The Fitbit, the Jawbone Up—even the Apple Watch. We’ll spend hundreds of dollars, if not more, for tiny digital sensors that live on our wrists and quantify our activity. Accelerometers ping a GPS, which syncs with hard drives in the cloud, all to build a bar graph of a day’s steps.
Emulsion, by the Oslo design studio Skrekkøgle, makes all of that effort look silly. It’s what the studio refers to as an "analog activity tracker." What does that really mean? It’s a watch filled with immiscible (unmixable) fluids: mineral oil and dyed water. When you’re active, the liquids break up into tiny droplets like one of those oil-dropping toys that were all the rage in the '90s. Over time, when you're sedentary, the droplets work themselves back together, giving you a clear sign that you should start moving again.
"The concept came to life more as a joke. Even though many fitness trackers are great, we talked about how the product category is way too exaggerated and saturated," explains Skrekkøgle's Lars Marcus Vedeler. "With the prototypes we wanted to show that we could achieve much of the same feedback, with very simple means. But, when it turned out as distinct and mesmerizing as it did, it moved from being a spoof, to holding its own as an actual product—without any chips or screens, and best of all, no batteries."
Compare the subtle interaction of oily water to an Apple Watch, which buzzes for you to stand up after sitting too long, or a Garmin, which freaks you out when you haven't moved in a while with big red bars like your wrist has gone DEFCON 5. Emulsion is both hypnotic to look at, and maybe more importantly, inherently non-judgemental in what it tells you. Be more active, or don't. It’s just some liquid sitting on your wrist, after all. You’re the one getting up in arms about it.
Emulsion is currently a concept, but Skrekkøgle may put it into production if there’s enough interest.