An Interview with Olivia Burca, Garment Engineer at Wearable X
By Mikhal Weiner
Wearable X is a fashion & technology company that is redefining how humans interact with technology and each other. Originally founded in Australia, the company now makes waves in NYC with their NADI X yoga pants - a high quality, fashionable garment that uses haptics (technology that recreates the sense of touch by using vibrations or other motions) to guide the wearer through various yoga poses. “Communicating through haptics is an enchanting way to communicate with someone.” Burca explained. “How can I touch you through the screen? I can’t. But through haptics I can.”
Clever Tech Digest sat down with Olivia Burca, a garment engineer for Wearable X, to discuss the company’s take on wearable tech. Burca described a workplace bustling with innovative teamwork, where designers and engineers work together to invent both the questions and the answers. “I think that’s why we’re able to be so innovative, because we really cherish everybody’s opinions. We work with people from Sri Lanka, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Canada & the USA. We all have different perspectives and trainings, so we come together collectively and learn from each other.”
Having worked on a variety of products the Wearable X team was well equipped to launch their most sophisticated design Nadi X. “Communication and touch is really the core of our company,” Burca said, “but there are all of these boundaries towards touch. Many yoga teachers in New York are hesitant to touch you or help you through your practice, or the class sizes can be too large to give everyone’s practice close attention. By seamlessly embedding haptic components to correct users’ form into garments, we’ve made yoga more accessible through technology.”
When I asked her how they do that, she chuckled, “Magic… No, actually through a lot of research, and with an amazing team. We work hard with all kinds of engineers. It’s a really non-traditional way of thinking, trying to take things that are hard and make them soft. Electronics by nature are hard. How do we put something like that into a garment without feeling it, without destroying it, without it breaking?”
The team at Wearable X are doing things that are so new, they have to invent the language to describe the questions they ask. “Language is important in our company. All five senses, that’s what we’re designing for. How do we even talk about what we’re doing? How do I talk about vibrating pants without it sounding like, well, vibrating pants?” She laughed out loud and continued, “Because we’re a start-up everyone has to do a little bit of everything. It’s funny, we update our software constantly, and we update ourselves as well. We transform every day into different styles of thinking in order to stay innovative, and find solutions to things that aren’t even there. You can’t just Google ‘how do I make wearable tech?’. We’re creating and defining those answers, asking ourselves those questions.
Burca went on to describe how to use a pair of NADI X yoga pants. “Connect with your app. To connect you take your “Pulse”, which is where our battery and circuit board are hidden, and bluetooth pair to your phone. The “Pulse” clips right behind your left knee, and you won’t feel it during your yoga practice - we’ve tested on so many people and body shapes. The app has audio and text, and the vibrations correlate with them. It’s step by step yoga, so in the app you can learn to do many poses. For example, how do you do chair pose? The audio will say ‘Step 1: ground down through your feet’ and you’ll feel a grounding down sensation in your ankles in the pants. Currently it’s just step by step. In the coming months we’re introducing a subscription model where you can take classes.”
When I asked about human yoga teachers going obsolete, Burca assured me that’s not the aim. “It’s really just about health and fitness, and people being more aware of their own health and their bodies. We’re trying to make [yoga] more accessible, less intimidating. It’s an ancient practice and has so many modern health benefits. Bulky technology can also be very intimidating. We designed Nadi X to be a fashionable and comfortable product, not scary. They really just look like yoga pants. The great thing about wearable tech is that you can always update it from your phone, so you can get a growing number of uses from your garment. I can change something right now and then everyone who has our pants will feel the difference.”
So what does the future hold? Anything the team dreams up. “ Currently I’m working on the menswear pant ”
Whether menswear, sports jerseys, or yoga pants, Clever Tech Digest couldn’t be more excited to see what the Wearable X team will think up next. Wherever they’re leading, it’s sure to be an exciting ride.