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For some people, flirting comes naturally. But for the rest of us sorry sods, flirting is like a foreign language. Personally, someone could be hitting on me for three hours straight and I wouldn’t be any the wiser.
Four Innovation Design Engineering students from the Royal College of Art in London have designed a wearable to help out people like me. Or rather, they designed it to rejuvenate face to face conversation.
“Unsatisfied that the world was moving towards a future immersed in virtual reality, and believing that this may lead to difficulties in communicating in real life,” a press release reads, “[the students] embarked on an experimental design journey to encourage people to interact in real life.”
The device is an eclectic piece of technology that emulates a sea anemone. The main display sits atop a woman’s shoulders and two impulse pads run across her spine and chest.
The way Ripple works is this: two wearable cameras identify people in the room who are attracted to you by the way they look at you. When someone is attracted, a ripple is sent up your spine. You are then free to search the room for the person who likes you — and when you look at them, you’ll feel a thump on your chest. If you decide the feeling is mutual, the arms of the anemone will respond. And when you finally lock eyes, Ripple warms up, encouraging you to continue conversation.
While quirky, there are a few glaring issues.
The first: who isn’t going to be looking at you when you’re wearing this thing?
The second: there is no indication as to how it knows you’re interested. Is it temperature? Pupil dilation? Sweaty palms? I barely know my own mind half the time — how is this device going to?
And the third: Is it meant for artistic or commercial use? Because if the former — the point of performance is for all eyes on you, rendering the algorithm useless. And if the latter, who would wear it? It’s hardly comfortable-looking. Could you even wear it in a car or would you have to put it on at whatever event you’re attending?
While the students have an interesting message in terms of personal connection, perhaps its just best to learn how to communicate with strangers on your own. It may seem daunting, but the alternative is wearing tentacles on your shoulders.