The potential of wearable technology in the workplace is tremendous. Even beyond smart watches and fitness bands, wearables can provide opportunities to boost productivity and, in some cases, “connect” in scenarios where logistics had previously limited the use of laptops, smartphones, or tablets.
Wearables are starting to be used for medical diagnosis, enhanced in-store retail experiences, field services, warehousing, and so much more. The use cases are endless, which is why EchoUser and Oracle picked wearables as the theme for our inaugural Design Jam, which took over EchoUser’s San Francisco office for one day in May.
The Wearables Design Jam came about as a way to provide an opportunity for designers to unleash their experimental sides and imagine wearables with the potential to change the way we work, access information, make decisions, and engage. Roughly 20 designers and researchers from a variety of Oracle teams, EchoUser, and protoyping and 3-D printing firm Studio Fathom spent the day discussing use cases for wearables, proposing solutions to workplace problems, and (of course) having fun.
Ultan O’Broin, Director of Oracle Applications User Experience, led the event. He kicked off the day with an introduction to wearables and demonstrations of new apps the Oracle team has developed for Google Glass.
Ultan giving the designers a run-down of the day
There was no coding required: The event was driven by physical experimentation and conversation. Teams were equipped with DIY tool boxes filled with Play-Doh, sunglasses and other goodies and given free reign to design a wearable as they saw fit — as long as it met a real workplace need.
Once their inventions were completed, teams presented their designs to judges Mick McGee, president and cofounder of EchoUser, and Jeremy Ashley, Vice President of Oracle Applications User Experience. Ideas ranged from smart employee ID badges to warehouse technology. The winning team designed a smart device for a package delivery service that would collect, share, and exchange information about delivery sites and package recipients to help delivery workers do their jobs more efficiently and with less frustration.
Mick and Jeremy with the winning team and their prizes: head-mounted basketball hoops!
While collaborating and showcasing their collective creativity, participants took away some key learnings from the day of “jamming” on wearables. From a user experience perspective, designers need to think about clear use cases, the needs of their target audience, and the device’s placement on the body. They also need to think about the implications of the product’s physical design and the entire ecosystem of its use. Jeremy reminded us of Bluetooth and its initially unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the market. Bluetooth picked up a specific stereotype early in its life — and if those early impressions don’t indicate a compelling experience, people won’t accept the technology. If a simple earpiece struggled to take off, what does that say about how other wearables will be adopted? There’s much more still to be learned and tried.