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CES 2017 Re-Cap by Pauline

It’s an understatement to say that Las Vegas is a pretty chaotic and an atypical place, and when CES takes off, the city’s overwhelming powers rise to a whole other level. Pauline offers a personal account on her experiences during this event, and reflects deeper on the future of wearable technology consequently.

 

CES 2017 Las Vegas

Being the largest electronic show and conference, you can easily start to feel lost when walking through immense halls filled with the newest gadgets, smart systems, AR experience, robots and AI enabled products. But when you close your eyes slightly and use your lashes to filter out the madness, you will be able to see larger trends and point out the direction where all these technological developments are heading. My personal strategy to manage my time and safeguard my own sanity, is to be very selective. On my first day at the conference, the track on printed electronics, organized by OE-A brought me focus. It’s amazing to see how this industry continues to miniaturise electronics. It’s fascinating to also witness the applications outside of the wearables domain. Take for instance the micro-fluid systems that can be used for extremely fast medical tests, so revolutionary!

Another event I really enjoyed was the Wearable Tech Summit on Saturday, hosted by Living in Digital Times, who invited me to join the morning panel: Your Body: The Next Habitat for Tech-Humanity. Our moderator Jenna Blaha (Tech and Fashion Editor of Marie Claire) was able to trigger an interesting conversation, which brought to the surface what role interactive technologies could play within the everyday world of fashion taking the example of brands like Calvin Klein. I couldn’t agree more with Barry McGeough (CIO of the PVH group), when he mentioned how the eventual use and impact of wearables once they’ve become ubiquitous will be more mundane than we can think of right now. Tech driven wearables seem too focused on justifying their primary utility (often very cognition based) and thereby fail to engage and connect us on other levels. I believe we will need to tap into the emotional experience and social connectivity of our clothes. We also discussed how large, influential brands need to work with smaller companies and startups that can innovate at a fast and dynamic pace as well as the academic research institutes and education platforms. This will enable them to take a fresh perspective to processes, manufacturing methods and tools as well as the ecosystem that needs to be build collaboratively.

To close off, I do feel the need to also share with you the slightly disquieting feeling I got after going around the show for a couple days. A lot of products failed to convince me of having any deeper meaning. Some of the technologies of these products could be used in much more interesting and truly beneficial ways. As a designer it is sometimes conflicting to see this obsession with the new, that somehow seems to grant us permission to exploit resources for short lived pleasure and for simply showcasing our capabilities, without thinking of it purposefully. Being immersed in an increasingly smart environment may give us a feeling of being in control, but sometimes I wonder who we are really fooling.

In today’s world it would be interesting to focus on those traits of technology that help us embrace uncertainty and change. Personally I believe it has a lot to do with nurturing the connection between the body and mind and cultivating the power of presence and awareness. What if, when thinking of a loved one, instead of sending a message, our clothes could give off a gentle, alleviating embrace thanks to micro-inflation yarn that subtly expands. The same yarns could locally change their stiffness and tension, thus supporting or protecting certain areas of your body depending on the activity. Simultaneously the yarns can also alter the visual expression of the knit in which they are integrated, whereby the outer surface undulates and echoes body movement.

The merging of technology with the the body’s senses, both internal and external, can help us find our way in a chaotic world, grounding us to what makes us human and how we interact with one another.

Until next time!

– Pauline.