Wearable technology may be extending human intelligence into the next frontier of new media and intelligence. Whether we’re talking about makeup that controls drones, LED-enhanced dresses, or other wearable devices that push the boundaries of personal computing, the topic is both futuristic and vital right now.
To spotlight the evolution of such exciting creativity, Motherboard’s sister site the Creators Project is exploring the topic in a five-part documentary series called Make It Wearable, in support of Intel’s own Make It Wearable challenge.
While we don’t know the limits of wearables, the innovations within the field are inspiring human-technology connection like never before, while also forcing the world to reconsider our formerly-held notions about the limits of tech.
Part One: Human Communication zones in on the various interpretations of wearable devices, and spotlights a few innovators who are already using wearables to push the boundaries of communication and machinery, including MITs Media Lab (which feels like something out of a sci-fi movie), mobile-journalist Tim Pool, and other luminaries in the field.
Continue reading to get a closer look inside the mind-expanding (and, well, thread-expanding) projects by some of the brilliant thinkers featured in the doc.
“Fundamentally, what we are is we are social animals. The most important things to us are interactions with other people, the presence of other people, and so when you have a wearable, the wearable is in the middle of that.” ~ Sandy Pentland
Alex “Sandy” Pentland is often called the “Grandfather of Wearables.” Not only does he direct MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab and the Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, but he was part of the team that first focused on wearable computers in the early ’90s. On top of his work with MIT, he co-leads the World Economic Forum Big Data and Personal Data iniatives, and was called one of “the most powerful data scientists in the world” by Forbes in 2012.
In the documentary he helped define what a wearable is, but in our various interviews with Pentland, he also described how he was one of the first individuals to guide wearable technology into the fashion world. In one instance, he put little wires through a woman’s hair that were attached to a galvanic skin response device inside a headband she wore. When she was surprised, her hair would literally stand on end.
Though fashion is not his main focus, Pentland is a prime example of the various avenues that this kind of technology can work down. See many more of Pentland’s projects here and get familiar with his name. After all, he is the Grandfather of wearables.
Tim Pool, The Mobile Journalist
“Wearable technology is going to bring about a great change, where everyone is more connected with each other. We know about the problems of the world, faster than ever before. Communication is just going to jump by leaps and bounds in terms of speed and convenience.” – Tim Pool
Tim Pool became tagged as the first true “mobile journalist,” after his intense marathon of live-streaming the Occupy Movement using the Ustream’s mobile application, an external battery, and a smartphone. He was a one-man news team that was accessible through his site, TimCast, which subsequently earned him the title, ”Media Messenger of Zuccotti Park” in Time Magazine‘s Person of the Year 2011 issue. He has since joined Vice to help us cover news in real time. He’s also known for using other technology to help his reporting, such as the Parrot AR.Drone to capture footage on the scene unlike any other journalist out there.
Pool is arguably the leading spokesperson of how wearable tech can make breaking news and journalism smarter, faster, and more efficient. He makes live-blogging look like ancient stove carving.
Pattie Maes, The Innovator Making Tech Adapt To Us
“The time has come to really focus on human-computer interaction and make sure it is less people that have to adapt to the technology, but that technology becomes more adaptive to people and our ways of life.” ~ Pattie Maes
Pattie Maes also works at MIT, like Sandy Pentland, but she focuses on intelligent interfaces and ubiquitous computing. She was one of the major forces behind collaborative filtering, the process that helps improve your search results on any shopping site or search engine (from Amazon to Netflix, you name it).
Maes worked on the ”SixthSense” project with Pranav Mistry, which became one of the most popular TED Talks ever. “SixthSense” is a wearable device with a projector that allows us to, say, make a phone call by dialing light-projected buttons on our hands. TED described the innovation spot on: “Imagine Minority Report, and then some.”
Her thoughts are vital in that she desires technology to fit the needs of humans, rather than inventions and devices that we have to adapt around. She believes that tech shouldn’t change our daily practices, but rather enhance them.
Steve Brown, “Chief Evangelist And Futurist”
“We’ve been adorning our bodies since the start of time, whether it was furs to help us go to northern climates and hunt animals, swords, shields, armor, pocket watches, wristwatches, eyeglasses, all of these things have been there to augment our capabilities and extend our reach and help us through life. What’s new is that now they are becoming smart and they’re becoming connected.” ~ Steve Brown
Steve Brown’s business card at Intel literally states ”Chief Evangelist and Futurist.” The tech veteran has been a researcher and strategist for the company behind Make It Wearable for almost 30 years, though he spent much of that time predicting what will be happening in the next 30 years. His knowledge and expertise about wearable machinery has been shared in a variety of lectures, including a razor-sharp TED Talk. If there’s anyone who can make astute calls on the future of wearable tech, it might be this guy.
Wearables are poised to change how we imagine connectivity, communication, and, well, clothing. The Creators Project has three more episodes that will help spotlight how pertinent these innovations truly are. Stay tuned, but if you’re a creator, re-watch our introduction to the Intel: Make It Wearable challenge (just above) and take this opportunity to change the tech game.