The user experience: An interactive future
CDP is a member of Cambridge Wireless, a group which promotes the use of wireless technologies and hosts Special Interests Group (SIG) events in the Cambridge area. Robert Curtis, an industrial designer at CDP attended, and co-led an open debate; at the User Experience (UX) SIG event last month where the discussion was how new and emerging technologies might enable improved user experience in the next decade. Given that the past ten years has included innovations such as multi-touch screens and the proliferation of wireless devices, it was fascinating to hear what each of the speakers thought the future might hold, and what effect this would have on our daily lives.
• Jan Poesse of Philips research described a future in which lighting and information are seamlessly integrated into public and domestic spaces.
• Dr Jenny Tillotson showed examples of her research into scent and how this could be incorporated into clothing and fashion. Various embodiments showed scent as a way for users to communicate their feelings toward one another, in addition to improving mental health and wellbeing.
• Jason Williams of Orange Labs showcased a video in which smartphone users were able to interact with billboards in an engaging manner. In his example chasing a projected image on the pavement resulted in a free drink voucher.
• Ben Vaughn, CEO of ARToolworks, described his company’s pioneering work in augmented reality. The admission that ‘there are as yet no practical uses’ was greeted with much laughter.
• Lastly, Robert Curtis’ open debate was on the subject of good and bad examples of UX design with a focus on user interfaces.
All four of the speakers made references to science fiction in their visions of the future, establishing a strong link between the pure creativity of individuals and the subsequent reality for the masses.
Whilst on some levels this appeared implausible, the examples given of past visions and their real-world embodiments were somewhat sobering. The search function of a smart phone has more than a passing resemblance to Douglas Adams’ vision of a HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy. The ship’s computer on Star Trek has much the same intelligence and humour of Apple’s speech invoked search tool Siri. Jan Poesse put forward the theory that in general, the fruits of over-active imaginations can become reality in around 20 years or so.
Of particular interest to those attending (most from a product development background) were the predictions for enabling technologies that will be dramatically improving and defining the user experience of future products. There was some consensus that technology will be integrated into the world around us: from the clothes we wear to the walls of buildings. Why carry around a smartphone if you can interact with your desk or the bus stop you pass every morning? Low power electronics, cloud computing and smart fabrics are likely to make this vision a reality in the not too distant future.
CDP is currently working on an internal project that is a vision of the interactive future within businesses that aims to use technology and a smart user interface to bring better outcomes for staff and employers. We aim to launch this innovation soon so watch this space!
CDP is often involved not only with developing new products on behalf of our clients, but also defining long term strategies for their ambitions in any given market. To do this, and to develop our own new products, we must be aware of current and emerging technologies, socio and economic trends that better inform our design thinking. Events which bring passionate professionals together, such as the Cambridge Wireless SIG are a great way to share and debate the ideas, products and users of tomorrow.