The design studio Being and Dying has just taken wearable tech to an unusually poetic place with Uji, a wall clock that displays the owner’s heartbeat in real time. It offers a clever twist on the term "biological clock."
The user wears an electrocardiogram sensor, which records the electrical activity of the heart. This data is sent wirelessly to the clock, where the hands tick silently back and forth in sync with the user’s pulse. Made of thin black metal, these hands linger perpetually around 12 o’clock.
Unlike Fitbits and their ilk, Uji uses data not for life-hacking or self-quantifying, but instead to induce a kind of meditation on the nature of time and mortality. The biological data is represented purely visually, by the motion of the clock’s hands, and isn’t analyzed to serve any health or fitness-related purpose.
As the studio's website explains, it strives to “design, build, and promote better ways to live and die.” The clock's designers, Ivor Williams, Jonathan, Chomko, and Federico Floriani, were inspired by Zen philosophies. “By removing seconds, minutes, and hours, yet utilizing the design archetype of the wall clock, we can embed Zen philosophies of time to an object," they say in a statement. “By projecting one’s self through the physical expression of the heartbeat, we can begin to understand ourselves as existing ‘for the time being.'"
The clock also subtly invites us to question the wearable technology craze itself. Uji's lack of practical applications is intentionally obvious—but is it actually that much less practical an object than, say, a GPS-equipped bra, or a shirt that tracks your workouts, or any of the other gadgets and gizmos that marketers claim we so desperately need?