In Part 1, Bryce Rutter, founder and CEO of Metaphase Design Group, delves into the details of designing wearables and categorizes these devices by their applications. In Part 2, we hone in on the importance of designing wearables for hands, and how wearables affect both young and older individuals.
At the recent MD&M West, Rutter states that hands are an integral part of wearables.
“I can’t talk about wearables without talking about hands,” he says. “That’s the tip of the spear.”
He brought up that all of us have a “smart hand” and a “dumb hand,” which also have “dumb fingers” and “smart fingers.”
“The first two fingers are really intelligent, and play well together. The third finger is pretty smart, but the fourth and fifth are dumb ugly,” he says. “When you’re designing, you have to think about if you’re designing the device for three fingers or five fingers; you never design for four fingers because the fourth guy always works with another one.”
Rutter says because the life spectrum of our hand functions change dramatically, it’s a very intensive process to design wearables for the hand. Additionally, female and male hands vary in size and a male’s hand can be as much as 1.75 inches bigger than a female’s. In order to accommodate for a variety of hand sizes, companies design from the 5th percentile of females and 95th percentile of males, accommodating the very smallest and the very largest hands.
Another consideration to take into account is the range of motion of the hand, while still being able to achieve dexterous control over the wearable. For this, Rutter says they take into account the grip architecture of the hand, which includes power grip, hook grip, and precision grip.
Haptics also play a huge role in wearables. Haptics represent the strength of your hand, force feedback, and receptors that register temperature. Rutter thinks that we’ll most likely be swiping more, pinching more, and utilizing more virtual interfaces with wearables, but ultimately, there isn’t anyone who can predict when these things will unfold.
He also delved into how important these devices can be for seniors who have arthritic hands or other ailments that make performing daily tasks difficult, and the importance of a wearable’s appearance.
“For those who have aging parents, my dad always asks me why everything has to be ugly,” Rutter says.
For instance, take Velcro shoes. Someone may not enjoy how Velcro shoes look, but may they need them because they don’t have the motor skills to tie their own shoes.
“The less control people have over something, it reminds them of the disease they have, and it’s not uplifting. Dignity has a huge impact on compliance and design,” says Rutter. “If a person doesn’t like it (wearable) or it looks threatening, there’s a disengagement from it; it doesn’t invite you to play. This is a very big deal.”
In addition to designing wearables for seniors or patients, Rutter noted that companies are not only focused on the patient, but also the caregiver and clinician.
“All three have different needs to get out of the ecosystem that you’re designing,” says Rutter. “You focus on what’s necessary for the patient or the doctor or the caregiver. Anything else is extraneous noise that you shouldn’t be designing into your products.”
These products also have utilize a person’s intuitiveness. If you can’t get an automatic feel on how to use a wearable with innate intuitiveness, then, most likely, designers aren’t looking at the whole picture.
“These are the things that drive us crazy, but we’re pretty adaptive so we put up with poor solutions,” Rutter says.
Simplicity goes hand-in-hand with intuition. Rutter says a lot of companies demand an app to go along with a device or wearable, despite not necessarily needing an app.
“Everything has an app,” says Rutter. “The whole ecosystem of the product has expanded. It’s not just about designing a wearable anymore.” However, it’s key to focus on keeping the wearable as simple as possible.
“I’ve worked on surgical systems, and the company will say, ‘I think we need an app,’” says Rutter. “Fundamentally, you have to ask what is needed as part of the user experience in an integral way.”
Potential Problems Loom
But, Rutter left us with some dismal statistics. At a recent presentation Rutter attended, the speaker asked the audience what wearable tech was doing to our young kids. Rutter said the speaker stated that individuals who are considered as millenniums and younger who spend more than five hours on screen time, are approximately 30 percent more likely to have clinical depression and be suicidal. This includes wearables since they usually incorporate a screen.
“I thought this was a pretty mind-blowing statistic,” says Rutter. “This stuff does change the way we’re wired. The way this impacts kids is profound.”
Although Rutter doesn’t have all the answers or solutions to these concerns, perhaps designing effective and safe wearables will help pave a better path for wearables. Since these devices are designed to protect and save lives, companies hope they don’t decline a person’s overall wellbeing, especially a child’s.
Rutter says he hopes since someone else can remotely monitor wearables, it may provide people the break they need from screen time.
“We’re always on,” says Rutter. “Think about the last time you were on vacation and didn’t take your cellphone. Sometimes we all just need to get off the grid eventually.”