Change is all around us. Today, we operate smartphones, machines, control systems via touch screens or by means of language or gestures. In virtual and augmented reality, we enter a three-dimensional parallel reality, and we interconnect products digitally via the Internet of Things. Technologically, we know no more boundaries today. But for human interaction, we need to find ways to deploy this technology in a way that makes sense. Thinking about this starts when designing innovative products, which increasingly makes us designers turn into designers of the future.
There once was a time when it was sufficient to design a nice casing to be successful. Technology was straightforward, competition focussed on the outer appearance. This era is coming to an end. In line with new possibilities, the complexity of the technology available for a given product increases in such a way that the “inner values” move into the limelight of design. Today and in the future, we no longer design individual products, but entire systems. And these in turn are integrated into one single system called “our life”. Thus, our task as designers changes: We design people’s lives.
VR Project by Yijian Lan shows how future navigation at the airport could look like.
Technology puts us on a path where the digital and the physical world merge – physical goes digital, digital goes physical. Not only is it possible to complement the real physical world by adding digital options. Conversely, physical smart things complement the digital, thus enabling a natural, familiar interaction with digital products.
Our life increasingly takes place within an intelligent environment. Everything is connected, and smart products learn our habits and adapt themselves accordingly. The next level of interaction will be the one we won’t even notice. For the user interface disappears into our surroundings – seamlessly integrated into our daily life. Such a natural way of handling the objects of our everyday life already is the interaction!
Thanks to progress in terms of Big Data and artificial intelligence, another trend becomes increasingly real: social interaction with robots, chat bots and the like. Learning systems develop a history of interaction with us humans, becoming better at understanding who we are and what we want, taking into account our wishes and needs, predicting them even. We conduct a social dialog with the things that surround us. In view of the scepticism towards this development, emotional design becomes more important in order to overcome inhibitions and build trust. We want our heart to be addressed, and we want to interact in a playful manner – as naturally as possible.
Care-o-bot4 at the MCBW 2017 (Photo: Magerstaedt).
For “futurists”, “autonomy” has become a buzzword. The trend towards autonomous design is ubiquitous in the automotive industry, but also drones, robots and entire production facilities are already operating autonomously, at least in part. With our comfort in mind, many things are taking place in the background all by themselves; certain things will happen quite autonomously in the future, entirely without our need to take action. The world is getting more convenient for us, but we also hand over more and more control. We rely on services that make our lives easier and take over chores. This sounds tempting, but it takes a lot of trust which needs to be reflected in design.
Technology and design become accessible to the masses thanks to Open Source and Open Data. Modular building kits and publicly available how-to guides theoretically enable anyone to build their own product in a highly personalised and customised fashion – becoming one’s own “designer”.
So where do we see our role as designers in the midst of these interactive trends? In Morals. In taking responsibility for the things we bring forward into this world. It is a design which keeps humans in control in non-transparent surroundings. It is the integrated design, matching the respective context, the people, and their activities. And looking at all these visions of the future, we ask ourselves: Will we even be able to lead a non-interconnected life at all?