Designed and built by Ruth Kikin-Gil, a masters student at the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, Italy, BuddyBeads combines two things close the heart of a modern teenage girl: peergroups and cell phones:
Each group member has a matching jewelry piece and can use it to communicate her emotional state to the other group members. Messages are decided by the group in advance and construct a secret private code among its members.
Basically a group of teens each wear a bracelet. On each bracelet is a bead that represents one of the teens’ friends. When the teen wants to communicate to her friend, she simply presses a pre-arranged morse-code of dot-dot-dash messages into the bead representing her friend. The message is beamed to her friends cell phone and then relayed to her friends’ BuddyBead bracelet, which flashes and vibrates her friends’ coded message. As Kikin-Gil points out, subtlety is the key:
The ability to send a message without looking at the bracelet is important in situations where other people are involved and the sender wants to comment about the situation but doesn?t want the others to notice that she is engaged in another communication. This can be the case when a girl is talking to a boy she likes and want her friend to know, or when few group members are talking with someone who is not part of their group and they want to comment about the situation.
Still in early prototype stage, BuddyBeads have huge potential in many areas beyond teenage girl gossip. From the analytical approach that Kukin-Gil is taking with the ways that this new technology will shape mobile non-verbal communication, it is clear that this is more than a new fad in development (although the idea of high tech, collectible beads will have teen marketers no doubt wetting themselves – get your covert buzz machines started, marketing weenies.)
Let’s hope that a new language of flashes and vibrations replaces those annoying one-sided cell phone conversations (from adults and teens) currently clogging up our public spaces.