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An eye-catching wearable clues you in to your surroundings and lets you know when someone is checking you out

By Matt Vitone.

Even for the most socially adept among us, getting the attention of an attractive stranger can prove difficult—not to mention that many of us are oblivious at times when others take an interest in us. Ripple is a wearable designed to encourage the courtship process by making it easier to pick up on these subtle social cues.

Ripple was designed by four graduates from London’s Royal College of Art who were unsatisfied with a world that is moving rapidly towards a future immersed in virtual reality and concerned that it may lead to difficulties with real-life communications. Hoping to remove some of the awkwardness and vulnerability of first interactions, they came up with Ripple.

Though it looks like something taken from a coral reef, Ripple is very much a high-tech product, using two tiny cameras attached to the shoulder pads to scan the wearer’s surroundings. The cameras use computer vision to understand human facial expressions, including when someone is expressing attraction. Ripple classifies attraction based on the designers’ own experimental findings from monitoring people’s behavior in various social situations.

If the interest is mutual, Ripple perceives these natural reactions and amplifies the flirtatious language by moving in response to the suitor’s gaze. The wearable will then send a ‘ripple’ up the wearer’s back: a subtle hint to improve posture as someone is looking. If the wearer then faces the person who is interested, they receive a light tap on the chest. If the wearer locks eyes with the other person, Ripple warms up to help give them a comfortable start to the interaction.

Currently, there are two prototypes of Ripple. The first is manufactured using SLA 3D-printed parts and tentacles made from laser cut printed acetate film, and the second is constructed from a bent wire, with tentacles of mesh plastic tubing with colored plastic inserts.