Modem and Studio Bjørn Ibsen illustrate the future of wearable technology

The two studios reimagine nondescript patent filings from tech companies like Google, Apple and Facebook to explore how technology is becoming more intuitive and, subsequently, more invasive.

Date
26 October 2021

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We might be wary of technologies that infiltrate the home and our private lives, but we’re already using some of them day-to-day. The next wave of these technologies is being designed to advance these devices to the next level. These technologies aim, say Modem and Studio Bjørn Ibsen, to merge our physical selves with the digital universe. But the highly secretive nature of the tech industry makes it difficult to foresee the real-world implications.

Modem, the Amsterdam-based office bridging a think tank with a design studio, has collaborated with Studio Bjørn Ibsen, a Copenhagen-based 3D design studio, to create imagined versions of a few patent filings from the tech giants. “Often, patent filings contain black and white drawings illustrating the invention, which don’t give much insight into how they will look in reality,” Astin le Clercq, design director at Modem, tells us. So, whilst studying these drawings, Modem came up with the idea to bring these nondescript representations to life in a series of forward-looking designs.

Le Clercq wanted to keep a sense of recognisability of the original patents in the visualisations, so the team had to find the right balance between design aesthetic, practical everyday use and the particular technology inside, “something we iterated a lot on before landing on the final designs.” That said, he continues, it is hard to predict “the impact emerging technologies will have on the design language and production methods of tomorrow’s wearables.” The one thing they could bank on was that the designs needed a certain level of comfort, ease of use and intuitiveness. “It is a hint that wearable tech, with all its futuristic potential, most likely won’t look that futuristic.”

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Magic Leap Bracelet, Courtesy of Modem.

The Magic Leap Bracelet and then Google Slippers are perhaps the best examples of this. The bracelet, patented by Magic Leap, allows fast-track access to apps when the user puts on their AR headset. Then, a virtual layer appears on top of the charms allowing them to access their favourite apps just by touching them. And the slippers, patented by Google, would allow users to walk seemingly endless distances in the virtual environment while staying within a defined physical space. Motorised wheels on the footwear would bring the wearer safely back to a designated “return zone” when they went beyond a predetermined area. Le Clercq says that since these devices will be closer to our bodies than technology has ever been before, the Modem team looked at how fashion brands are increasingly experimenting with incorporating technology into their accessories.

The other designs are: the Apple Glove, which illustrates gloves that can control applications in augmented or virtual reality. The gloves will use magnetic detection to ensure precise results on the position of each finger; the new Apple Earbuds, which will include a contextual audio system that will automatically adjust the earpods’ output depending on the user’s surroundings or current activity, also picking up the wearer’s heart rate and body temperature for personalised health tracking; and finally, the Facebook Glasses, designed to add a virtual layer on top of our surroundings, merging physical reality with the digital universe.

“Silicon Valley is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in building the next generation of wearable devices promising to merge our physical selves with the digital universe. However, due to the highly secretive nature of the industry, it is difficult to foresee the real-world implications,” Le Clercq continues. “Patented Futures reimagines the nondescript patent filings from the largest tech corporations in the world, as forward-looking designs, envisioning how these technologies might one day soon impact our everyday lives.”

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Google Slippers, Courtesy of Modem.

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Apple Earbuds, Courtesy of Modem.

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Apple Gloves, Courtesy of Modem.

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Facebook Glasses, Courtesy of Modem.

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Patented Futures, Courtesy of Modem.

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia joined It’s Nice That as a news writer in July 2021 after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh. She's written for various indie publications such as Azeema and Notion, and ran her own magazine and newsletter platforming marginalised creativity.

dad@itsnicethat.com

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