Posted by Ashley Osgood
At INBOUND14 last month, I decided to check out a talk titled “Enchanted Objects”, given by MIT Media Lab instructor David Rose. I was interested to hear what he had to say from a wearable technology perspective, but I also wanted to get a fresh take on the Internet of Things - where the world of connected technology is headed and what the path may look like to get there.
Rose’s perspective on the interconnectivity in objects transcended the dry, technical components, capabilities and functionalities, and took a much more relatable spin with his reference to the objects we are started to surround ourselves with as being “enchanted”. So I picked up his book to learn more about this concept of enchantment - and while the book covered many IOT topics extensively, here’s what I think wearables need to know about the thinking behind enchantment in the years ahead to succeed in the marketplace:
To kick off, Rose takes you on a series of futures that exist for devices. He’s hoping we stay out of “Terminal World” - that is, our obsession our phones and the endless flat screens on them. Not only are we fixated on checking them constantly, but the fact that we have to have them available to us so we can look at them puts us in a less than ideal situation - one that disengages us from our current environment. He argues that we become slaves to the screen - needing one available, needing to manipulate in order to accomplish what we are set out to do.
What we as humans optimally “need” is broken out by Rose into several different futures of technology - one of which is inherently interesting to the wearables space. While wearable technology has made some headway in the marketplace, he argues that if we can make wearables “enchanting” enough, they will more easily penetrate the mainstream market. This means creating wearable devices that by wearing them, they not only self-service themselves (i.e., charge themselves or require very little maintenance) but significantly elevate our existing capabilities.
One instance mentioned in the book is the notion of an augmented reality: that is, wearable glasses that somehow process and filter the information you want to see based on your past behavior or current interest. The balance to strike here is filtering out and serving up only the information that is relevant and interesting to us.
Rose also covers several basic human drives behind enchantment - six total - and we honed in one a couple that were particularly interesting to the wearables space.
#1 Safekeeping. To guard and protect is one of the basic human drives behind enchanting objects - and companies like pet wearable Tagg and Mimo baby onesie wearables help us keep track of and monitor the health of loved pets and children. The smarter these devices get about us, their wearer’s behavior and context, the better informed we are about what’s close to us.
#2 Immortality. Another enchanting drive would be immortality, which we have been particularly interested in from a quantified health perspective with emerging wearable technologies. In addition to the health wristbands to help you monitor and improve your health, more connected devices like the Glowcap to remind you to take your medication, can play an active yet non-interruptive role in managing health - which is one of the core components around “enchantment”
“Enchanted Objects” was a fascinating, well researched book that not only identified some forward-looking wearables and “Internet of Things” companies, but also took a step back into human motivation to shed some light on why we would want to use these new devices. So if you are designing the next great wearable and looking for some solid ways to differentiate, this is definitely worth the read to understand more about how and why we will engage with these types of connected devices now and in the future.