I attended a workshop on designing wearables based on User Research, run by two designers at FitBit.

Digital medicine has been a long standing interest, mostly for its ability to transform medicine via the data it collects, empowering patients to take control of their medical data and future health.

Wearables haven’t quite made that jump. They are consumer products. They track a few metrics, but they don’t provide any actionable information. That’s why they’ve gone down the fashion route, right?

Well, yes. But that’s only half the story. We were presented with some fresh-off-the-presses user research - several stories of people presenting a piece of jewelry - how often they wore it, why, what it meant to them, who gave it to them, etc.

Ultimately, it became clear that wearables can only be successful when people are excited to wear them. That is certainly the case for wearables which do not address a medical need, but also even for those that do.

In this spirit, we were given the challenge of re-inventing a popular wearable so that it would be worn every day. We were tasked with reinventing the Nike Fuelband.

We collected our observations from the user stories, organizing by type and value exhibited.

post it notes everywhere

The FuelBand, we felt, was a product that catered to fitness junkies - generally men, given the large black band. Nike, however, has reach into several other consumer groups (like… ahem… women?).

thinking hard

We decided to create an extensible necklace, with a simple band containing the health-tracking components, which could be extended and personalized with any of several decorative pieces, demonstrated in full-effect here:

hot necklace

The workshop made it clear that there was still more to wearables than just fashion. But I stand by my initial feelings that most of them don’t really do anything that useful yet. That is starting to change, and there are exciting times ahead…