Test Machine vs. Human Machine

Test Machine vs. Human Machine

Alan Lekan, VP Product

I’ve spent most of the last twenty years with a sole career focus: making textile/apparel products that “wow” the user. The kind of products that gets people excited and changes their experiences in the outdoors for the better. Or if it’s a new generation of a high-tech bedding system, it is product that significantly helps all these poor people out there who rarely get a good night’s sleep.

What I most look for in tester feedback is actually less about survey data and figures and more about pure emotion. The holy grail of tester feedback is something like, “OMG, I LOVE this product!!” The second thing I watch for is testers who refuse to give up what is now their new, personal favorite and say something about “cold, dead fingers.” We all have these in our gear closet.

This might seem contrary to a science- and statistics-based company like Cocona, but what I have learned is that emotion summarizes in one sentence lots of data, experiences, perceptions and preferences—often at the unconscious level where many, many inputs are synthesized into a coherent single output. They just know. The fields of science and business are embracing such principles more and more in addition to pure facts and figures.

So what makes a great product? One that both tests superiorly and one that people make their personal favorite. To test textile and apparel products we have two main options: machines (lab tests) and people. A test machine can be highly accurate while people are more subjective. But while machines are the most accurate, they are the least relevant resource in assessing product performance and value because they are a mere machine that can only distantly replicate, model or predict a human. And humans are complex. Physiology and comfort are very complex. A test machine can’t sweat, overheat, think, feel, get excited or complain. But people can. Advantage people.

Out of all the new product innovations our team has been doing, my personal favorite is taking 37.5™ technology into everyday clothing. Why shouldn’t our everyday or work clothes enhance our comfort and what we can do in our work day without looking like a dripping puddle? This creates something akin to “Swiss Army knife” functionality we have never had before.

Cycle commuting apparel is one area I love ripe for new product – product that doesn’t look like cycle geek gear or that you have to change out of at your destination. Utility clothing is another area just waiting to be upgraded. Think Carhartt, which is worn not only by the traditional farmer and construction worker, but now the urban dude looking for a new look. Adding 37.5™ technology will allow the user to put on a flannel shirt or pair of jeans or canvas pants and wear it all day without noticing the typical comfort swings normally experienced. I have recently been testing a proto shirt-jack using such a new 37.5™ tech-flannel fabric, which has only solidified my conclusion that everyday clothes are prime for a technical makeover. I put it on and forget about it. It is now in my grubby little possession as a personal favorite. Oh, and it lab tests quite well too. If it didn’t do well in both tests, it is not a product that we offer. It is not worthy of the 37.5™ brand.