Out in Front: My Heart in My Sleeve

November 24, 2014  - By
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Image: GPS World

The next time I see Paris, I will be swinging down the boulevard in a brand new set of threads. An elegant, location-enabled set of threads that will take me by the sleeve and lead me through the City of Light.

This wearable experiment goes by the name — of course it does — Navigate, a new line of city-specific, location-enhanced apparel. Either plug or Bluetooth the jacket (the press materials are not clear on this point) into your smartphone, download the appropriate city guide with walking tour, and start your adventure. Stash the phone in the pocket of the houndstooth jacket with red felt collar flips, no further need to look at it. Vibrations along left or right arm tell you when to turn; their frequency, intensity, and placement vary to indicate soft turn, merge, or hard turn.

Oh, I love the colorful clothes she wears, and the way the sunlight plays upon her hair . . . I’m pickin’ up good vibrations, oom bop bop, she’s giving me excitations, oom bop bop. 

Good, good, good, good vibrations. 

“How we can ease the stress of navigating an unfamiliar path without interfering with the experience of discovering a new place?” asks Billie Whitehouse, design director of Wearable Experiments. “No longer do you need to hunch over a map or smartphone. Now you can experience fill-the-blank-here as a traveler rather than a tourist.” 

Not interfering with the experience of discovering a new place: that caught my attention. In my misspent youth, I traversed the upper Amazon, the Andean highlands, and the Galapagos Islands unencumbered by a camera. To my lasting regret. I thought the device lifted to my eyes would interfere with my discovery and experience. Now I see my error. Instead of subtracting a layer of technology from my travel trunk, I should have added one. That GPS did not exist at that time, except as a gleam in young Col. Parkinson’s eye, perhaps absolves the fault in this case.

“The skin is a vastly underutilized form of communication,” says Wear:Ex technical director Ben Moir. “Haptic vibrations are built into a full physical language, allowing the technology to communicate critical information. Technology doesn’t need to be invasive or obtrusive. It should be designed with the human at the center.”

From signals in space to the surface of my skin. It doesn’t get much more human-centric than that. 

Je me baladais sur l’avenue,

Le coeur ouvert à l’inconnu.


Also read GPS World’s December cover story on GNSS chip architecture for wearables, “The Fashion Demands of Always-On.”


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Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.

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