Online social networks help maintain and increase social connection but it can be hard to transfer that potential into the real world. Mobile Social Proximity Applications that leverage online social network user’s personal and geographical information primarily facilitate interaction among socially competent and extraverted people, and pay little attention to the needs of poor socially skilled people whose cognitive and on-going social activities are easily distracted by social weight and intrusive interface of technologies.
Informed by literature on cognitive behaviour, context-aware computing and exploration of “subtle” technologies, as opposed to traditional interfaces (e.g. screen-based devices) to facilitate first-time face-to-face interaction, Icebreaker jacket v2.0 is designed as a study tool in using “natural” interface to understand the behaviour of shy persons when meeting with a stranger.
The notion of social object, together with the principles of Calm and Subtle Technology is employed to generate the concept of “subtle” sensing and social notification mechanism to the technology. A near-field communication system embedded in the cuff enables the jacket to recognise two wearers during their handshaking, thereafter it calculates social compatibility scores based on the wearers’ profiles and preferences. The score is used to control a textile-thermochromic painted badge to gradually reveal their social compatibility in a non-obtrusive means.