The designers of a new prototype wearable are pitching a whole new way to get out of awkward situations: Just like in The Wizard of Oz, all you need to do to go home is to click your heels three times. Dorothy, a high-tech shoe clip and app designed by iStrategyLabs, can text your friends with your exact coordinates or perhaps summon an Uber. With just a tap of your heels below the table, it can even help you smoothly remove yourself from a bad OkCupid date. (“Sorry, really important phone call”)
Dorothy consists of an app and a device about the size of a coat button called Ruby–which uses Bluetooth to connect to the smartphone app. The device’s accelerometer waits for for three rapid-fire spikes of data from you tapping your feet together, and then it triggers an action, like calling you a cab (the company assures me it’s confident false positives will be rare. When else are you going to kick yourself in the ankle three times in a row?).
But Dorothy isn’t quite ready to go on sale just yet–its designers are still working out how to make it smaller–maybe small enough to fit into an insole–and testing what potential actions users would want it to trigger, with the hopes that the product will be ready by next spring.
But at the product launch the company’s vision was clear: Dorothy was essentially pitched as the modern woman’s secret weapon–a polite way to extract yourself from a bad date without having to actually plan out the phone call from a friend, or, god forbid, verbally express your disinterest in continuing the date in an upfront, mature way. This may seem a bit silly–do we really need fake phone calls to get us out of bad dates?–but Dorothy’s designers aren’t alone in thinking that people might need new technology to help them evade the age-old problem of social discomfort. A Singapore-based ad agency created this jewelry that lets women discreetly trigger a fake phone call and will, at the touch of a button, text the wearer’s GPS coordinates to a friend. To be fair, as a 21st century urban woman, I have been called upon to come up with excuses to extract friends from terrible OkCupid dates. The struggle is real, though usually pathetic.
DJ Saul, iStrategyLabs’ chief marketing officer, says the company is still exploring potential uses for the technology. Dorothy could be a useful way to let someone (hopefully the authorities) know that you’re in trouble, or an easier way to send that “I got home safe” text late at night. Saul tells Co.Design he’s already been contacted by a few people in law enforcement, who might be able to put Dorothy to work in various situations, including in clothing or gear for undercover cops.
It seems like geo-location wearables of these type tend to be mostly about women’s safety, like the Guardian Angel jewelry mentioned above, or even this crazy high-voltage anti-rape bra that sends your GPS coordinates to law enforcement when you switch it on. That’s probably because sending someone your coordinates, outside of an emergency, sounds a little bit too much like stalking/surveillance.
But there could be broader, more whimsical applications of Dorothy, too. The designers suggest it could be an easy way to gather your friends to your location (sounds useless unless you’re lost in a crowd at a music festival), automatically hail an Uber to your location without whipping out your phone in the rain, or deliver you a pizza. In case, you know, you’re too lazy to just ask Siri.
And if you can think of any other technological advances your shoes are missing, iStrategyLabs is taking suggestions for use cases here.