by Stefanie Crucius

March 19, 2014

Interview with Ben Moir from Wearable Experiments

Wearable Experiments (We:eX) just annouced their latest project – the Alert Shirt. Learn more in the interview with Ben Moir from Wearable Experiments below.

1. You presented your heads turning Fundawear project at our WTconference in San Francisco last year. Fundawear was a joint project with Durex while for your new project you teamed up with Australian Pay-TV channel Foxtel. The project focusses again on feelings – can you explain it in detail?

During the product development process CHE Proximity and We:eX worked closely with AFL captains, Scott Pendlebury of Collingwood, Luke Hodge of Hawthorne and Trent Cotchin of Richmond to get a deep understanding of how the body feels during key moments of the professional game.

As a result the Alert Shirt simulates five key sensations described by players:

  • Impact – the shot of a big hit when players collide
  • Pressure – a thumping heartbeat whenever the game is on the line
  • Exhaustion – lungs burning every time your team puts in a hard effort
  • Adrenaline – a rush of blood when your team is on the up
  • Despair – the sinking feeling of every costly mistake

The launch of the Alert Shirt demonstrates that wearable technology products are a viable option for organisations and brands that want to engage consumers in new and exciting ways. The wearable technology industry is really still in its infancy and often there is a question mark over whether wearable products can work on a commercial scale. The Alert Shirt proves that they can. We had already invested in the R&D and developed prototypes with custom circuit boards, haptic feedback and washable electronics so that when Foxtel’s creative agency CHE Proximity came along with the campaign we were able to respond immediately.

2. Where do you get your inspiration from? And how do you decide on which ideas you pursue?

We:eX is founded on the belief that, while people are not ready to become computers, they are growing more interested in being connected all the time and that our clothes are an untapped resource that, together with technology, can help people stay more connected and use their fashion in a more practical way.

Like having a game controller with a rumble pack strapped to your chest, the Alert Shirt brings the interactivity and engagement of gaming to the television experience – that’s what attracted We:eX to the project. We believe that entertainment consumers today want to be active rather than passive and in this project we saw the opportunity to bring a new level of interactivity to television viewing and create a real point of difference for Foxtel.

The project also aligned really well with the We:eX mission to bring fashion and technology together in new ways to deliver unique user experiences and push the boundaries of human to human connection.

3. For whom did you built the shirt? Who is supposed to wear it?

The Alert Shirt was created as part of Foxtel’s latest Fox Footy customer promotion. Customers who sign up for Fox Sports get the shirt. It allows them to get closer to the gaming while watching their favorite team.

It just over three months we took the Alert Shirt from concept to market, delivering 4,500 jerseys which have inbuilt electronic components but are also comfortable, washable and look good enough to wear out.

A unique blend of fan merchandise and wearable technology, the Alert Shirt allows fans at home to experience what AFL football players are feeling, live, as it happens during televised games. The connection between players and fans is made possible by a Bluetooth smartphone app that transmits real time game data to electronic components inside the jersey. These components then convert the data into powerful physical sensations that are experienced instantly by the wearer.

4. Will it be available in other countries? Will we be able to buy it in a shop?

In its current form the Alert Shirt is only available in Australia. However We:eX owns the underlying IP and plans to launch version 2 of the “Fan Jersey” internationally for sports including Ice Hockey, American Football, NBL and European Soccer. Brands that are interested in developing a new product with We:eX should contact us directly.

5. What is your favorite wearable product at the moment (besides your own developments of course)?

Our favourite products are the new range of wearable tech that focus on the fashion instead of the tech. When the technology is invisible then we know the market will be ready for our creations. The fact the industry is segmenting our work into “wearable tech” tells me that we aren’t even close to mass market adoption. When I’m putting on a pair of jeans and they contain smart materials and computers that are invisible we won’t call it wearable tech, it will simply be the latest fashion.

The cuff device looks nice but companies still have a LONG way to go. CNBC covered some of the latest products that focus on fashion.

Watch this space, Wearable Experiments is taking a leading role of putting design and fashion above tech. We are speaking with a number of global brands and at the pace we work it won’t be long before we have another product in market.