Billie Whitehouse is in the business of creating an “enchanted” future.
A lot of what the designer and founder of Wearable Experiments says sounds like something right out of “Minority Report.” But Whitehouse says she envisions the connected future as being closer to Harry Potter in reality. Whitehouse, the brains behind Durex’s “Fundawear” connected underwear and the creator of soon-to-be-launched smart yoga pants (they correct your form), joined us this week on the Glossy Podcast.
Edited highlights below.
Wearables should focus on moving haptics, not “buzz.”
Whitehouse said that design for a long time has focused on different senses: sight, sounds, and “if you do ingestibles, taste.” But wearable design needs get smarter about touch, too. That’s why Whitehouse believes that connected fabrics and products like her yoga pants are what will take off and bridge the divide. “Moving haptics around the body is far more interesting for a wearer than a ‘buzz-buzz’,” she said.
There is the opportunity to gain information from everything.
Whitehouse thinks the future of connected objects shouldn’t be shaped around data that flows in just one direction — how many steps you took in a day, for example — but in creating what she calls “bubbles of empathy” around objects. “Empathy is streams of information about the product: Where it came from, what’s gone into it,” she said. “And where we’re going with this conversation around data is where do you want people to tap in, and where to make sure they can’t?”
People wrongly assume they can’t have more than wearable.
Whitehouse suggests people stop taking cues from tech and think more about fashion. “For some reason, in technology, we think Apple, or Google,” she said. “But in fashion you have many pairs of shoes. There’s more real estate on the body. We love change in fashion, so there’s an opportunity for us to not say there is just ‘one ring to rule them all’.”
Designers have to be software engineers.
For brands that are now building connected purses or bags, it’s déjà vu all over again: they experimented with the tech a couple years ago but found that the customer wasn’t there. Now that she is, there is the additional challenge of ROI for connected bags, which is measured differently from analog totes. Brands will need to build the cost of R&D and regular software updates into the bags. Fortunately, she said, fashion is already accustomed to refreshing every quarter with new ideas; now it just needs to be ready to refresh software and hardware at the same pace.