Wearables are taking over. Whether it’s the Jawbone Up or an Apple iWatch, gadgets that live on our bodies will give rise to a level of data about ourselves and our environments that we’ve never had before. But is there more to the equation than fancy pedometers, GPS devices, and calorie-counters. Can wearables really do something new?
That was basically the question posed to the eight global studios of Frog. Each, with their unique regional perspective, would put their best idea forward in what would make a sort of worldwide latticework of what wearables can be, while developing some common design threads that could guide Frog moving forward.
"Maybe the biggest lesson was learning how to design in the most minimal form possible," Chief Creative Officer Mark Rolston tells Co.Design. "Most of our day is spent rendering information onto screens. In that sense, we can rely on a good level of fidelity when it comes to presenting information and framing user interaction. But with this new category, the products must implicitly rely upon less fidelity to get things done. They have smaller screens, or no screen at all. They have less compute and network resource to draw on, and they are intended to be operated with less attention."
This new interface is built on a whole line of low-fi, low-cognition interfaces that Frog calls phatic cues. And they play perfectly into the more organic forms that Frog is exploring here, that tend to bend the rules of rectangular glass into circles and curves, relying less on touch screens than we have for the approximate last decade.
"Some are exploring other cues like vibration, sound, or light to communicate with the user," Rolston writes. "We predict an explosion of these types of solutions in the coming few years. We’re right at the cusp of this."
Now, if you haven’t perused the gallery yet, know that the winners definitely push the boundaries of "wearable." (For instance, one entry is a little gadget that clips onto your bike, while another is a huge band that wraps around the trunk of a tree!) But to Frog, that’s okay. When modeling the future—any future—it doesn’t make sense to feel confined to the scaffolding from the past.
"Yes, a few are borderline ‘wearable,’" concedes Rolston. "Once we had established the project framework, we let our teams go where the designs take them. That’s just a good design practice."