WEARABLE FOR DIGITALLY ENHANCED SPORTS
Mika – Feel the Buzz
Umeå Institute of Design 2014 – 10 Week Project
Sport fans play a vital role when it comes to sport events: They follow their teams' matches, they wear the team jerseys, paint their faces, hold up posters and scream their hearts out - the cheering crowd can have a great psychological impact on the athlete's performance. However, the spectators can hardly be close to their players, the connection between both parties during a game comes down to a one directional visual and auditive feedback. What if there was a more physical, tactile way of communication?
MIKA aims to close this gap between both athlete and spectator and bring them closer together instead. Therefore MIKA gives the athlete a tactile feedback through shoulder pads integrated in a jersey in order to, literally speaking, give the athlete a tap on the shoulder. This is triggered by a wristband worn by the spectators that tracks their cheering movements such as clapping or lifting the arms. The tap on the shoulder creates a very direct and intimate moment between spectators and athletes and might be rewarded with a great performance by the players.
Tactile feedback on athlete's shoulder
Cheering tracked by wristband triggers shoulder pads
An accelerometer inside the wristband tracks the spectator's movement, and when certain threshold among all spectators is reached, the shoulder pads start in- and deflating in order to give the athlete a gentle push. This is done by small sewn-in servos. The cut out pattern indicates the smart part of the jersey with the same pattern that can be found on the triggering wristband.
The pulsating vibration organically feel like a rewarding and motivating tap on the shoulder. It is a subtle yet powerful gesture for the spectators to show their appreciation. The wristband can be collected at the entrance of the stadium or as a fan product of the particular team. Wearing this wristband, the spectator supports the entire team instead of a single athlete only, it activates all player's jerseys. Tt strengthens the idea of collectively fighting for the win.
THE ESSENCE OF FLOOR BALL
To understand the sport and find focus areas to implement wearable technology in, I started playing floor ball, one of Sweden's most popular sports. I dived into the sport in regular group sessions, individual training lessons with floor ball players and interviews.
Floor ball is all about speed and precision - in order to defend the ball it needs to be permanently moved. This sport's essence is translated into an enabling tool using non-Newtonian fluid (corn starch and water) that is stiff as long it's moved quickly and becomes liquid and spills as soon as it it moved too slow.
How to control the ball
Floor ball translated with fluid
Control the stick to not spill
ENHANCING THE SPECTATOR'S EXPERIENCE WITH WIZARD OF OZ PROTOTYPING
How could the spectator's experience at sports events be enhanced, how could it be even more thrilling, exciting, emotional? How can we involve more senses? This was explored with the Wizard of Oz method: haptic feedback by tapping on the test persons' back, an amplifying sound environment with two channels (l, r) made of cardboard or simulating an interactive court with drawing on a whiteboard that projected a match.
Enhance the excitement through tactile feedback
DESIGNING THE SPECTATOR'S INTERACTION
To explore the spectator's action further, I recorded fellow students, while I told them different situations to react to. Most of these scenarios included hand gestures. These insights led to the concept of a wristband to track people's cheering.
DESIGNING THE ATHLETE'S INTERACTION
To design the component for the athlete on the court, I asked two questions: Where should the tactile feedback be located on his body? And: What kind of haptic feedback? Therefore several phones were attached and randomly called on a floor ball player's body. The shoulder part turned out to be most convenient for the player, the vibration noticed well.
Today's haptic feedback is mainly vibration, but could vibration recreate the feeling of a shoulder tap? I therefore compared simple vibration and gentle deflation.
Exploring areas on upper body for haptic feedback
Haptic feedback while playing
A in- and deflating pad vs. phone vibration
The process was driven by physicalising and experiencing ideas: by creating very sketchy yet effective prototypes the concept was both defined and validated. At all stages of the process, quick mock-ups or prototypes were tested and discussed with users to challenge the concept.
I was lucky to be able to finally introduce the concept with a working prototype to professional floor ball players of the first devision, who appreciated my work as charming and desirable for players to feel the spectator's vibe.
Watch the entire process below: