IDSA Member Leads New Wearables and Soft Goods Program

IDSA Member Karen Hofmann—chair of undergraduate product design at California’s ArtCenter College of Design—has launched a new Wearables and Soft Goods program. "It all came out of the shoe design workshops we'd been asked to do in Portland, which led to discussions on the quantified self and, naturally enough, to soft goods and onto the whole wearable tech sector.”

Hofmann also serves as the IDSA Student Chapter advisor at ArtCenter. She says the school has built a full curriculum, hired more instructors, brought in industrial sewing machines and produced athletic/performance apparel, devices and prostheses for the sports and health industries with wearable tech. "Collaborations are coming in fast, we've done work with Qualcomm and we're now working with UCLA bioengineering teams,” Hofmann tells PC Mag’s Sophia Stuart.

In an industry-sponsored wearables concept from HTC, ArtCenter students were challenged to develop a wearable that enabled people to share emotion, deepen intimacy and communicate connection. “Some of the teams focused on using wearables to develop healthier relationships at work—others looked at lovers separated by distance, or, you know, pure hooking up—it ran the gamut."

One submission, Project Apollo, used EEG biosensors to identify stress levels/brainwave activity and transmit harmonic data. "This was a bone conducting, brain synchronizing, wearable device which picks up brainwaves and emotional cues from one person, listening to a certain track here in LA and sending those digital files, with a prompt to listen to the same music, to someone they love,” explains Hofmann, “bringing them into a shared experience state. It was a beautiful form factor with truly compelling ideas behind it.”