context, data protection, ergonomics, unobtrusiveness, battery life, and deeply customizable nuances that only two partners can enjoy — are just a few challenges that require long distance Bracelet must snap in well. Let’s try the Bond Touch and see how well it spans that distance?
We don’t try to overload our users with anything other than touching their partner, that’s our forte
How can I keep my soul inside so
it doesn’t touch your soul? ……
But everything that touches us, me and you,
pulls us together like a violin bow
who pulls ‘one’ voice from two separate strings.
What instrument are we two strung on?
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke may have written these lines long before the idea of emotional wearables was even considered. But today we have bracelets that can do just that – make two deeply connected people vibrate with the beautiful quiver of touch – thanks to the tool called technology. One such company is Bond Touch, which claims it is bridging the gap between long-distance relationships by allowing anyone to stay connected through touch, anytime. Easy to wear, elegant and understated – these are just the first impressions you get when you put the bracelet around your wrist. And as long as you’re near WiFi and Bluetooth is always on, the promise of staying in touch holds up well. But there are plenty of other what-ifs and how-s that need to be handled well in its grip before the bracelet throbs like a timeless poem. Artur Ventura, Tech Lead, and Bond Touch help us dig deeper and closer to these questions.
Tell us a bit about how this idea and product came about – what were the struggles, highlights, lessons learned, etc.
Bond Touch was born from a real use case. Kwame (our CEO) along with his then business partner on business trips felt that they missed loved ones back home, especially their wives. They know they could just text them over their phone, but it doesn’t mean as much as things like a physical hug. Her desire for it led her to create Bond Touch for those who thought the same thing: a simple wearable that would allow users to feel closer to their distant loved ones. Since then, Bond Touch has provided a handful of insights. Growth was one of the biggest challenges. We were a fairly small team with business growth that has always exceeded our expectations. Operationally keeping pace with our growth to meet these expectations has always been a learning process. Having said that, our product is something relatively new and difficult to compare to other products or markets, so we gladly took up the challenge of finding out what an emotional wearable means for markets and its users.
How much focus do you put on personalization, emotional connection, on meaningfulness – and how are these areas translated into the product experience?
Our product teams at Bond Touch are very focused on what matters to them. It’s the easiest way to add value to them through our work. Through his process, we understood that the uniqueness of each user’s experience is a very important factor. Personalization and a focus on a more emotional connection are important means of maintaining significant usage that is relevant and unique to each individual user. We’ve improved on this, for example by offering a variety of colors for Bond Touch and its accessories to purchase and allowing users to select the light colors used when sending and receiving touches via Bond Touch. But even more important was our newest in-app feature, which we call Touch Language.
Can a user create their own secret language beyond the basic alerts that the bracelet offers?
When we spoke to users, we found that they would often use notebooks to jot down message patterns that held a specific meaning for both them and their partners. With this in mind, we developed Touch Language to allow users not only to manage the meanings of Touch message patterns and apply custom gradient colors to them, but also developed an algorithm that detects whether sent and received Touch messages match the stored Touch Language patterns. Match meanings beforehand and apply customization (gradient colors and what the message means) in real time. The feature has been well received by our users, with a quarter of all touch messages being sent with a meaning assigned to them.
What sets you apart from other offerings of this type – in the wearables space and ideas like Durex Long-Distance Fundawear?
We see ourselves clearly differently than other wearables. So far, very few come close to what we offer. Looking at wearables as a whole, many focus on multifunctionality: they’re watches and heart-rate monitors, they have screens, and they offer a lot for the user to do. The products we develop are simplified and focus on the essentials: the closeness to the relationship that they miss so much.
When you get a message about Bond Touch, or about the upcoming Bond Touch More, you know a loved one is thinking of you and nothing else. This simplicity and relevance makes the product special to our users and that is what defines us. We don’t try to overload our users with anything other than touching their partner, that’s our forte. Specifically regarding the Durex Long-Distance Fundawear, our product does not focus on the sexuality of relationships but on a more emotional aspect of the relationship between couples. Couples miss each other and want to feel loved, like they are there, and that doesn’t always have to do with sex. Sexuality is of course an important point, but our product does not cover this area.
How can a user ensure discretion, privacy and safety from public attention while using such a product – especially for celebs? Also, what policy applies here for first-party and third-party data usage?
We are a privacy first company. Our service offers “end-to-end data protection”. It is not possible for us to know the content and information exchanged between the partners. Only the elements in that relationship can decrypt the message. Also, we only keep the encrypted message content in transit and it is removed from our systems upon delivery
The wearables segment has faced both opportunities and challenges in its learning curve so far – how severe are issues like form factor, ergonomics, miniaturization, PAN (Personal Area Network) and lack of a good app despite the presence of robust hardware, etc.
Form factor and ergonomics are by far the most important factors when building a wearable. You’re trying to optimize for multiple variables, trying to find the sweet spot. Smaller and speaker devices are great products for one person, but you would pay a price for the battery budget. And nobody wants to charge their devices more than once a day. This is the tightest rope in this segment.
How quickly would advances in tactile sensors (like deformability, signal analysis, data feedback, sensitivity) be manifested in actual products?
We would like to have Moore’s Law for materials science, but the reality is that innovation in this field cannot be compared to computer science. During the development of Bond Touch More we tested a lot of incredible technologies that work in a lab, but en route to developing a product some of them aren’t mature enough to be used in the field. Sometimes it’s a yield issue, others are in the failure rates realm. There are some interesting things in the pipeline, but they’re still a few years away.
Can we expect that possibilities of self-learning and evolution through AI/algorithms in such products will further integrate deeply into a specific user context?
One of the ideas we’ve been thinking about is using the technology that these wearables have to appreciate user context. One of the main fears of long-distance partners is the lack of context in the other person’s life. We try to improve this feeling by predicting when the partner is at work, at home or in another context.
Can this product also find business potential – like remote workforce management, use in fire departments, rescue teams, etc.?
The emotional bond you have with your company and your employees is one of the most important relationships one can have. People leave jobs because of bad chemistry with the rest of the team. Remote work further exacerbates this problem. There are currently HR solutions for measuring and estimating employee satisfaction and eNPS scores. We’ve had internal discussions as to whether we can bring the lessons we’ve learned from the consumer space to the corporate space. But we have nothing to announce at the moment.
Are we getting any closer to the internet of humans? Why or why not? How can we make it less dystopian?
We already live in it in a way, just depending on your perspective. Cyborgs conjure up images of flesh intertwined with metal, but in reality our own glasses are technological extensions we build to improve our website, hearing aids allow for enhanced hearing, sometimes even achieving superhuman feats, and something as simple as a Airpod allows the user to come through voice to access all human knowledge through Siri. In a way, we are already cyborgs. The idea of an Internet of Humans already exists today. The first versions of Bond touch can be viewed as a cybernetic extension (as in Kolmogorov and Bateson) that helps the user improve their relationship. With Bond Touch More, we’re extending this to multiple relationships.
Is there a future leap in technology you have envisioned – like using AR, VR, blockchain, decentralized data sharing? Is there anything else exciting that awaits us next?
There are some potential interesting applications for these technologies. Blockchain, for example, can enable a decentralized registry for things like marriages and NFTs can be used to generate tokens for important moments in a relationship, but some of these technologies are very new and a lot of work needs to be done.
Artur Ventura, Technical Director, Bond Touch
By Pratima H