Playful Self

Alex Rothera & James Krahe (US)

Playful Self

The anxiety of data, calmed with tea, 2015

In the future, biometric data will only become more ubiquitous. Look at your phone: your heart is 93 bpm, your watch says you’ve walked 10,020 steps today, a total distance of 7.8 km, and burned 450 calories. Your belt clip notified you to take more deep breaths at work and to consume more natural sugars. Before you realise it, your whole body is beeping and telling you to do three different things at once.

But what if our data didn’t overwhelm us, but helped us relax. Looked at the importance of taking a break, breathing, and having some tea? What if data could remind us to pause, reflect, and slow down?

In Playful Self, watch your data come to life as you touch every object. See if, by taking deep breaths, you can bring your heart rate as low as possible. Use your data to relax.

About Alex and James
We are long time collaborators. After sharing a studio in university we moved on together to become Disney Imagineers, inventing new rides, technology, and products for the Walt Disney Company. Recently we have both separately moved on to become full-time practicing artists and designers working to bridge future technologies, design and storytelling. Alex is a designer and inventor focusing on the intersection of future technologies and contextual design. His work looks to first understand people and contexts, to then design elegant and responsible products and technologies. James is a 3D artist and sculptor living in Richmond, Virginia. He has worked for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and is currently Lead Artist for, working with clients like Marvel, Major League Baseball and Ubisoft.

How did you get started lifelogging/analysing data?
We’re not sure we ever 'got started'. We both have smart phones and Pebble watches, and although we both have backgrounds in computer science, we were very confused by both devices. How many steps did I walk? Did I sleep that strangely? Why would I share this on social media?

This confusion made us think, maybe no one has approached data in the right direction. What if we approach it from the nonsense direction? Maybe we can find the right use for data if we stop thinking about sleep, calories, and exercise. Maybe if we get our hands on data physically, we can understand it in a new way.

Why do you find lifelogging so interesting?
We find our lifelogging confusion the most interesting. It feels like we woke up one day and the whole world was in love with biometric data. So as designers and makers, we wanted to get into data the only way we know how: physically.

How do people in your life react when they discover the extent of your lifelogging?
James: Most of the people in my life use lifelogging to track their fitness goals. They seem to feel that my lack of lifelogging is a symptom of the denial I've adopted in regard to the neglected state of my own physical fitness. They make a point to report all of their personal fitness data to me daily as a reminder that I am generating none of my own.

What's your favourite time of day and why?
11:11, am or pm doesn't matter. It's the only time with four repeating digits and looks cool on my clock.

Do you remember the first electronic device you owned?
James: A handheld Power Rangers game. Alex: I think a Tamagotchi pet monkey. I remember my sister got hers and was excited to feed it and take care of it. But I remember instead being filled with terror, the thought that I — a seven year old — would need to take care of a pet monkey. I immediately started sweating at the responsibility and my mom just laughed, patted me on the back and assured me I could handle it.

What do you want done with your data after you die?
I want to find the equivalent of a Viking funeral for my data. Somehow floating my data out into the water, and launch an arrow on top to burn and sink it with a nice tune playing. I need to find a good jazz musician.

Is there anything about yourself that you would absolutely never like tracked?
Errrr. Maybe the amount I sweat.

What insights on your life has tracking your data revealed?
Alex: Possibly the most interesting insight has been my ability to forget to track it. Jokes aside, I literally always forget to put my smartwatch on and just wear a normal watch. So I’ve found that my data has many holes which reveal a lot about me.

What is your go-to piece of tech or software for lifelogging?
Alex: Maybe its my stomach? I think what I eat tells me how my day went the most. James: I have a lagging hamstring injury that accurately measures how often I forget to stretch.

We're creating a speculative timeline of the possible future of lifelogging. We're asking everyone to make one prediction for a future date. What's yours? Feel free to think big!
James: 3:30am April 28, 2030. I wake up suddenly to realise that every object in my home, from my pillow to my fridge, is reading and analysing my biorhythms and using that data to complete tasks that better accommodate my everyday needs. My pillow reminds me to polish my shoes. I am terrified.


Concept and Direction: Alex Rothera and James Krahe
Technical Lead: Alex Rothera
3D Modeling: James Krahe
Product Design: Pascal Hien
Wearable Code: Yoshio Ishiguro
Camera Tracking: Mathieu Le Goc
Special Thanks to G&B Lamp Shop.

Support from:
G&B Lamp Shop

Special Thanks:
Ivor Williams
Tomomi Maezawa