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Obstacles to Wearable Computing

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Wearable computing has great potential to enhance its wearers’ everyday lives. By nature of being worn on the body, it also has potential to enhance the wearer’s expression of personal style. However, this potential remains largely unrealized. There is a number of identified obstacles to adoption of wearable computing, and this talk describes a research through design that attempted to address five of those obstacles:

1. privacy; 2. impracticality of single use-case devices; 3. integration into an IoT ecosystem; 4. designing devices as an extension of the smartphone rather than the wearer; and 5. failure to engage wearers emotionally.

Primarily, the research used a novel method of participatory design fiction, with independent adult volunteers, to inspire everyday IoT wearables that would appeal to emotional as well as functional needs. Secondarily, the project’s software infrastructure was built on the Hub-of-all-Things (HAT) [], which provided a private platform on which to integrate the devices into an IoT ecosystem, and augment device functionality by contextualizing data from multiple sources.


Helen Oliver is a Research Associate in the Security group at the University of Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology. A doctoral student in the Alan Turing Institute’s 2016 cohort, based in the Department’s Networks and Operating Systems group, she is completing her Ph.D on everyday wearable IoT systems, supervised by Profs Jon Crowcroft and Richard Mortier. Her research interests interweave participatory and user-centred design, systems, wearable technology and narratives, as well as privacy, personal data and cybercrime. She also has interests in information representation and modelling, and was the original developer of designVUE, a hypermedia application for concept mapping design rationale.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Systems Research Group Seminar series.

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