The smart phone, now that they are owned by most of the world’s cell phone users, has begun to reveal it’s limitations as we grow accustomed to seeing more and more devices trying to attach themselves to us for a hands free, forever connected way of life. The smart phone developed in us the expectation of constant access to information, contacts, and media. But as technology allows for smaller and lighter design and services become streamlined, a hand held device seems inconvenient and detached from the fluidity of our motions during certain activities. This opens a door for some exciting possibilities of devices that become elegantly interwoven with our lives. Therein also lies the greatest hurdle.
Elegant technology does not always yield elegant design. We can accept the industrial nature of our cell phones, tablets and computers because they are products of industrial design. Apple, as an obvious example, is known to lead when it comes to beautiful encasements for their technology. But when we start to translate that approach to something that is intended to integrate seamlessly into the way we present ourselves, the industrial nature of the objects we are seeing seems suddenly hard and robotic, representative of the false predictions of design of the future that most designers, in fashion as well as industrial design, miscalculated.
Even collaborations with fashion designers have led to little improvement in the sector. I attribute this to a lack on understanding on both sides. The engineers don’t understand the aesthetics, and the designers don’t understand the technology. So how can they create a harmonious design? Take the USB bracelets for example. Not only are they aesthetically juvenile (perfect for high-schoolers or college students who tend to lose things), but the technology does not engage with the wearer or his/her surroundings. By not applying sophisticated design or forward thinking applications of wearable tech, it misses the mark from both directions.
But it’s not all on the tech companies anymore; now fashion designers are in on it, too. And think of Google Glass: check mark next to valuable capabilities, but its promotion in line with fashion week only made the suggestion of mainstreaming the cyborg design seem that much more ridiculous.
Regarding the collaboration between the Opening Ceremony duo and Intel, there is little reason to expect a great leap forward, except that the pair of designers have been known to be able to make ‘ugly’ = ‘cool’. My cynicism, it seems, is equal to that of the tech savvy, who seem to consider wearables too focused on wearability and less on their technological value. In the case of the USB bracelets I think we’d find ourselves arguing the same point from opposite sides. Wearables’ predicament: When you try to please everyone, sometimes you don’t please anyone.