Wearable Futures: Two Day Conference at Ravensbourne in London

The Wearable Futures conference took place at Ravensbourne University last week, with more than 50 speakers and 300 audience members in attendance. Held over two days, the conference provided insight into wearable technology as it stands today, and more importantly, its future – including its vast potential beyond the body.

The conference and its parallel workshops provided a highly relevant platform for showcasing and encouraging multidisciplinary collaboration and cross-pollination of concepts and ideas. Projects presented over the two days ranged widely in scale and context; from devices worn on the body, such as Dominic Wilcox’s GPS shoes, to large, interactive spaces and locations, as seen in the Hello Lamp Post project, presented by Tom Armitage – all highlighting the fact that wearable technology has evolved and expanded far beyond geeky gadgetry, into innovative clothing that is really interconnected with the internet of things.

One of the key themes that surfaced during the conference was that of immersive interaction through the blending of physical and virtual spaces. This was seen in the telepresence project “Me and My Shadow,” presented by Ghislaine Boddington, Creative Director of design collective body>data>space, in which users interact with each other through a shared online environment and motion capture devices.

Another emerging topic included technology as a way to further facilitate human interaction and communication, as seen in Heidi Hinder’sMoney No Object” project, which explored physical and digital notions of currency, and the impact of digital technology on future human interaction. One of her experiments involved using human handshakes and hugs to transfer money via electronic sensors.

The conference also addressed the impact of information tracking, with concerns over data surveillance and monitoring investigated in a number of projects, such as Superflux’s “Open Informant” project and Fabrica’s “Anti-NIS Accessories” – the former taking an exploitative approach, while the latter is more about protection, as explored further in our recent In The Air report, Public Privacy.

Overall, the conference showcased the projects and innovative developments currently taking place in wearable technology, not only in terms of manufacturing and processing, but also conceptually – pointing the way to an even more exciting future with greater heights to be scaled.

It will be interesting to witness the further growth and maturation of this industry over 2014, which is predicted by Forbes Magazine as the year of wearable tech. – Philippa Wagner

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