Wearing Your Media on Your Sleeve
February 17th, 2008

hug shirt.jpgPicking up on Roland’s most recent Smart Trends posting, here are some thoughts on Wearable Media from a post I did on Media Shift’s Idea Lab that might of some interest to Smart Mobsters….

Some really interesting experimentation is being done with “wearable media” these days. Wearable media is simply clothing or other accessories that allow for the transmission or display of digital information. Some examples…

Wearable Resistance a dress adorned with LED that can be programmed to depict images or text. Check out some of the other work being done by Dutch artist collective De Geuzen, “a foundation for multi-visual research”.

The Internet of Things: The University of Washington is conducting an experiment to understand the next step in social networking by connecting objects and people in a wireless, monitored network. Beginning in March, volunteer students, engineers and staff will wear electronic tags on their clothing and belongings to sense their location every five seconds throughout much of the six-story building. The information will be saved to a database, published to Web pages and used in various custom tools.

The Hug Shirt. The Hug Shirt allows people to send hugs over long distances. “Embedded in the shirt there are sensors that feel the strength of the touch, the skin warmth and the heartbeat rate of the sender and actuators that recreate the sensation of touch, warmth and emotion of the hug to the shirt of the distant loved one.”

Why is any of this important in a media context? Just as the media is starting to understand (or not) the importance of mobile devices as critical media platforms, wearable media has the potential of becoming another unanticipated, breakout trend.

Reserving all judgement, people becoming billboards and information sharing platforms – literally wearing this stuff on their chest – is a huge opportunity for advertisers and various media channels. Think about it. People love to wear T-shirts because they allow the wearer to establish their identity or make a statment about their values and beliefs. As our media world becomes more and more interactive, it is only a matter of time before such static statements come to life and change with our mood, interests, or real time activities. Instead of wearing a T-Shirt that says “Stop the War in Iraq”, for example, why not wear a shirt that displays video footage of the carnage happening on the ground or has a slide show of American service men and women killed in the war on this very day. Wouldn’t the latter be much more powerful and effective?

People who enjoy video gaming, a MASSIVE audience, could also use wearable media for real world extensions of online multiplayer games.

While the mobile phone and iPod are private information sharing tools among closed networks, wearable media is public and therefore has the potential of attracting larger audiences – including strangers.

Finally, because of it’s digital backend and use of imbedded sensors, wearable media has the added ability to connect people in physical places much like online social networking does on the Web today. Not only can interactive media be used for public display, but it can be shared and serve as a conversation starter or connecting point (via opt-in, instant profile and contact information sharing) among strangers.

Lots of interesting possibilities here, and much of the technology is already here. The question is if and when wearable media will go mainstream and if it does will the mainstream media be smart enough to pick up on it?

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