Submission to Utopia: Fest of Women in Digital Culture

Late yesterday, I got an email forwarded from Jenni Rempel, the Faculty of Communication, Art, and Technology representative, about a festival called UTOPIA. To be honest, I wasn’t interested in it at first but then I saw the tagline… Festival of Women in Digital Culture! Very, very cool. In such a men-centric industry, I often find myself working with them men. They’re wonderful but I would love to find out what my fellow ladies are making, designing, hacking, programming! Here’s my application submitted to the festival. #WishMeLuck!

ps: you should apply too! Find out more about the festival and how you can apply here.

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Stephanie is currently a senior student at Simon Fraser University, majoring in Interactive Arts and Technology. She is also currently working full-time at HootSuite Media Inc. and actively involved in the Banner Bags program presented by SIFE Simon Fraser and the JCI Vancouver network as the Project Lead for Nothing but Nets 2012. Since Fall of 2010, Stephanie and three others have been working on a project called Point Locus, which is a tactile GPS system for the visually impaired. The project has been featured in blogs like Trend HunterFashioning Tech, and a few others. It has also brought a lot of attention at the Maker Faire 2011 in San Mateo and at the Mini Maker Faire in Vancouver. The team will also be attending the upcoming TEI Conference in Kingston, Ontario.

Point Locus is a game changing wearable technology that puts the power of GPS to work for the people most in need. Its tactile feedback on the tricep area gives the familiar comforting feeling of a guiding hand helping you follow a path. Its practicality complements their natural adaptations to their disability and extends their limitations in hope of making them much more independent when traveling.

Unlike other GPS systems, Point Locus is non-obstructive. All the components are built into one wearable piece to liberate the users’ hands as they might already sport a white cane or a guide dog. Plus, there is an interface barrier, since most GPS devices rely on flat, visual screen-based interactions to operate them. Simple tactile signals break this barrier down.

I am interested in attending Utopia to meet fellow hackers, programmers, and artists who might be interested in helping out the project and just to expand my network. I’m always up for working collaboratively with other people on a hands-on type of projects. 

As mentioned in the mandate, Utopia is conceived to address the gender imbalance in technology creation production and utilization. This has been proven again and again, and it’s true for Point Locus. The team currently is comprised of three men and one woman (me). Although it is great to work with them, I am always intrigued by what other women are doing in the industry. In fact, I’m currently mentored by Lynne Bruning, an award winning wearable and eTextile innovator. 

I believe that it’s time to move past taking our senses for granted, and move forward with a solution that works for everyone, especially those without sight. Time to stop ignoring a woefully underused sense by discovering the potential in the wearable tactile interface.

For more on Point Locus, please visit: www.pointlocus.com


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