Wearables Dev Con

I recently attended the first Wearables Dev Con, hosted by BZ Media, as research for an upcoming book project. The convention was packed; having nearly twice as many attendees as expected. Understandably so- wearables are so hot right now, that nearly every major consumer electronics company is vying for a piece of the very, very large pie expected of the sector.

The crowd reflected this. There was a sort of crazy mish-mash there; super-hip side-shaved UI/UX designers, neuroscientists, upper-management and acquisition types, google glass-heads, and the usual crowd of developers. In my opinion, this type of diversity in conference was great. Most conferences are so hyper-specialized that, while productive, don’t provide the type of discourse that actually makes conferences useful.

However, there was one talk that stood out. Rachel Kalmar really hit it out of the park by speaking bluntly on the current state of wearables design and dev. Coming to the podium, she wore innumarable devices on her wrists, arms, belt, and neck. However, as she pointed out- if you want to know how many steps you’ve taken in the day, you’re doing great. Otherwise…and that elipses was the basis of the rest of her presentation.

She had everyone pair up with the person to their left or right; someone you didn’t know. She handed out papers, and had the whole room pair up, and get talking. The room talked and sketched and came up with quick ideas for devices not for themselves, but for their partner.¬†Sharing with the other person the aspects of their life, and driving home this point: Wearables must be designed with empathy. While most devices operate under the idea of data aquisition, people are more than the sum of their data. Wearables must reflect that; as what will keep people engaging and wanting to have wearables in their life will have to be more intimate and friendly than what we have right now.

The talk was a huge success; people happy to share their ideas- especially the hilariously bad ones, at Rachel’s request- and the energy in the room was palpable (a little too much so: the neighboring room complained we were too loud).

That was what, for me, is the epitome of a great talk can be. Get a bunch of really smart, intuitive, creative, curious individuals in a room. Get them talking. Get them to see a slice of the other’s life. Get specialists to look outside their field, if even for a moment. That’s were great ideas come from.

There were other great talks, to be sure, but if every conference could have at least one talk this energetic (I’ve been to many that didn’t) it would mean great things for the industry.


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