What is Wearable Technology?

Wearable technology refers to devices that can be worn by users, taking the form of an accessory such as jewelry, sunglasses, a backpack, or even actual items of clothing such as shoes or a jacket. The benefit of wearable technology is that it can conveniently integrate tools that track sleep, movement, location, social media. There are even new classes of devices that are seamlessly integrated with a user’s everyday life and movements. Google's “Project Glass” was one of the earliest examples, and enabled a user to see information about their surroundings displayed in front of them. Smart watches are becoming commonplace, allowing users to check emails and perform other productive tasks through a tiny interface. A rapidly growing category of wearable technology takes advantage of the burgeoning interest in the “quantified self.” The Jawbone UP and Fitbit bracelets are two examples that track how you eat, sleep, and move. Empowered by these insights, many individuals now rely on these technologies to improve their lifestyle and health. Today’s wearables not only track where a person goes, what they do, and how much time they spend doing it, but now what their aspirations are and when those can be accomplished.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Learning is part of the hybrid digital and natural environment. As teachers, students and independent learners carry and wear suites of devices, there are more opportunities for interaction with museum content. BYOD wearable device platforms offer opt-in user selected opportunities for increased engagement rather than spurious notions of distraction. - nealstimler nealstimler Feb 14, 2016
  • One of the most interesting applications of wearables is biometrics. Recording visitors' emotional and physical reactions to our educational offerings could provide powerful insight to museum educators. - ryand ryand Feb 24, 2016
  • This technology yields opportunities for museums to create customized experiences and adapt the physical environment based on the visitor's biological output. For the museum interpretation sector we think a lot about long-term impacts and outcomes, and wearable tech yields data in exciting ways to help track psychological, emotional, and physical benefits. - emily_fry emily_fry Feb 26, 2016
  • A current trend for users of (particularly) wrist-worn technology is the collection of data about yourself. I have also seen it lead to novel behaviours where the 'ping' of the wearable tech drives behaviour - I'm particularly thinking of members of my team who are now moving around every hour at the command of their wearables. How will this affect museum visitation? Will moving at 'gallery speed' be enough to satisfy bossy technology? A flippant example, perhaps, but this is about the future... - ewallis ewallis Feb 28, 2016 - Merete.Sanderhoff Merete.Sanderhoff Feb 29, 2016
  • Bossy technology indeed! I can imagine a smart watch buzzing its wearer to encourage her to look at her smartphone and check out some video about something in the museum that is nearby, but frankly, I'm not sure this is such a great idea. The notion of technologies constantly monitoring us and hectoring us it not appealing to me, personally. I'd rather assume that museum visitors are able to make their own decisions about when and how to use their technology, and I'm skeptical that monitoring heart rates or whatever will ever tell us anything useful about what people are thinking and feeling about the things they are seeing in our museums. Delivering short, smart videos to a watch screen, well, maybe, yeah...that could be worth doing, or creating a fun learning game the you pay on your watch. But otherwise, I'm not sure this gets us anything we really want or need.- weberj weberj Feb 28, 2016 - Merete.Sanderhoff Merete.Sanderhoff Feb 29, 2016
  • Agree with the above! How do we foster a mindful, fully-engaged experience for visitors if their wrist watch is constantly buzzing? Could we harness wearables to foster mindfulness in the museum? Maybe technology that self-mutes when it can tell when you are looking closely, discussing a work with a fellow visitor, or are already engaged in some other interpretive experience.- margaretsternbergh margaretsternbergh Feb 29, 2016
  • For those born today wearables will be passe! I think wearables are the future - lkelly lkelly Feb 28, 2016
  • A number of these comments posit the suggestions that we are collecting data from the technology, and that the technology is aggressively intrusive. Perhaps a better way of thinking about this is the possibility of information being quietly delivered to a device (or service behind the device) there to be accessed if and when the wearer feels like it -- more like a knowledgable companion than a hectoring schoolmarm.- chuck.patch chuck.patch Mar 17, 2016

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Wrist wearables are the current trend in-focus, but heads-up displays will likely return with improved technology, user experience and design. Museums responding to wearable technology also relates to the theme of electronic publishing. How can museums deliver just-in-time linked and shareable content immediately and contextually to the user either at the museum or experiencing it online in daily life? Have designers thought about label text and web information being experienced primarily through card-based applications compared to long strings of text __https://blog.intercom.io/why-cards-are-the-future-of-the-web/__? How can the audio guide further be re-formatted through a classification such as hearables __http://readwrite.com/2015/10/27/hearables-wearables-components-technology__? Wearable technology is about responding to customer desires. Museums must not attempt to intentionally throttle or restrict use of these devices. If they attempt to do so, commercial agencies and customers will work around institutions to achieve solutions as they did when museums first attempted to bar mobile devices, which ended in failure with years of user dissatisfaction, untapped learning potential and missed market opportunities. - nealstimler nealstimler Feb 14, 2016
  • Wearables are becoming more affordable and less obtrusive (think Withings, Underarmour) -- all of which connects our lives in interesting ways (Underarmour's healthbox connects your scale to a heart monitor to a bracelet:
    http://mobilesyrup.com/2016/01/05/htc-and-under-armour-co-developed-a-fitness-band-a-digital-scale-and-a-heart-rate-monitor/) and embedded technology in clothing will be increasingly be a focus (smart bra:
    http://mobilesyrup.com/2016/01/04/montreals-omsignal-reveals-new-smart-bra-at-ces/). Harnessing these sensors, long-term, as a cultural institution yields opportunities for customization and data about our audiences. I also imagine there are significant accessibility advantages for wearables -- haptic technologies signaling wayfinding for audiences who are blind or low vision, etc. - emily_fry emily_fry Feb 26, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • Wearable displays will further condition user expectations as to how information ought to be presented and interactive toward the pursuit of further knowledge or to complete critical business transactions such as purchasing tickets to an exhibit, lecture or family education program. Vital here is that museums respond to commercial sector products and see how their data and digital assets can better fit into current application parameters. In the near term, museums can leverage their value as content hubs while improving the possibilities for design talent in-house, in relationship with production partners or through open access for those outside the institution to create networked applications. Wearable technologies facilitate multi-sensory experiences of museums, especially around the former boundaries of touch where personalized interfaces - a majority presently screens - bring content into intimate contact with the user’s experience of the museum through the body. Museums have opportunities to better know the desires and needs of their customers through personalized data managed across these devices in collaboration with technology partners. Analytics and user profiles gained from this data could be leveraged to better serve museum customers, as users sign the Terms of Service and opt-in themselves to reap the benefits of these products and services. - nealstimler nealstimler Feb 14, 2016 Agree that analytics will sing once wearables are more widely adopted! - lkelly lkelly Feb 28, 2016

  • Acknowledging that interpretation in museums touches all facets of the museum experience (social, personal, physical), I could see wearables having a significant impact in how museums design exhibitions and interpretive devices to be more human-centered and customized. As mentioned earlier, wearables yield significant opportunities in accessibility providing haptic feedback and mult-sensory signals that can ultimately benefit the comfort and blow-away traditional wayfinding principles for audiences. - emily_fry emily_fry Feb 26, 2016- margaretsternbergh margaretsternbergh Feb 29, 2016
  • I think one thing museums will need to consider is how to provide tools for visitors who utilize wearable technology but also those who choose not to. How can we find a way to provide a personalized, seamless experience that wearable technology offers to those who either cannot afford the technology or choose not to?- margaretsternbergh margaretsternbergh Feb 29, 2016

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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