Media Lab Europe
Human Connectedness research group


a wearable device for handshake-augmented interpersonal information exchange

Marije Kanis, Cian Cullinan, Anna Gavin, Stefan Agamanolis (Media Lab Europe); Niall Winters (London Knowledge Lab)

Initial meetings and introductions mark the first moments of building new relationships. Yet these important moments are often awkward or forgotten, sometimes because of the natural failings of human memory (not being able to recall someone's name) or because there is a lack of a catalyst for a richer interaction. The iBand is a new wearable technology that aims to address these problems. The device is a bracelet that stores and exchanges information about you and your relationships. Data exchange occurs only when you shake hands with another user. Information gathered and processed is reflected on the bracelet itself and can serve as a reminder or as an ice breaker for further conversation.

The iBand project aims to leverage the simple gesture of the handshake, coupled with the qualities of jewelry to act as tangible keepsakes and reminders of relationships, to explore potential applications at the intersection of social networking and ubiquitous computing.

The prototype is a wearable bracelet, adjustable in design for different kinds of users (male, female). When worn, the circuit board and battery lay flat under the wrist and an infrared (IR) transceiver is positioned near the back of the thumb pointing toward the hand such that it is visible to an IR transceiver on another device when shaking hands. A handshake is detected via infrared transceiver alignment combined with hand/wrist orientation and gesture recognition using a 2-axis accelerometer.

In a full experience with this prototype, the user first enters contact/biographical information into a kiosk, which stores it in a database and assigns a unique ID number to their iBand. The user can also create a personal logo that appears on the LED display woven into their device. When the user shakes hands with another iBand user, ID numbers and logos are exchanged and stored. The LED display cycles through the stored logos at a pace reflecting the number of hands that have been shaken. When the user returns to the kiosk, it displays a list of new contacts by looking up the collected ID numbers in the database.

We are currently working on further prototypes that include additional functionality and richer wearable displays to support social networking scenarios like the following:

Karen and Rob are meeting each other for the first time. Both are wearing iBands. Karen has decorated hers with sparkles, whereas Rob, being a successful businessman, wears a sleek gold-plated version. They introduce themselves to each other as they shake hands. Small lights flash on their iBands, indicating that an information exchange has occurred. Certain fibers on Karen's bracelet start to glow, indicating that Rob is interested in business networking and that she has never met him before. After some initial small talk, a lull in the conversation occurs. Rob glances discretely at his iBand display, which indicates that he earlier met a friend of Karen's named Catherine. Catherine's photo is also displayed. He remembers the conversation he had with her and mentions it to Karen who is interested to hear about it. After the meeting, Karen forgets Rob's name, but gets a quick reminder when she looks down at the display on her iBand that recalls the names of the last ten people she shook hands with. She can now tell her friend David that he should go over and talk to Rob without feeling embarrassed that she has forgotten his name. Rob, meanwhile, uploads the contacts he has collected on his iBand and emails them to his business development team.

Publications and Links

  • Marije Kanis, Niall Winters, Stefan Agamanolis, Anna Gavin, and Cian Cullinan, Toward Wearable Social Networking with iBand, CHI 2005 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Portland, Oregon, 2 - 7 April 2005, ACM Press. (PDF)

  • Marije Kanis, Niall Winters, Stefan Agamanolis, Cian Cullinan, and Anna Gavin, iBand: a wearable device for handshake-augmented interpersonal information exchange, Adjunct Proceedings, UbiComp 2004 Sixth International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, Nottingham, England, 7 - 10 September 2004. (PDF)

  • iBand was exhibited at The Digital Future - Creativity without Boundaries, Aviemore, Scotland, 11 May 2006 (video coverage by the BBC)

  • Marije's web site about iBand.