Keynote Speaker

Joanna Berzowska

Concordia University, Canada

Wearable Technologies in the Time of the Pandemic

5 PM IST November 08, 2020


Joanna Berzowska will talk about the innovative potential for wearable technologies in the time of the global pandemic, as a response to our increased need for physical protection coupled with our increased need for human connection. Emerging technology trends in wearables can contribute to urgently needed innovations that will help us address the social, economic, and personal impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. This includes health monitoring technologies; digital/physical protective barriers; augmented face shields, electronic textiles, and other hybrid materials; real-time contact tracing; and social distancing applications that couple sensing technologies with some form of audio-visual output. She will describe the two vectors that researchers need to consider: on one hand, wearables can enable the design of digital and physical “cocoons” to guard against the risk of physical infection, on the other hand, wearables can be leveraged to develop social trust, address our feelings of frustration and anxiety, and create physical experiences of embodied connections and intimacy. Finally, she will talk about the biometric and location data gathered from wearables and the importance of innovations in artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) in supporting global efforts to address biomedical, epidemiological, and socioeconomic challenges arising from the pandemic. She will highlight the importance of responsible research and innovation, so as to balance the needs of the overall society with the needs of the individual (privacy, autonomy, and civil liberties), as well the dangers of algorithmic bias that can amplify inequities and lead to discriminatory public health outcomes.


Joanna Berzowska is the founder and research director of XS Labs, a design research studio with a focus on innovation in the fields of electronic textiles and reactive garments that can enable computationally-mediated interactions with the environment and the individual. A core component of her research involves the development of enabling methods, materials, and technologies – in the form of soft electronic circuits and composite fibers – as well as the exploration of the expressive potential of soft reactive structures. Her art and design work has been shown in the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum in NYC, the V&A in London, the Millenium Museum in Beijing, various SIGGRAPH Art Galleries, ISEA, the Art Directors Club in NYC, the Australian Museum in Sydney, NTT ICC in Tokyo, and Ars Electronica Center in Linz among others. She lectures internationally about the field of electronic textiles and related social, cultural, aesthetic, and political issues. She was selected for the Maclean’s Honour Roll as one of “thirty nine Canadians who make the world a better place to live in.” She also consults for industry, most recently as the Head of Electronic Textiles at OMsignal, a Montreal company developing electronic garments that integrate biometric monitoring for performance, wellness, and health. She is Associate Professor of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University and formerly served as Department Chair and as Associate Dean of Research for the Faculty of Fine Arts.