Technological growth is moving at a rate never seen before -
and as it advances, it simultaneously shrinks, moving closer to our
bodies, intertwining with the many facets of our lives and
positions itself between our experiences of the physical
environments around us. When utilizing these technological systems
in the context of intense sporting activities, this competition for
our focus can lead to problematic scenarios. In the best case
altering the aesthetic qualities of physical activity and in the
worst-leaving us vulnerable to perilous situations. This is all
detailed in Rouien Zarin's doctoral thesis from UID; 'Faster.
Stronger. Better? Designing for Enhanced Engagement of Extreme
Many of us have heard of (or been involved in) incidents of
negative experiences with technology while performing interactions
on the go. Activities such as cycling, skiing or even driving a car
do not lend themselves particularly well to the interaction
paradigms that are predominantly in use today.
"My research suggests that technology can likely be better
positioned to safely extend human senses and in the process, serve
to heighten awareness of the world around us. In regards to
designing for sporting experiences, this approach must go beyond
design and engineering to include active immersion and engagement
in the activities of study, to promote deeper contextual
understanding." says Rouien Zarin.
The intention behind this research is by focusing on designing
prototypes for extreme environments, knowledge learned may be
abstracted and applicable to addressing the way technology is
interacted with daily.
"Wearables have broadly failed to gain much traction because
people haven't seen much benefit to having them. Also, many
companies are so interested in becoming first to market that they
often overlook the experiential qualities that their devices offer.
Mainly, device manufacturers appear to be interested in
technological pushes, but when we use computers in and around our
bodies, they become more intimate. In this case, the technology
needs to adapt to the needs, physiological makeup and movements of
the person and not demand focus but rather provide support.
Otherwise, the devices become abandoned and just another device for
the lost device drawer"
In addition to his research of investigating sport experience as
it relates to technology, Rouien Zarin also developed a series of
design interventions aimed at improving situation awareness during
athletic as well as a series of frameworks and models for
researchers and designers interested in exploring this domain.
In his research, Zarin explores various configurations of
materials, sensors and feedback mechanisms to find ways of
informing awareness while performing sporting activities.
In one project, the design of a shapeshifting interface was
explored to relay wayfinding information during the act of mountain
biking, by offsetting the necessity of the cyclist taking their
eyes of the route.
Another exploration involved the embodiment of a rock climber's
body mechanics to get them to think about their movements and
promote better climbing control.
"There are a great many wearable devices right now that are
connected, but despite that there is still a great need for the
creation of these designed artifacts to provide a meaningful
experience. In order to tease out our relationships with
technology, we need to pay better attention to the various
situations that these interactions may occur. To that end perhaps
we can stop thinking about wearable/mobile technologies as
devices-but rather as wearable ecosystems. A constellation of
devices that are congruent with other devices or services, which
can be individually interesting but ultimately more compelling when
various combinations are harvested."
This research has been funded by the Interactive Institute Umeå
(IIU) and the Stiftelsen för Strategisk Forskning (SSF) which is a
Foundation for Strategic Research that funds research from Science,
Engineering and Medicine. Additionally, this project was also
funded in part by the sketching techniques for Interaction
Designers in Industrial Environments project by Baltic Design AB
and supported by Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE).
About the dissertation defence:
On Tuesday 21st of March, Rouien Zarin, defends his thesis
entitled "Faster. Stronger. Better? Designing for Enhanced
Engagement of Extreme Sports"
The public defence will take place at 13:00 in Project Studio of
the Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University, located at Östra
The faculty opponent is Tom Djajadiningrat, Creative Director of
Philips Design in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
For more information, please contact:
Rouien Zarin, Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University
Rouien Zarin is a Canadian living in Sweden and a climbing,
skiing, cycling enthusiast. He has obtained his Bachelor's Degree
in Design at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in
Australia and his Masters in Interaction Design at the Umeå
Institute of Design where he developed his MA with a focus on
Designing for Cognitively Disabled Children. After his
studies, he had the opportunity to work at RISE Interactive
(formerly Interactive Institute) in Umeå as a researcher and
Interaction Designer while conducting his PhD at the Umeå Institute