drinkers interact, and are perceived in social situations.

Apparently, social drinking in Korea is viewed as an outlet for honesty, and Kim’s website absurdee.com notes that “with formality deeply set in society, people are often shy to express what they really think soberly” (Kim, 2014). I find this interesting because it raises the question as to how a person should interpret the opinion of another. It almost seems that Kim is suggesting that the views of a person who has been drinking should carry more weight than those of someone who has not. While it is often said in vino veritas, people in western society are often heard explaining their actions by blaming alcohol. I have heard “I had been drinking” when responding to questions about a late-night conversation from the night before. It is not to say that there is not truth in wine, but it is interesting to note the social differences surrounding the conversation of honesty and alcohol. Would a project such as Kim’s have any impact on the perception of a person’s words, or even more importantly, should it?

It seems that in fashion, it is not uncommon to see someone wearing a particular item because of the statement it is making. One could wonder what the statement an item from the Metamorphosis project is making. In western culture, would it be viewed as an excuse? In Korea, would it be seen as a reason to pay extra attention to the wearer’s words and actions, because they are in fact being honest? It is also interesting to note that the female’s version of this project draws attention to the wearer, but the male’s blazer is designed to hide the wearer’s face. It is almost as if Kim is saying that when drinking a female is empowered, yet when a man drinks the best course of action is to keep his mouth shut and hide from the public. While this may not be the actual intent of the project, it is reminiscent of the points made by Joanne Entwistle in “Fashion and Gender.” Entwistle notes that in fashion “clothing does more than simply draw attention to the body and emphasize bodily signs of difference. It works to imbue the body with significance, adding layers of cultural meanings” (Entwistle, 2000). In the case of the Metamorphosis project, this seems to be taken to an entirely new level. It is not just the appearance of the articles of clothing, but it is the way in which these articles interact with the wearer. Would a woman who identifies as male require the same response from the item, or would she be exempted from “hiding” because she is a woman? Would a man who identifies as female be empowered by the influence of alcohol on his self-esteem?

One cannot argue that the project is interesting, but does seem to be ambiguous as to its intent. At first glance Kim seems to be making a statement in regards to the relationship between social interaction and alcohol consumption, but after a closer look there seems to be a not so subtle commentary on gender roles in social situations. The social implications of the project could be immense, but it also seems likely that the message from the item could easily be unclear. The technology seems far more likely to be relevant if gender is taken out of the equation, and the same response is generated no matter the sex of the wearer. Metamorphosis should simply provide the visual signal, and leave the interpretation of the situation up to the observer.

References

Entwistle, J. (2000). Fashion and Gender. In The fashioned body: Fashion, dress, and modern social theory. Cambridge: Polity Press.

abdurdee.com

Oct 072014
 

By Amanda Swan

Musicians are often in the news for pushing the boundaries when it comes to making their music, like Beyoncé’s unadvertised surprise album last year or U2’s direct-to-iPhone release of their latest release. Music production has the potential to change dramatically in the near-ish future through the use of gesture sensing gloves.

Working closely with British musical artist Imogen Heap, Mi.Mu has been working on a data collecting, sound manipulating pair of gloves. Although their Kickstarter failed to meet its goal, the company is still working on newer, more streamlined gloves to potentially market to interested parties.

Gesture control glove

Gesture control glove, courtesy mimu.org.uk

The gloves themselves use sensors to read gestures made by the wearer, which are then translated into different kinds of manipulated sounds. Each movement corresponds to a different manipulation or sound; for example, a high-hat or a fader might be engaged with a flick of the wrist.

This technology opens up a new realm of music making. For those of us who are less musically inclined in the traditional sense, these gloves would be a good opportunity to dip our toes into the musical pool one more time. Someone who isn’t great at guitar could be phenomenal at creating music through these gloves. Someone who never got the hang of drumming might be great at playing piano. But with these gloves, that person might be able to revisit drumming by programming each finger to coordinate to a drum sound. They would be able to drum using their fingers, perhaps similar to the style of playing the piano.

As I was reading through the Mi.Mu Kickstarter page, I found a few comments about adapting this kind of glove (motion sensitivity) for other purposes. One user suggested this technology would be great for those who have to use sign language. If some software was developed to read motions and translate them into written language, it could open up great new possibilities in interpersonal communication and allow conversation with those that were previously unreachable.

Like the technology proposed in Lauren Silverman’s article SXSW: Where High-Tech Meets High-Fashion, the Mi.Mu musical gloves are far from commercial production. However, they both present so many opportunities for those who are unable to conform to traditional music or communication practices.

 

Feb 232014
 

I own three dogs and I’m a busy graduate student with a full time job.  I’m not sure my dogs get the exercise they need.  If you’ve followed my blogs you k now I have an addiction to the Nike Fuelband.  I won’t say I’ve been using it lately, but I love the idea of gamification of fitness.  Well, guess what?  For those of us who go more than ten miles out of our way to buy the best food for our pets there is a wearable fitness tracker designed for them too.

According the CNBC’s Cadie Thomson fitness will be big business in the pet market, which is expected to reach $62 billion this year.

This new tracker, made especially for dogs, is designed by a New York based startup company called FitBark.  The company describes their product as a “device that attaches to a collar and collects data on the dog’s activity levels throughout the day. The data syncs to the FitBark application, so owners can check in whenever they want.”

This new tracking device will gauge a pet’s health and break down health trends so that the owner can be alerted when something is out of whack. 

Fitbark

Dog wearing FitBark

Now, I like the idea, but if my pet starts to win more Fuel points than do…

Feb 232014
 

This past week Steve Mann from the MIT Technology Review wrote an article titled Wearable Technology as a Human Right. I took umbrage with the article. Mann is well known in the Wearable Media arena because he founded MIT’s wearable computer project more than 20 years ago.

Steve Mann

Steve Mann

 

His argument centers around the idea that wearable media is not just a matter of fashion, but also of function, which means it should be a human right for people to use this media wherever and whenever they want. He’s not writing about the Nike’s FuelBand fitness tracker he’s writing about technology that helps people recognize faces or serves as a memory aid. He’s concerned that people who use this technology, let’s say Google Glass, to help them are being banned from certain places.

Though he doesn’t mention this specifically in several states casinos are banning people from wearing Google glasses. The idea is that the glasses would help poker or card players cheat while playing the game. This may seem harmless, but he asks what about people who are wearing the glasses in a bar or restaurant and get kicked out because of the technology? He writes that …we must balance [people’s] rights with their desire to allow other people privacy and confidentiality.

Here’s the so what – he and I differ. I agree there must be a fine line between privacy and freedom to wear what you choose, but with Edward Snowden’s admission of NSA spying when are we, citizens, going to get a break? I think I have a right to walk into a store, restaurant, or spa and have some expectation I won’t be recorded by individuals. I have accepted that these places are recording me just in case I steal something, but I’m not ready for some random guy to record me selecting Wheaties over Bran flakes in my local grocery store.

Feb 102014
 

http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2013/sep/13/rise-wearable-technology-infographic#zoomed-picture

This hypertext nugget is trying to school you who have no idea about wearable media, present company included.  So I thought I would help break down the graphic for you.

First, Wearable Tech, the graphic gives a solid definition of wearable tech, but let’s throw an example out there like the Nike fuelband. The Fuelband tracks numerous things going on in your life such as how many steps you take, how many calories you expended and when to call your mother – I am totally joking about the last part, but I bet with a little coding they could do it.

According to article about wearable media, The Rise of Wearable Media, more than 8 million Brits wear some form of wearable tech.  Apparently, the more media we wear, not consume mind you, the more intelligent we feel we are.  If I am looking down on you with a pair of Google glasses you are in for it – it’s smarty pants time.  Since I have the glasses on you’ve automatically lost. Game over.

This article and chart cover so many wearable fashions such as: 3D printed shows, Apple iWatch, Intamacy 2.0 Dress (you look that one up yourself) and numerous other devices.

My concern is not that we’re all wearing body enhancement devices, but what are they saying about us as consumers.  Do I need a twitter dress that shows users’ tweets?  Maybe?  Are we building art?

But in my lowly life as a graduate student I KNOW I want the Anti-Paparazzi Clutch Bag.  It reflects light from camera flashes to obscure users from paparazzi.  I want to obscure the fact that  I’m Sasquatch since I come out of my house every few months and I’m blind people by my lack of tan.

Here’s the so what.  As the wearable technology fashion starts to gain in popularity it is time for us to look at what good this technology will do.  Can we use the Fuelband to help track people with diabetes (if they choose) to make sure they are taking in the right amount of glucose and producing the right amount of insulin.

Can we use Google Glass for the soldiers and SWAT members who’s job it is to take apart bombs.  These glasses would give the soldiers a chance to give real time pictures to support tactical units to help out.

Or what if the twitter dress existed for the Arab Spring.  One person could protest by sending out messages to people all over the world wearing a twitter dress or pants or scarf.

And the paparazzi clutch?  Well, use it as a paparazzi clutch.

Purse that flashes a bright light that interferes with anyone trying to take a picture of the person with the clutch

Purse that flashes a bright light

Woman wearing a hood and Google Glass

Woman wearing a hood and Google Glass

Young woman wearing a dress that receives tweets

Young woman wearing a dress that receives tweets

Nike Fuelband

Nike Fuelband