Mickey McManus is Chairman & Principal at MAYA Design and is currently a visiting Research Fellow at Autodesk. He is a pioneer in the field of collaborative innovation, pervasive computing, human-centered design, and education, and he holds 9 patents in the area of connected products, vehicles, and services. Mickey co-authored the widely respected and award-winning book Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology (Wiley 2012). At Autodesk, Mickey is exploring the implications for design, business, technology, and education of a future where computing ceases to be confined to any particular, "box," but instead is freely accessible in the ambient environment. I have shared some of his writings on this blog.
- POV Dispatch: Mickey McManus: There Be Dragons (Let's Go Over and Pet Them)
- Mickey McManus: LinkedIn Blog - Warp and Weft
This summer Mickey is working with a summer intern, Lisa Rotzinger, from the University of Cincinnati. One of the projects Lisa is working on is "The Connected Closet." Though Mickey and Lisa are investigating this notion regarding what has to change regarding the activity of design and the education of design professionals, I couldn't help but wonder about it from a user perspective.
In my mind, a closet is a small room with a rod for clothes and a set of shelves. A connected closet would have sensors on the shelves to let me know how much remaining-space I have for storage, but I am more fascinated with advances that would be possible based on the rod. The rod has hangers. Each hanger is either empty or contains an article of clothing, such as a pair of pants, a shirt, a jacket, or some other accessory such as a scarf. Each article of clothing has attributes like color, fabric type, and style. In a connected closet, these attributes can be leveraged:
- A hanger knows what article of clothing is attached. This means the hanger is aware of its color, fabric, and style.
- Each hanger could have a small LED light as part of its construction. The light can be illuminated or dark as appropriate.
- The connected closet could be wired into data from a weather service.
So as a user of a connected closet, I could:
- Open the door.
- See a set of hangers whose LED lights would be lit to indicate what clothes are appropriate to wear given the weather forecast for the day.
- Make a selection of an object, such as a shirt, and all of the lights for clothing items, that do not go with the selected item, could go dark. I could then pick a matching clothing object, such as pants, based on hangers whose lights are still on.
For those old enough to remember, this is like a high-tech version of Garanimals for adults that also compensates for the weather.
So the connected closet would allow me to solve:
- What do I need to wear today based on the weather?
- Do these pants go with this shirt?
Though not a concern for me, for people who are so inclined, the hangers could keep track of when an item was last worn and guide the selection process based on that. I don't need this feature, because I am a very methodical person — to the extreme. Each morning I simply grab the shirt in my closet on the end. I then pick pants to go with the shirt. Done. I place clean shirts at one end of the closet and pull shirts to wear from the other end — that way my apparel rotates. Years ago I got the idea from the movie, The Fly, where Albert Einstein was quoted as believing that man had a finite amount of thought, so he wore an identical outfit each day to avoid wasting thought on what to wear. I figured that I didn't have to wear the same thing each day — I only had to avoid deciding what to wear. My process provides variety as well as lack of thought. A connected closet is another way to reduce the thought required to get dressed.
If the connected closet wanted to get really fancy, it could be wired into my Outlook calendar and be aware of whom I am meeting with on a given day. Hangers would not light up on that morning if the people I will be meeting with have already seen me in those articles of clothing. Given my system of just grabbing the shirt on the far left, that's a feature someone, other than me, might want.
What other problems could a connected closet solve? Let us know at email@example.com.
Automated apparel selection is alive in the lab.