MUZSE: Watch The History of Wearable Tech

MUZSE’s successful exhibit ‘Adorned’ might have come and gone, but for anyone who couldn’t make it you still have an opportunity to get a taste of it. Aside from featuring an impressive catalogue of wearables that ranged from the old to the very new, like the first calculator wrist watch to the latest in audio, visuals, data, and kinesthetics, the exhibit, presented by Milk and Intel, also shared inspiring films that showed a visual history of tech wearables. Milk Made’s Rey Peralta talked to Phil Pinto, the director of the films, about what wearables have meant and what they have the potential to mean in the future.

How familiar were you with wearables before starting film?

I was pretty familiar with them. I had done a few projects that were related to wearables. They were always around. And of course to have a watch coming out and all that jazz, it’s been a hot topic lately.

That’s great. So you were very familiar with the concept of wearables, at least from our modern day version of it. But how familiar are you with the concept of wearables from antiquity?

I’ve worn glasses since I was in third grade, but I’ve never really actually thought of them as wearable technology. I guess our conversations kind of led me there, like ‘oh yeah, that’s totally true.’ Like glasses, it’s really interesting, you take things like glasses and watches and stuff like that for granted because they’ve just been around forever but they’re totally wearable technology. It’s just such a polarizing word that you don’t think of those things as wearable tech but they totally are. They just make us better humans.

They’ve become part of the background of technology that we wear. We don’t even think of them as technology because they’ve become these discreet objects. We see wearable as this bucket of stuff versus a watch, everybody knows what a watch is, or glasses, everybody knows what glasses are. The goal of any wearable technology when it comes to that tipping point is that it becomes an object and can no longer be defined by the category.

Of the three films which one was your favorite and why?

I like all of them obviously, but I really like exoskeletons because it has a broader subject matter. Whereas glasses and watches we all sort of know and love. The idea behind exoskeletons ranges from clothes, to armor, to these crazy robotic extensions of us, which is just super interesting and visually fun to play with. The research for the film was a lot of fun because we were sort of discovering things as we were looking for footage, so that was cool.

No one really thinks about the clothing that they wear as technology that is wearable, so I think for a lot of people it’s probably the most surprising one. They weren’t expecting it, where the other ones kind of felt like they were gadgets.

Right. There’s some new gadgety version of a watch or glasses or whatever.
Basically everyone can kind of imagine what a gadget looks like, but no one can really imagine what else… Your shirt becomes your tent kind of thing—whoa that’s mind blowing.

Did your imagination start going kind of crazy as you were working on the film? Were you starting to think of any bizarre probable futures or possible futures?

Oh man, we started watching so many Sci-Fi movies, just to look for the first cues, Minority Report is a good bad example of that. Between watching that and something like Black Mirror, I was totally in a weird, ‘what is the future going to look like’ kind of zone? In terms of my own sort of little innovations. I haven’t really come up with any because I was just so immersed. I feel like I’m ready for it now. I’m ready to start working on some sort of exoskeletons project.

It’s so funny that you were watching Sci-Fi movies to inform you about the future. Do you feel like Sci-Fi is the one place you get the most future inspiration?

In Sci-Fi it’s totally that weird thing. In the 60’s they started making movies about what the year 2000 would look like, working with futurists and stuff like that. I feel like some of it actually came true and you’re like oh whoa they were kind of dead on. A lot of the times I feel that Sci-Fi is similar to the chicken and the egg idea. We are obsessed with robot butlers because that’s exactly what we need? Or is it just like a Sci-Fi idea that’s just been ingrained in us and now we’re able to do it? That sort of idea is interesting.

Hm this is true, this is very true.

It’s like science fiction versus science fact, some of these futures are probable futures and some of these are not.

This is where you get to really put on your sci-fi helmet. Looking at these crazy sort of pieces, if you were to imagine any future, any direction, any sort of thing in a fantastical way which one of these things would you possibly imagine?

I was thinking it could be cool to see the progression in footwear. From sandals in ancient Greece to tech’d out Nike Plus sneakers and beyond. That could be a really visually fun progression to see. But beyond that, footwear is such a mix of utility and style. For example cowboy boots are built a certain way to protect your feet and ankles, but the reasoning behind the pointed toe, the soles, and even the ornamentation would be cool to investigate. Again, like a lot of wearable tech, we take them for granted because they’re so integrated into our everyday lives, but they’re constantly evolving.

You’ve seen so much of the Intel technology because of these films, what about the potential of a company like Intel getting into world of wearables excites you?

I feel like there have been random one-offs like wearable things and I think that a company like Intel is able push things way further. I’m really excited for the idea of a smart watch that goes beyond showing me a text message from my phone and my heart rate. That stuff’s great, but I was just curious about where this all can go beyond the usual, “Well I walked 5 miles today and my heart rate was pretty regular and it is 5 o’clock.” A company like Intel has the pull and the ability to push that way further.

You want to see it move from here’s data feedback, to here’s feedback on what’s happening, to maybe a little bit more intelligent information.

Yeah the one thing I know from their whole new initiative is the depth of their standardized chip. Now they have a golden standard chip, so everything can get programmed through that. I think that’s really interesting and that’s going to open up a lot of different avenues.

The big deal with Intel is that in terms of tech wearables, all the different device makers now have to build off of their own custom chip, custom processor, custom everything—they’re all starting from scratch. Intel is trying to build their own platform for all of those device makers to build on top of.

So you’re excited about the possibility of unifying basically across all the different places for everyone to build off one thing, and try to get there faster.

Yeah totally. I think as opposed to a bunch of companies starting from scratch and trying to reinvent the wheel, we standardize that thing. We all know what a car is so now there is a bunch of different ways to build a car and jump off of that. It’s got 4 wheels, it’s got axels, it’s got an engine so now what? It’s exciting that wearables are reaching that point where it’s going to tip. From there I think the sky’s the limit.

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