Daan Roosegaarde’s Intimacy 2.0 dress
Here are some of the key characteristics of design trends emerging in everyday technology.
A major trend in personal electronics is wearable technology. Google Glass was the biggest headline in 2013: a hands-free computer with optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that allows you to connect to the web, take photos, record video, play games, make phone calls and more, using voice commands and a touch screen on the side of the head set. In 2014 a consumer version will be available for retail, which could just see people moving away from using handheld devices like mobile phones as we know them now.
Health-conscious wristbands like the Nike FuelBand and Jawbone UP make it increasingly easy to monitor and measure behaviour. Using a 3-axis accelerometer they track movement and sleep patterns, and let you input things like meals and mood, encouraging you to obtain personal goals.
High-tech fashion like Daan Roosegaarde’s Intimacy 2.0 dress and Anouk Wipprecht’s DareDroid are the haute couture of wearable technology. Intimacy 2.0 varies in degrees of transparency in response to the wearer’s heartbeat as she gets turned on, while the DareDroid engages the wearer and her suitor in a game of Truth or Dare before it dishes out cocktails. While not intended for everyday use, these garments viscerally explore how technology can mediate human interaction in public spaces, showing us just how far wearable technology could go!
Connected consumer electronics are becoming all the rage. Using technology like Bluetooth and RFID (radio-frequency identification) more and more of our electronic devices are going to be able to talk to each other in the near feature. Your phone can already connect via Bluetooth to portable speakers like Jawbone’s Jambox and Logitech’s UE Mobile Boombox while Smart Refrigerators can sync with your shopping list app to tell you which groceries are running low or reaching their shelflife. The next step is technology that will set a standard to allow all your devices and appliances to talk together, rather than being managed independently and creating a lot of work for the user. Soon the connected home of the future will become a reality.
It simulates experience
Masashi Kawamura, founder of creative lab PARTY, says that the essence of networked society is liberation from time and space. His 2013 exhibition “Being There” explores the notion that advances in technology mean you don’t have to be present to experience something. “Being there” is less important than ever before – whether it’s a game that simulates extreme sports, Google Hangouts that lets you host meetings with colleagues around the globe or 3D scanners that can reproduce lifelike three-dimensional digital forms. Future trends will see combinations of technologies developed for gaming, film, communications and other, more niche industries to come up with even more advanced simulated experiences.
“UX” or user experience has been a catchphrase in all streams of design for some time, particularly within digital design. And a big part of great UX is aesthetic appeal because, let’s face it, we like things that look and feel good. Good design is so much more than mere functionality and designers today are realising that a product must not only work well but look and feel incredibly sexy to have a competitive edge. Sexy is also subjective and the key to satisfy a range of tastes is customisability. Gone are the days of Ford’s famous policy “You can have any colour as long as it’s black”! We’ll be seeing more and more room for customisation in our gadgets of the future.
It’s DIY and open-source
New technologies are breaking the barrier between user and producer. The Raspberry Pi is doing that for IT, encouraging more young people to learn to write code. The super low-cost, credit-card-sized computer is about as powerful as a new smartphone and gives tech junkies the basis to build and customise their own PC. Now software extensions are hitting the market, like Coder by Google Creative Lab. Coder turns the Raspberry Pi into a basic web server with a web development environment, providing the tools for building the web. Another score for DIY-ers is 3d printing, something that’s billed to herald in the next industrial revolution. Chocolate, human organs, fashion, ornaments and toys are just some of the things being designed and printed in 3D, with a technology that makes once-offs and home production economically viable for the first time.
It’s community conscious
Can creativity change the world? Designers of today think so and one of the biggest growing trends is technology that makes a real difference to people’s lives and communities. 2013 Index award winner Smart Highway creates interactive and sustainable roads that generate their own electricity for street lights, communicate with drivers when roads are slippery and even charge your car as you drive. British designers Hellicar and Lewis are using interaction design to create therapeutic software for people with autism. MIT’s Senseable City Laboratory explores the real-time city, looking for ways to harness new technologies to create a more sustainable future living in urban environments. Smart technology for the greater good is our favourite emergent trend in the world of tech.
_This is the original version of the story written for COSMOPOLITAN, December 2013 edition. See the edited (COSMO-fied) version from the magazine here._