As our lives become increasingly wrapped in mobile technology, Kate Hartman is exploring the ways we wrap our bodies in it.
Hartman researches wearable and mobile technology at the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto. Her work focuses on the intersection of technology and art in our relationships with the world around us, designing products to remind us of our environment in unique ways.
Her projects, featured in a 2011 TED talk, revisit basic sensory experience. They've included everything from hats that channel the sound of your voice back into your ears to "Nudgeables" – small, paired devices that are essentially bare-bones pagers, small enough to hide in a tie or necklace. By clicking a button on your own device, you "nudge" the person wearing the paired device by making it vibrate.
The projects blur the line between art project and innovation, but they're a necessary beacon of the direction technology is headed.
"I'm really interested in how technology either augments or interferes with our social interactions," Hartman says. "It serves to both connect us and distance us, depending on the situation."
With devices such as Google Glass and the Pebble smartwatch coming to market soon, it's clear that wearable technology is becoming a legitimate emerging market. "We're seeing signs that there's a lot more coming around the corner in terms of technology that gets worn on the body," she says.
Hartman sees herself as equal parts artist and designer, with a dash of technologist; her projects come to conception in a variety of ways. Her work isn't entirely future-focused, either – one project, for example, is a wearable bike light that's fashionable even after a cyclist dismounts.
The nascent research field will have plenty to explore in coming years. "One thing that will be interesting to investigate is the fuzzy line between wearable and mobile, and what continues to live in our phones, what lives in our clothing and how those things relate to each other," she says. "I think there are interesting questions in terms of privacy, in terms of social interactions."