Classroom Discussion: Will.I.Am Just Threw His Proverbial Hat into the Wearable Tech Ring

The Black Eyed Peas Member Announces the “Not Watch” Smart Cuff


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Summary

Grammy Award-winning musician Will.I.Am of hip hop group The Black Eyed Peas announces a new wearable high-tech bracelet “The Puls,” competing against tech industry leaders like Apple and Samsung. The musician also introduced a fashion collection featuring high tech functions.

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Classroom Discussion

After reading the article below about the new wearable tech device The Puls, discuss other wearable tech devices that have been introduced in the past two years. Google Glass was introduced to the public in May 2014, and the product (a smartphone-like head mount/headband) has not become widespread. Why is that?

Relevant Topics

  • Wearable technology
  • Technology and business
  • Marketing
  • Graphic design
  • Digital media
  • Entrepreneurship

Download this assignment (PDF). 

Vocabulary term:

Wearable technology (also called wearable gadgets) is a category of technology devices that can be worn by a consumer and often include tracking information related to health and fitness. Other wearable tech gadgets include devices that have small motion sensors to take photos and sync with your mobile devices.

Vying against tech industry powerhouses Apple and Samsung over control of the next alleged “big thing” in wearable technology, musician, entrepreneur, and FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Alumnus Will.I.Am took the stage at tech conference Dreamforce in San Francisco last week to unveil his own take on the wearable tech market with his high tech, high-fashion wearable smartband device, The Puls.

“This is not a watch,” he said, presenting alongside a host of tech, fashion and entertainment CEOs partnered to offer features on the Puls by the musician’s brand  i.am+™, which covets 16 GB of space to store music and photos, and features a 3G radio, GPS, 1 GB of RAM, with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and the ability to make calls without syncing to a smartphone.

The Puls also comes with a Siri-like intelligent voice system powered by Nuance Communications dubbed “Aneeda” (as in “I need-a make a call to my mom”), a health/fitness function to measure your workouts, the capability to share contact information with a single tap of your wrists powered by Humin, and a feature that detects its wearer’s emotional state based on the sound of his voice, powered by Beyond Verbal.

Puls’ slick design– inspired by Chanel’s iconic cuff bracelets, comes in a slew of colors and designs that, perhaps most significantly, received a public blessing from former Vogue editor-at-large and famed fashion expert André Leon Talley


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“The current state of wearable tech is, it’s terrible. I shouldn’t have to sacrifice form over function,” said Talley. “It doesn’t matter that [a] gadget can organize my life and make dinner if it’s just too ugly to look at.”

Talley also dubbed the current state of wearable tech “ghastly,” and urged the fashion and tech communities to collaborate in order to take wearables, devices, apparel and accessories to the next level– which Will has done, he says.

“People outside traditional technology, with fashion sensibility, are going to lead the way,” Talley said. “With people like Will.I.Am who understands both the worlds of tech and fashion, I think there is a good chance that fashion sensibility can at last have a place in wearable technology.”

The Puls smartband device is one piece in an entire collection of high fashion wearables under Will.I.Am’s ‘fashionology’ initiative which he also revealed on stage: clothing with battery-charging capabilities and  fitness tracking, and a bag with built-in audio functions.

The venture isn’t the musical artist/producer’s first venture into the tech or fashion markets (read about his foray into hologram music performances here). The Puls announcement follows the launch of Will.I.Am.’s custom designed Lexus, which was unveiled in Paris last month. Other tech products under his company i.am+ including the foto.sosho fashion camera accessory for iPhone, and he was also an early investor in Beats Electronics (Beats be Dre headphones), which was acquired by Apple earlier this year for $3 billion. Will.I.Am has also dabbled in the fashion markets with Vivienne Westwood and Louise Vuitton. And with Puls, he now is taking the lead in a difficult area, the challenge of to making wearable technology stylish, upscale and ultimately acceptable, says Talley.

Funded by Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff, the Puls appears to be coming out of left field, competing with Samsung’s Gear S Watch, Motorola’s Moto 360, and the Apple Watch slated to hit the market in 2015. But with the high fashion angle, Puls certainly has an edge on its competitors– not to mention Will.I.Am’s related philanthropic education initiative i.am.STEAM which provides underserved elementary and middle school students with science, technology, engineering arts and math learning opportunities whose engineering has also been introduced on the Puls (see video below).

Pricing and distribution dates details of Puls and additional fashionology products have yet to be announced.

“The power of fashion and technology, the marriage of it, is ginormous,” said Will.I.Am.

We couldn’t agree more.

Talley also pointed out the career opportunity for young designers in the wearable tech marketplace to creatively merge the worlds of fashion and technology.

“What it should be all about is design, elegance, clean lines, and it has built in technology and functionality. This is fashionology,” said Talley. “Who is going to lead this new fashionology paradigm? Will it be the established fashion industry, or undiscovered talent? Will it be the tech giants of yesteryear? Or will it be the most unlikely candidates, some of them are probably sitting here in this room. Whoever it is, wherever you are, have vision. Make it fabulous. And allow people to connect and express themselves.”

Classroom Assignment

Conduct some research on other wearable technology devices. Start with the following articles and also conduct an Internet search for other new technology:

Essay Questions

Select one example of wearable technology that has been introduced in the past five years and answer the following questions:

    1. What company created the device and what types of features does the device offer?
    2. Why do you think people might be interested in using this device?
    3. Do you see any problems with the device? Is there any reason why it might it might not work for you?
    4. Why do you think companies are creating high tech watches and other devices?
    5. How do you think the wearable technology market might affect the design industry?
    6. What role does the design/function of a wearable tech device play in the widespread use of the device?

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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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