Fotini Markopoulou is a theoretical physicist and hardware tech designer. She is co-founder of Team Turquoise, a wearable tech company that uses research in psycho-physiology to create technology that changes how we perceive, feel and behave. In answer to my questions, she shared her insights on new developments in wearable technology that can help us lead calmer, focused and productive lives.
What is empathic wearable technology?
Empathic wearable technology enhances our experience by interacting with our emotions, needs and relations with others. Empathic technology can be under the intentional control of the wearer, or it can be based on preset algorithms that monitor our mood and physiology in the background. This requires far more than monitoring and quantifying our bodily state, heart rate, steps and calories, and presenting us with data. Emotions have their roots in our bodies, and so it is natural for empathic technology to be wearable because it needs to actively affect our bodies.
What is doppel? How is it different than other tracker-type devices on the market?
doppel is not about monitoring. doppel is a new breed of wearable technology that is built from a deep understanding of the physiological roots of emotions. Using doppel can naturally make you feel more alert or more relaxed. It has been extensively tested and independently shown to increase focus. It does this with a heartbeat-like pulse that you feel on the inside of your wrist. You can control the rate and the intensity of the pulse. It uses our innate response to rhythm, much like listening to upbeat or downbeat music. We react to doppel's pulse in the same way: a fast pulse is energizing, a slow pulse is calming. With a beat you feel instead of hear there is no noise or distraction and you can use it anywhere.
Can doppel improve sleep for users?
You can use it at the end of your day to help wind down and switch off. It's like listening to relaxing music, but more intimate and easier to use. During the day, doppel works with your body as an antidote to the incessant pressure of other technologies. Our devices send us messages that need immediate responses. This is an addictive state that leaves us worn out. doppel is a reminder that being steady can be more effective. The best preparation for a good night's sleep is having a calmer day.
What do you see as the future of the wearable technology industry?
Few of us will sleep better because we can see data on our bad habits. We don't process data, we have experiences. Data is the raw material for constructing empathic experiences but it cannot provide the experience itself. Experiences are feelings, and to affect feelings we need empathic technologies that will interact with the body as well as the brain. We believe that through a deep understanding of how people respond to the world, we can create technology to get the response we want from ourselves.
What is the research behind doppel?
We did our own research and design experiments and also worked closely with experts at the University of London. We first looked at how people innately respond to rhythm, whether music or the biorhythms of others. We tested responses to beats that are not audible, lights and vibrations, and found that people respond to them too, especially if the beat is a heart-like double beat.
We also looked at the plasticity of self. We designed doppel to use this understanding. It puts a pulse on the inside of your wrist, where you would normally feel your pulse. When doppel is beating slowly and steadily, you feel that things must be fine, as if your own heart was beating happily in a relaxed state.
Has your sleep changed since you started using doppel?
First of all, doppel helps my sleep because I use it instead of coffee. No caffeine means a much better night's sleep. doppel has also taught me to appreciate winding down more. I am always on the go and my mind is always full of things I want to do -- slowing down is mentally uncomfortable. Almost without noticing, doppel slows me down when I am hectic. I can either focus on its beat or let it work in the background, it is something external that feels internal. This made me realize that slowing down is possible, natural, easy and good for me.
Tell me about your Kickstarter campaign.
We very strongly believe that technology that works with you needs to be designed with you. Kickstarter gives us a fantastic way to communicate directly with the people we are designing for.
We will be shipping doppel to them in April 2016, and we plan to develop doppel further based on our backers' feedback. We know that our Kickstarter backers will want to take an active part in shaping this new technology. By doing it in this way, we will be able to improve doppel in ways that really work for the people that use it.