The future of wearables: nail art, expressive hats and a smoke machine


When I walk around this show (Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair) and talk to the young geniuses that Intel has brought together, it is clear that education and encouraging tech innovation through education is the future.

Interestingly, that’s something Intel has been making noise about for some time now.

“Intel leads in technological innovation,” says John Somoza Intel’s Higher Education Programme Manager. He argues the tech juggernaut wants to empower students with the “latest technological innovations through curriculum development”.

That concept that has come across pretty clearly in a lot of the projects that the students at this science fair have shown.

But let us step away for a moment from the little Einsteins who want to build the next rocket ships and figure out how to solve the energy crisis that most countries are facing to something more currently in vogue — wearable tech.

Somoza reckons that the next evolution in wearable tech is beyond smartphones, even though mobile devices are the ultimate wearable. He argues the inspiration for what will be wearable’s future will be close merging of the world design and the world of tech.

“Design schools will drive innovation in wearables,” he says. It’s a position Intel believes in strongly enough that the Santa Clara-based company launched the Design School Network to create wearable technology that is both fashionable, useful and expressive.


In a marriage of fashion and expression through beautiful design, Intel has partnered with a number of art and design schools to create what the future of wearable might look like when smartphones are taken out of the picture.

“The partnership creates a truly symbiotic relationship,” says Intel.”Students benefit from access to Intel’s latest technological innovations, while Intel benefits from the students’ creative and unconventional way of thinking.”

One of Intel’s partner design schools is Los Angeles’ Art Center College of Design. According to Anne Burdick, Department Chair of Graduate Media Design at the school, the partnership with Intel challenged its students to create pieces of wearable technology that fit principles of ecologies, context, aesthetics and transactions. The students were given four weeks to come up with a viable prototype of what could be the future of wearables.

In the end, five prototypes were created that look at interesting and usual applications for wearable technology that is not tethered to a smartphone.

Expressive Wearable — this prototype explores clothing as a communication tool. Taking its cues from the world of haute couture, Sangli Li designed tech powered clothing intended to make a statement. The idea is for the clothing to express its wearers attitude and mood.

Expanded Discourse — this prototype conceptualises a suit that can communicate emotions in different social interaction. The idea plays on the old notion of a talking stick. The suit expand when the wearer is silent and considering their responses and deflates when they speak. Creators Gerardo Guerrero and Zoe Padgett foresee application in social setting such therapy and couple conflict resolution.

Wearable Services — on the heel of the infectious nail art movement, this duo decided to play with wearable nails. Creators Kristina Ortega and Jenny Rodenhouse envision fingernails embedded with smart sensors that allow them to be used for a variety of new purposes. The nail can send pulses to the wearer when they are about to touch something to either forbid the act or track it.

Data Vaporizer — this project plays on the idea of data protection before it is stolen or intercepted. Created by Ji Won, the idea is to intercept data theft before in a world where wearable devices become the primary mode of storage and transmission of personal information. The data that is intercepted can be destroyed through a smoke machine.

MALWAReABLES: A Data Heist — this device imagines data theft scenarios in a world where wearable technologies communicate with each other. Created by Marcu Guttenplan and Tim Kim, the idea is on protecting personal data in subways where pickpockets can run classic cons in the world of wearables where individuals walk around with all their data. The device both works for the data thief as well as the individual wanting to protect their data.

What these prototypes represent is a world of wearable that transcend the ordinary and the obvious. The students argue that their thinking in creating these ideas is thinking about what is already a “big part” or our daily trend. The many discourses that determine the way we live our lives provides the world of wearable with an array of unorthodox and quirky ways that we can collect and disseminate data.



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