The Shirt That Lets You Feel In-Game Sensations From Your Favorite Team

March 31, 2017 • Blog Post • BY QUARTZ CREATIVE

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IN THIS ARTICLE

  • Breakthrough wearable technology allows people to feel in-game sensations like excitement, tackles or adrenaline from their favorite athletes
  • Using skin as an interface on wearable devices cuts out the impersonal distractions of a screen

This startup uses sensors and vibrations in clothing to show athletes heartbeats and heartbreaks

Hundreds of thousands of fans descended on France this summer as 24 mens soccer teams from across the region gathered to compete for the European Championship. Millions more watched around the world. But even for the lucky few who attended in person, the action was close but still out of reach. Thats why New York and Sydney-based company Wearable Experiments is using touch to change the way we think about the fan experience and the shape of wearables to come.

Wearable Experiments (or We:eX) is a collaboration between Billie Whitehouse, who brings fashion industry knowledge and a design vision to the project, and Ben Moir, who delivers the engineering and software innovations. The seamlessness of their partnership is in itself a metaphor for the fusion of fashion and technology that We:eX is trying to achieve.

Tapping the senses

We:eX is unique in the wearables marketplace. Where most companies focus on bulky, attention-grabbing accessories, We:eX wants to integrate technology and fashion, erasing the distinction between clothes and wearables. The haptic motors that power their creations are thin, lightweight, flexible and even water resistant. The point is that you forget the tech is thereuntil it touches you.

The skin, as Whitehouse points out, is the largest organ we have, and touch is the sense perhaps most directly connected to our emotions. We call them feelings, after all. But compared to the tsunami of visual and aural information our smart devices are constantly sending us, Whitehouse sees touch as an untapped well of human engagement.

We see ourselves as building out a new language of touch that connects people with the experiences and the people they care about most. By using the skin as an interface, we create a deeper sense of connection with others and ourselves, without the isolating distraction of a screen.

Emotional tech

This vision of a new language of touch over the Internet has led to a range of fashion-forward inventions, but the recent trajectory for We:eX has been a series of products focused on revolutionizing the fan experience of sports like rugby, Australian football, American football and now soccer. Each fan shirt or jersey in this series of sports products is embedded with technology that connects to the We:eX app via Bluetooth. From there, fans choose the team they want to follow, and the app begins to stream real-time game data to the shirt, translating each major play into a variety of sensations across the chest and shoulders.

At first you might assume that this technology is meant to convey the physical impacts that players experience during a game. And indeed, We:eXs early products for rugby and Australian soccer highlighted physical tackles with jarring haptic feedback. But Whitehouse says theyve evolved their approach to focus on the emotional stakes of soccer.

This is a very emotional sport. Who gets more passionate than soccer fans? Our team focused on capturing the height of that emotion and taking it to the next level, creating a deeper sense of connection between the fan and the game. Our goal was to design an experience that brought the fan closer to the players and action simply through touch."

The Football Fan Shirt (read: soccer, Americans), produces 10 distinct sensations, each designed to make a real-time connection between the emotions of the players on the field and the fans in the crowd or at home. When a player is about to take a free kick, for example, you might feel a sensation like a racing heartbeat. Or another that mimics a rush of adrenaline when your teams goalie makes a spectacular save. And of course, theres the jubilation of scoring a goal, with all the elaborate celebration that follows. Though the positive aspects of the game are given the most emphasis, the software also acknowledges fouls, offside calls and yellow and red cards, each with their own unique haptic response, to create a completely immersive emotional experience.

This forward-thinking approach to the Internet of Things is obviously ripe for enterprise applications: end-to-end data analysis, sponsorship of particular in-game experiences, even a move toward broadcast of real-time biometrics for individual players. But Whitehouse says the focus right now is entirely on expanding and enhancing the fan experience.

For us, this is about heightening the fan experience and putting them on the same level as their favorite players. If you can give these fans control over a new way of connecting with the game, youre creating a whole new experience in the moment with people who are passionate about what theyre doing.

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