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Saturday, May 19, 2012

I crashed, a new intimate digital experience has emerged

Fuelband small
Nike Fuelband has managed to seduce me. I love the soft feel, and the way it comes to life. I got it two weeks ago and set-up worked very well. Turning it on is close to magical, the device lits up and you get progress feedback on the line of colour LEDs, showing how much you have to your daily goal. The Nike Fuelband takes the Nike brand into the casual space. The emergence of 24/7 wearables was one of the themes of the 2012 Fjord digital trends, for which I am the editor for. I also wrote about them in Wired in September 2011. The Fuelband is a 16/7 wearable, I wear it during my awake time. It took only few days to get me to want to put it on along my clothes in the morning.

Last Tuesday it could not sync, I tried the app, the Mac app, nothing worked. Suddenly I got a new feeling, I had crashed. My day was not getting recorded. I finally reset the Fuelband to loose the day of recording. (Valeria from the Nike support team suggested a fix that worked, thanks! To empty the cache and cookies for Nike in the browser.) I was really surprised about my reaction. I then started thinking about it. I have worked with crashing technology for past 20 years, yet this crash was different. I finally came to the conclusion that the Fuelband had crossed a line from personal to intimate technology. The Fuelband is in some way an extension of self. I suspect this is an inflection point. I am of the opinion that wearables is the next mobile frontier, for example expressed here.

The Fuelband is more jewelry than sports instrument. It has been criticized for not being exact and factors like weight and age has no impact. I am not sure if this is a problem or not. My assumption is that function creates a longer lasting relationship than form. At Fjord we argue that one can create a business that either appeals to the brain or the hearth. Businesses that appear to the hearth have a greater potential to create value. The Fuelband in some ways challenges this concept by making jewelery more scientific it should lock me deeper, appealing to my brain and making it more jewelry like increases its value as an object. It is thus on a trajectory of mega value, creating passionate users. I think we could have passionate love relationships to our jewelry wearables, it is what makes them intimate. This is big.

When I first got home with the Fuelband, we were sitting having dinner. At the end of the dinner Lu asks what I am wearing. I say it is the Nike Fuelband. No reaction, neither her, nor Sofia 14. I would try to surprise them. I stretched out my hand pressed the button, the Fuelband lit up and then something surprising takes place. Both scream in amazement, spontaneous WOWs and immediately Lu says she want one. Lu wants it in a different colour and wonder if one could have one with hooks for Charmes. Sofia starts a super active campaign to get one, or atleast take mine to school. This frenzy lasts for 20 minutes. I have brought home lots of different gadgets, and the reaction to this is in a class of its own. It supports my intuition. The ‘Wife and Teenage Daughter’ test is past with great clear margin.

I think there is a killer opportunity to fuse jewelry and functionality for a 24/7 wearable. The Jawbone UP is also supposed to be used 24/7, but sleep detection is a manual activity, and forgetting it creates wrong data. This creates problems for users and they loose interest. The problem is that these gadgets do not naturally latch onto a ritual. One close at hand with wearables is setting the alarm for the next morning. It should be possible to design a new digital ritual, where one sets an alarm and confirm by going to sleep. I was thinking how to keep the jewelry like feel and create a richer, yet elegantly simple interface. My thoughts naturally gravitate to my force and touch sensor and the ability to make one or two keys into smart keys enabling click, touch and force sensing. With two keys one should be able to design a usable interface enabling for example alarm or sleep activation. It is still early days for wearable jewelry, but it is absolutely a fascinating domain.

03:32 PM | Permalink


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