Is Wearable Technology Becoming Part of Us? Developing and Validating a Measurement Scale for Wearable Technology Embodiment

Elizabeth C Nelson, Tibert Verhagen, Miriam Vollenbroek-Hutten, Matthijs L Noordzij

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Background: To experience external objects in such a way that they are perceived as an integral part of one's own body is called embodiment. Wearable technology is a category of objects, which, due to its intrinsic properties (eg, close to the body, inviting frequent interaction, and access to personal information), is likely to be embodied. This phenomenon, which is referred to in this paper as wearable technology embodiment, has led to extensive conceptual considerations in various research fields. These considerations and further possibilities with regard to quantifying wearable technology embodiment are of particular value to the mobile health (mHealth) field. For example, the ability to predict the effectiveness of mHealth interventions and knowing the extent to which people embody the technology might be crucial for improving mHealth adherence. To facilitate examining wearable technology embodiment, we developed a measurement scale for this construct. 

Objective: This study aimed to conceptualize wearable technology embodiment, create an instrument to measure it, and test the predictive validity of the scale using well-known constructs related to technology adoption. The introduced instrument has 3 dimensions and includes 9 measurement items. The items are distributed evenly between the 3 dimensions, which include body extension, cognitive extension, and self-extension.

Methods: Data were collected through a vignette-based survey (n=182). Each respondent was given 3 different vignettes, describing a hypothetical situation using a different type of wearable technology (a smart phone, a smart wristband, or a smart watch) with the purpose of tracking daily activities. Scale dimensions and item reliability were tested for their validity and Goodness of Fit Index (GFI). 

Results: Convergent validity of the 3 dimensions and their reliability were established as confirmatory factor analysis factor loadings45 (>0.70), average variance extracted values40 (>0.50), and minimum item to total correlations50 (>0.40) exceeded established threshold values. The reliability of the dimensions was also confirmed as Cronbach alpha and composite reliability exceeded 0.70. GFI testing confirmed that the 3 dimensions function as intercorrelated first-order factors. Predictive validity testing showed that these dimensions significantly add to multiple constructs associated with predicting the adoption of new technologies (ie, trust, perceived usefulness, involvement, attitude, and continuous intention). 

Conclusions: The wearable technology embodiment measurement instrument has shown promise as a tool to measure the extension of an individual's body, cognition, and self, as well as predict certain aspects of technology adoption. This 3-dimensional instrument can be applied to mixed method research and used by wearable technology developers to improve future versions through such things as fit, improved accuracy of biofeedback data, and customizable features or fashion to connect to the users' personal identity. Further research is recommended to apply this measurement instrument to multiple scenarios and technologies, and more diverse user groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12771
Number of pages12
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


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