Today, we live in an era when successive generations of digital technologies facilitate our daily lives. Digital technology has shifted the way we perceive the world, which has developed over millions of years of evolution, and become an inseparable part of our lives.
Unlike physical interactions that rely on immediate sensations and the memory of past experiences, digital interaction is a hybrid experience which cross-references with digital infrastructure and human perceptions. As an interaction designer, I believe it is a designer’s responsibility to explore the expressive potential of the new technologies, designing a better and diverse future. In my thesis, I am interested in exploring new types of human-technology relationships in a speculative future.
We are analog beings trapped in a digital world, and the worst part is, we did it to ourselves.
I gave some informal interviews with people in the studio in order to narrow down my area of interests. I was hoping these interviews could help me define and validate my concepts. This interview was relatively unstructured which allowed for flexible detours in a conversational format. I asked my interviewees:
Is there any technology/technological artifact that you have a love-hate relationship with?
It wastes my time to read all the notifications!
When I was traveling in Death Valley, there were areas without cellphone reception. I felt disconnected from the outside but really connected to the moment.
I hate when my phone is out of battery when I’m travelling because I have to use GPS and I’d like to know where I am.
Design a Speculative Future
Technology creates shortcut between human beings and our daily involvement in the world. After enough times of using it, our brain becomes wired with these shortcuts.
We are looking for them spontaneously and we outsource those mundane tasks to the machine. When exotic technologies become mundane and widespread, we start to take them for granted and develop dependence.
How technology could change our biological patterns in a speculative future based on the projection of what is happening nowadays?
I decided to design a series of everyday mundane objects that reveal the newly developed infrastructure between human and digital technologies. They are intended to open debate and discussion about the kind of future people want and do not want.
It’s not a matter of prediction – it’s a matter of creating the open space for people to live and feel with by probing the possibilities.
Sneez Alarm Clock
The fact that genetically programmed human biological clock will be programed by computer in the future. Our nasal mucus, like other parts of our body, operates according to a circadian clock. The Sneeze alarm clock will allow its user to program their circadian clock with a real clock interface. Users will be awoken by their own sneeze at the time they need to get up.
This machine collects data from user’s IOT products and make predictions about future events based on big data and analytic algorithms.
This is an augmented reality game device that used DNA barcoding technology to identify species from different planets. The users would be able to identify, capture and collect natural creatures in AR.
As a solution to the malfunction among the autonomous vehicles, this helmet simulates signals of other recognisable objects in transportation system in order to increase the safeness of pedestrians.
Data Body Service Kiosk
A government service that helped residents to manage the afterlife of their data body.
All artifacts were made from a combination of found objects, casting acrylic and plywood from laser cutting. Most of the objects were bought from Daiso (a 1.5 Dollar store franchise) or Amazon. These hybrid forms provided a familiar yet strange environment that not only helps build up the connection between the future world and today but also facilitate people’s imagination of what these future artifacts are and how to use them in the future. Their low-cost, ephemeral forms were great visual representations of the ubiquitous and banal smart artifacts in the future.
Then I realized that I needed to contextualize the environment of where the artifacts exist in order to create more engaging experience that people can feel and think with.
The key is to use designed objects, scenarios and narratives to make this future more rich.
As these artifacts and print designs represent the company’s perspective, I wanted to complete the story from the customer/user’s side. I decided to create a series of cinemagraphs that capture the moment when those artifacts in use. They help visualize the scenarios without rendering them in detail, leaving the viewer’s imagination to complete the picture.
The Back from the Future Exhibition
By using designed objects, contextual materials and videos, the speculative future became more granular to think and feel with. On the other hand, all these different kinds of media and materials lead to new design challenges for me: what is the best way to represent and organize them? How do I let the design speak for itself? Inspired by the format of archaeology exhibition, I created a fictional exhibition of artifacts and videos that have been found by future people who see them as cultural relics. By projecting the future back in the history, I wanted to contextualize people in a similar situation as we are today – as we are standing on the shoulders of giants, gazing at the landscape built and fouled up by ancestors, we should keep reminding ourselves where have we been and where we want to go.
By doing iterative making, prototyping and user testing, I was able to validate my concepts, improve the design with the feedback from real people and learnt from the failures.