Exploring public perceptions of future wearable computing

Nov 07, 2013
Exploring public perceptions of future wearable computing
The study found that in both countries, the wrist and the forearm were the most preferred locations for e-textiles, as well as the most normal placement when watching someone use the devices. Credit: Georgia Tech/Halley Profita

As scientists develop the next wave of smartwatches and other wearable computing, they might want to continue focusing their attention on the arms and the wrists. According to a recent Georgia Tech study, portable electronic devices placed on the collar, torso, waist or pants may cause awkwardness, embarrassment or strange looks.

In a paper titled "Don't Mind Me Touching My Wrist," Georgia Tech researchers reported the results of a case study of interaction with on-body technology in public. Specifically, they surveyed people in both the United States and South Korea to gain cultural insights into perceptions of the use of e-textiles, or electronic devices, stitched into everyday clothing.

For the study, researchers directed participants to watch videos of people silencing incoming phone calls using e-textile interfaces on various parts of their body, including wrists, forearms, collarbones, torsos, waists and the front pant pocket. They were asked to describe their thoughts about the interaction (such as whether it appeared normal, silly or awkward) and its placement on the body.

In general, the study found that in both countries, the wrist and the forearm were the most preferred locations for e-textiles, as well as the most normal placement when watching someone use the devices.

"This may be due to the fact that these locations are already being used for ," said Halley Profita, a former Georgia Tech industrial design graduate student who led the study. "People strap smartphones or MP3 players to their arms while exercising. Runners wear GPS watches."

According to the study:

  • Gender of the technology user affected opinions about the interaction. For example, Americans were uncomfortable when men used a device located at the front pant pocket region or when women reached for their torsos or collarbones.
  • South Koreans reported exceptionally low acceptance of women using the devices anywhere except for their arms.
  • Respondents expressed differing views on the most important factors on deciding how to use e-textiles. Americans focused on ease of operation and accessibility; South Koreans raised personal perception issues.

"South Koreans also said they wanted an easy-to-use system, but the should not make them look awkward or weird," Profita said. "This isn't surprising because their culture emphasizes modesty, politeness and avoidance of embarrassing situations."

The findings were presented in September at the International Symposium in Wearable Computing in Switzerland. While at Georgia Tech, Profita was advised by Professors Ellen Yi-Luen Do Thad Starner, a pioneer. She is currently a doctoral candidate in computer science at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Explore further: Strap on your computer, wearable tech taking off

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Strap on your computer, wearable tech taking off

Oct 01, 2013

The digital domain is creeping off our desktops and onto our bodies, from music players that match your tunes to your heart beat, to mood sweaters that change color depending on your emotional state—blue ...

If the tech fits, wear it

Oct 16, 2013

The digital domain is creeping off our desktops and onto our bodies, from music players that match your tunes to your heart beat to mood sweaters that change color depending on your emotional state.

Samsung seeks smart watch trademarks in US, SKorea

Aug 07, 2013

Samsung Electronics Co. has applied for U.S. and South Korean trademarks for a watch that connects to the Internet in the latest sign that consumer technology companies see wearable devices as the future ...

Recommended for you

Privacy groups take 2nd hit on license plate data

Sep 19, 2014

A California judge's ruling against a tech entrepreneur seeking access to records kept secret in government databases detailing the comings and goings of millions of cars in the San Diego area via license plate scans was ...

Scots' inventions are fuel for independence debate

Sep 17, 2014

What has Scotland ever done for us? Plenty, it turns out. The land that gave the world haggis and tartan has produced so much more, from golf and television to Dolly the Sheep and "Grand Theft Auto."

White House backs use of body cameras by police

Sep 16, 2014

Requiring police officers to wear body cameras is one potential solution for bridging deep mistrust between law enforcement and the public, the White House said, weighing in on a national debate sparked by the shooting of ...

Chinese city creates cellphone sidewalk lane

Sep 15, 2014

Taking a cue from an American TV program, the Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too engrossed in messaging and tweeting to watch where they're going.

Coroner: Bitcoin exchange CEO committed suicide

Sep 15, 2014

A Singapore Coroner's Court has found that the American CEO of a virtual currency exchange committed suicide earlier this year in Singapore because of work and personal issues.

User comments : 0