Move till you make it

| By Dorrit Bøilerehauge | Notify the newsdesk of a story

Emulsion activity tracker inspires movement

Playful design may also serve a very useful purpose. The Emulsion analogue activity tracker from the Norwegian Skrekstore is an example of that.

The bracelet tells the wearer how much she or he is moving. Not with microchips or LED-lights, but with a small chamber filled with clear mineral oil and a few drops of colored water solvent. When the wearer moves, the coloured solvent disperses into smaller droplets, which merge again when lying still.

Nordic Design News talked to the Emulsion designers Lars Marcus Vedeler and Theo Tveterås, owners of the product and design studio, Skrekstore, about the fundamental idea with the Emulsion bracelets. Lars Marcus recalls: “

We noticed an increasing amount of fitness and activity trackers in the market. In general, they are fine. But they "solve" a problem by putting a number on your daily activity. When they do that, they create a whole set of new problems and highlight things the user should already have known. Besides, the fitness trackers are to a large extent guessing what you're doing. As they are often worn on the wrist, playing with your cat may actually give a better result than exercising on your ergometer bike.
The Emulsion piece was a reaction to all this. It gives its user the same message, but without using batteries, micro controllers, complex algorithms, or LED screens. Rather, the interface is calm, only consisting of a chamber filled with mineral oil and colored water solvent.”

One object one purpose

Theo Tvetrerås adds: “In general, we are living in an era where many companies use computer wits and electricity in everything. I think many manufacturers and technologist are overestimating their user's attention span towards their product, which really exists in this huge eco-system of other products and environments. Traditionally, a chair is a chair. That may be just enough for your mental capacity towards that object. You probably do not need it to be or do everything else. That is why we prefer single-purpose objects. Products that do their thing, do it well, and perhaps add little bit of humour.”

But who needs play?

In a busy and target oriented time, however, play may seem a luxury or an unnecessary frill to people, but Lars Marcus adds a different perspective: “Playfulness can be part of design in many different ways. We like all ends of the scale, but we tend to be the most fond of the subtle kind of play. A playful aspect added to a concept or functionality does not need to be profound (as in "look at me!") nor loud (as in "haha!"). It can just be a way of making the interface more human. Say, the response of a button on a webpage, or the shape of a broom that create associations towards something more enjoyable than sweeping floors. Making objects playful, humorous and enjoyable is not only for the in-the-moment appreciation, it can also create attach the owner to the object in a different manner. Besides, there is still something to be said about just making nice things. Making enjoyable things you like to use and have, that indeed can improve our quality of life – perhaps in a more subtle way. This is what we believe to be the most important aspect which playfulness in design and objects offers.”

In other words and back to basics: if your bracelet has a pattern of smaller droplets your activity level is good and high. If not, you need to get up and move, till you get an Emulsion pattern which is good for your heart and your spirits. The idea seems to be that we are all invite to move till we make it – and enjoy the playful ride.
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