Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Designing the Future 1a

Last night I finally had time to slip into one of the Philips Design meetups. Due to scheduling issues I hadn't been able to attend before so I was glad I finally had the chance to meet up with the Philips Design Crew.

It was quite a session, over 2.5 hours of full-scale brainstorm on 3 topics, giving me over 14 pages of textlog to read back and condence. This will be a post in bits and pieces I think.

Don't predict the future, design it!

The sessions are titled "Designing the Future" and today's introduction was given by Centrasian Wise, one of Philips Design's inworld evangelists.

"We plan to have a series of interesting discussions with you and these discussions will be about …. the future! As we say in the panels at the top there, we don’t want to predict the future, we want to design it, or rather co-design it with people, with you.

In the next few months we will be holding a series of meetings here in SL to share our ideas and our work but also to learn what you think about them. The meeting today is an introduction to this new series."

Design Probes

Philips themselves have been thinking about the future themselves for some time now;

"Already for some years now Philips Design is carrying a design research program called Design Probes. It is an in-house future research program that explores what new lifestyles and people behaviors might emerge in the future and under 'future' we mean 2020 for these discussions. This program was set up to identify long term social changes and to anticipate changes in future lifestyles. It's far enough to already expect changes, but still foreseable.
So, we study new and emerging technology, socio-cultural trends and possible effects of political, economic and environmental changes.
Based on this knowledge, we then design a number of ‘probes’, or visionary concepts we call 'Probes'.
They reflect our understanding of potential futures, but also provoke and challenge existing assumptions. For example, our Design Probe Program wants to challenges the notion that our lives are automatically better because they are more digital.So, In the coming weeks we will present some of the results of this program."

Since Philips is a technology and digital gadgetting firm, that last remark shouts profit driven motivation. Or is there a more social spark driving the Probes?

"You'll have to see in the coming weeks whether it is technology-drive or people-driven :)."

Just like any good traditional sermon, this brainstorm session came in three topics:

  1. The future of self-expression
  2. The future of packaging
  3. The future of clothing

Where does it all lead to? Is Philips going into virtual clothing business in Second Life, or are we up to new and exciting adventures with self-thinking or self-guiding boots?

The Future of Self-Expression

After the the introduction the group split into three smaller groups for some severe brainstorming, almost good enough to call it a MindBlizzard. My little group saw Centrasian himself als moderator and also consisted of Ugotrade blogger Tara5 Oh and Implenia / EOLUS founder and thoughtleader Eolus McMillan and several other residents with backgrounds in Design and Technology as well. This made up for the producing end of the chain, it would have been good to see some from the receiving end (i.e. consumers) in there, so I went a little into skeptical mode.

The question at hand is how technology can augment our senses and the senses of those we communicate and interact with.

The discussion spiraled down to sensor technologies, or as Tara put it:

"I am particularly interested about how sensor/actuator networkscan enhance self expression in hyper connected eletronic environment s in new ways. By that I mean how can the kind of emotional bandwidth these kind of sensor technologies bring to communication be integrated into an immersive social networking environment like SL..... phew that is a bit long winded! But reall what are the interesting ways biometric sensors can be introduced into networked virtual environments?"

Now we don't have to get all creepy about Matrix-like plugins or neuropods from Tad William's Otherland series, or Neil Stephenson's Snowcrash visors. Here's some of the discussion:

[12:11] Tara5 Oh: but id i can't say it here where can I!
[12:11] Centrasian Wise: But would happen if we would add ‘sensing technology’ to our bodies?
[12:12] Centrasian Wise: Enhance it? Amplify?
[12:12] Una Gackt: I hope it would not be our body, but thinking things.
[12:12] Tara5 Oh: well I like the idea of the mutual enhancement of virtual and real environment through biometric sensors could be quite simple
[12:13] Tara5 Oh: like communicating the way you are feeling to a group on online friends
[12:13] Tara5 Oh: could be quite complex and move into the extreme life logging area
[12:13] Centrasian Wise: Like, to show your emotional state?
[12:13] Eolus McMillan: hehe to apply the expression in RL to your avatar in sL
[12:13] Tara5 Oh: yes!
[12:14] Tara5 Oh: and then combine that with some of the special communicative qualities of this eletronice environment

Well that's all folks for today. I'll have to find some time to put up the other two topics, which partly intertwine with the above discussion.

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