Studio XO has come up with a wrist-worn device designed to reveal the wearer’s emotions. This functionality has its immediate uses on the marketing front and it also represents another step along the development path for wearables in the Big Data era.
The XOX connected wristband is designed to convert your ongoing mental state into computer data and then make it visible. The wrist-worn device is made of silicon and since the electrical properties of your skin alter in line with changes in the state of your nervous system, the device is able to identify changes in your mood. For example by measuring your heart rate, it can display in real time a visual representation of your stress levels based on coloured LEDs, magenta indicating the highest level of arousal. The whole thing is a three-stage process: psychological states such as stress are transmitted from your body through physical biometric signals, which in turn can be turned into a real-time visual display.
The XOX, the brainchild of Studio XO, which describes itself as a ‘fashion laboratory’ and is staffed by a mixture of fashion designers and ICT engineers, is in fact the first wearable electronic device designed to tap into the aggregated emotions of a crowd. The firm has made its reputation by helping to create on-stage clothing and effects of world-famous artists such as Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas. However, the technology certainly has potential applications in a variety of other sectors.
Aggregating crowd emotions
The basic aim of Studio XO has from the start always been to fuse human experience, art and technology. Before bringing their wristband on to the mass market, Studio XO is intent on demonstrating the full range of what it can do. Several initiatives have been launched in very different sectors, from the automobile industry to entertainment events.
For example, this year, at the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase, one of the highlights of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, members of the audience were all given wristbands to wear. As the movie reel was played, the devices captured spectators’ emotions and projected them back through data visualisation on stage. ‘Feel the reel’, said the Showcase publicity. So when the short films aroused strong feelings, the audience could see the data that was being collected and as the LEDs in the wristbands showed different colours depending on the emotions felt, the atmosphere among individual members of the audience actually tended to follow the collective mood as expressed by the visual images. Used in this way, the XOX wristband became a sort of hardware equivalent of the various types of ‘like’ buttons that have become standard on the social networks as a means of sharing feelings and stimulating interaction between people.
Intruding on our internal feelings?
For the moment, the official communication on XOX centres on how it can be used at public events. Of course biometric sensor data has for a long time now been used for behavioural studies but using the sensor technology in this way to draw data from thousands of users at the same time – who are unable to conceal their emotions – is certainly a new departure.
— Lee Sharrock (@SharrockLee) June 20, 2014
In fact when the images of the New Directors’ Show were first posted online, showing a crowd of people wearing wristbands with coloured lights reflecting their emotional state, the data then being aggregated and processed to display overall audience mood, they attracted a good deal of criticism. Indeed it is not hard to imagine the negative consequences this process might entail. Nevertheless, the ease of use of XO’s wristband in mass public situations may well make it a useful tool for bringing brands closer to their customers. A slightly more intrusive functionality of the XOX is the integrated movement sensor, which can isolate and model in 3D the way the wristband is moving, in the same way as sensors are used in the film industry to create special animated effects.