Usability and Design of Personal Wearable and Portable Devices for Thermal Comfort
Personal comfort is important in the design of objects and environments. However, as comfort is a subjective experience, it is a very difficult aspect to design for. This paper presents an interrogation into the design for human thermal comfort, in particular the design of personal devices for use in shared work environments. The findings of two user studies are presented, in which wearable and portable, off-the-shelf personal heating and cooling devices were deployed in the field to explore the interaction with and use of these devices in everyday settings with the aim to uncover key aspects and requirements for the design of such devices. We found that functionality and affordances, i.e. the design for versatility, appropriation and mobility, as well as control, availability, effectiveness and efficiency of use were most important. Furthermore, individual preferences, foremost the preference for on-body versus off-body heating and cooling, and aspects related to wearable design of the devices, such as aesthetics, materiality, comfort of wear, mobility and unobtrusiveness, also need to be taken into account.