Your favorite team scores a goal in the last second to win the World Cup and you’re so happy that the thrill feels like a dance across your chest! It’s celebration and pure fandom.
A “dance across your chest” may sound like a great metaphor for the excitement you can feel when your team wins, but Billie Whitehouse, founder of Wearable Experiments (We:eX) is making it a literal reality.
Recently, the company created fan shirts for different soccer teams. At first glance, the jerseys are designed to look like traditional sports gear, but when wearers connect to the app and select the team they want to follow, it powers a highly engaging experience.
“Sports is a really interesting space with moments in time that people really care about,” Billie says.
Those moments include everything from a penalty to a save to a goal scored to a red card — and each comes with its own sensation programmed into the fan shirt. The moment of celebration from scoring a goal feels like that dance or song across your chest. The intensity of being in a penalty is like an intense heartbeat. The sensation can build, get faster, and slow down depending on what’s happening in the game.
Using Fashion Design to Foster Connection and Heighten Experience
Billie’s unique fashions are designed to connect her customers with other people and the world at large. By making technology intuitive and seamless with daily life, the jersey lets fans share the players’ experiences. Another product — a fashionable jacket — navigates tourists through the streets of Paris to experience the city with their eyes rather than through a GPS screen.
Bringing fashion and technology together in socially conscious ways helps Billie’s customers live well and have a better quality of life. She believes technology doesn’t need to be invasive or obtrusive, but that it should be designed with the human at the center.
Billie says her design focus starts with the skin as part of the technology interface. “The essence of touch is a very underutilized form of communication in our modern world,” she says. Building technology into clothing is the perfect way to seamlessly connect with skin and is done through haptic feedback — kinesthetic communication that recreates the sense of touch to the user through motions, forces, or vibrations.
Bringing the Sports Fan Experience to Life
To program the haptic technology in the fan jersey, Billie and her team worked to understand a fan’s emotional experience during games. They learned what sensations resonated most with fans and what emotions they associated with those sensations. Further testing provided qualitative and quantitative feedback from fans in real time.
“We learned that it’s not about having a sensation in one area of the body and increasing that intensity and then decreasing that intensity. It’s about moving the sensations around the body that actually creates a sensory experience: moving it across the collarbone, down the chest, around the shoulders,” shared Billie.
In her We:eX designs, Billie empowers the wearers — through haptic feedback to their skin — with heightened experiences that can transform emotions and physically connect them with other people. “We want to take that into a far more deeply emotional conversation about how technology can actually give us more meaning,” explains Billie
Embracing The Tools You Have
As a fashion designer, Billie sees her work with haptic technology as an extension of what has always been a part of the industry. Using technology like buttons, zippers, and Velcro, and incorporating ideas from anthropology, history, and technology is innate and ingrained in the apparel design process. As time goes on, designers simply have more to work with.
Billie has a grand vision for the future possibilities of personalization and social good with wearable technology. Achieving those goals starts with embracing the best of both fashion and technology — rather than dividing them — to answer today’s challenges. Adobe salutes Billie Whitehouse and We:eX for merging technology and creativity for a better life.