The Evolution of Experience Design for Near Future Technology
The application of experience design can be traced back to as early as 1500’s when a Duke of Milan commissioned Leonardo Da Vinci to arrange a feast for a large dinner party. Famous for his dietary practices along with inventions, Leonardo Da Vinci created a kitchen space with several innovative inventions like a large sprinkler as a safety measure in case of fire, a large oven for cooking at higher temperatures and made several other changes to the kitchen. Known as Leonardo’s ‘Kitchen Nightmare’, in the history books it is marked as a failed attempt due to several reasons including the small size of the kitchen space and the kitchen staff not being familiar with these technologies. Failure however as it was, shows us one of the earliest of examples of how environments can be changed and adapted for a better behavior and experience in a certain context.
Experience Design as the term is not strictly limited to design. It is a methodology that can be applied to any subject that has the tendency to be interacted with physically, mentally or remotely. It is a conjunction of behavioral, emotional and mental processes that happen or occur within the moments of interaction with a device, an item or a place. On the launch of the iPod, Steve Jobs states ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” (Steve Jobs 2000)’. The resultant outcome of such interactions; at a visceral, mental or physical level is called user-experience. User Experience is a reaction that occurs after interaction on such levels, and Experience Design is the method which is applied to a system to generate certain demanded experiences of a situation. Such as Leonardo’s Nightmare Kitchen may not be an experience well appraised but yet, it is still remembered and taken as a study.
User Experience, however, is not very different from the experiences a person has in his daily routines and lifestyle. “An experience occurs when a customer has any sensation or knowledge acquisition resulting from some level of interaction with different elements of a context created by a service provider…” (Gupta and Vajic 1999). For instance having a long walk on a beach at dawn or as simple as pouring wine into a beautifully crafted wine glass is also an experience. It is the chunk of time that accumulates certain feelings, impressions, and reactions upon a given interaction. In this essay Experience Design is referred to as a method applied to the usage of technology or technological devices.
Businesses and service providers have always relied upon data and data-driven strategies to manage and maintain their services. With the rise of technological era and high-speed communication, the processes have changed. Today it is not about how many people like to drink beverages instead of water but how people consume those drinks and in what manner, place, or a setting. Their data is now more directed towards how people behave and why do they behave so and much later towards how many. “Successful experiences are those that the customer finds unique, memorable and sustainable over time, would want to repeat and build upon, and enthusiastically promotes via word of mouth” (Pine & Gilmore, n.d). As an example, Coca-Cola connects with its consumers with the slogan ‘Open Happiness’, which is an emotional trigger that helps the brand relates their consumers to its product on an emotional level. The slogan indicates the experience a consumer will have when he or she opens the bottle of Coca-Cola, that is receive-happiness. In the same way, the experience design is installed in most of the technological devices we use in our daily lives, for instance, a mobile phone.
In the current era of technology, people are now more than just connected to the devices. They are part of these devices and the devices are the part of them, the two are so interconnected with each other that one is incomplete without the other. “We have such an intimate relationship with our mobile devices, we expect them to be extensions of ourselves” (Frost 2017). People possess such a close relationship with their mobile devices, they take it as their accession. Relying on them for the deliverance of content and utility at the very instance. Certainly, a mobile phone itself is a shiny brick without a user, and a user whose mornings depends on an alarm-clock or whose business depends upon remote availability is handicapped without the devices and also the Internet – the medium that connects us around the globe. Unlike previous generations, in this era, even the products as small as a bicycle bell are reinvented and repurposed for better sounds, better looks, and easy usage. Although people created technology but now it is the technology that forms and designs us through it’s passively accepted existence and application in our lives.
The Technology of today connects with people on such an intimate level that sometimes it is hard to imagine an action without technology. It is clear that the designer’s ‘field of operation’ (a phrase I have borrowed from the Dutch graphic designer and educator Jan Van Toorn) has changed considerably in recent years. A major influence on this has been, and continues to be, technology.” (Noble, Bestley and Lupton, 2014). A few decades ago, it took a complete day, a lot of effort and a team of several people of a certain skill set to design a simple graphic poster which may be required to change if the client does not like it. Today a single, skilled, graphic designer can produce more than ten poster designs along with their revisions. A painting that took hours to complete and for the subject to stay still for longer periods of times, is now a click away after the invention of the camera and then the progression of photography and photographic techniques. The experience here may be shorter but smarter and more beautiful. Smarter experiences are subtle, cohesive and are often generated from unconscious decisions.
The experience from a certain interaction can be good or bad and can be very or least memorable, although sometimes even bad experiences are memorable. The good experiences are smarter experiences as they often happen in the least of our concentrative moments. Joe Sparano from Oxide Design puts it as “Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.” (Sparano, 2017). The self-driving Tesla vehicles, fingerprint sensor at the back of Nexus 6P – Google Phone, a quick photo or video sent via Snapchat. These all are the examples of emotional and experiential design. One can have a power nap on a long drive in a Tesla car by switching on the self-driving mode, a user unlocks the phone with its fingerprint sensor while taking it out from the pocket seamlessly due to its ingenious positioning at the back of the phone, a person can share his photos and videos on Snapchat without the worries of its leak. The well-crafted experience of these devices is so subtle it is sometimes spontaneous and visceral.
The Emotional Design is the key aspect of a successful integration of Experience Design in a device or technology. How a person behaves with and around a device and how the same person will behave the next time he comes in contact with the device depends on the experience he had and the emotions that were triggered during the interaction. For instance, a major share of mobile phone users check their mobile phones instantly after they wake up, another example is how people keep checking their Facebook profiles regardless of if there are any notifications or not, often called Addictive Design or Addictive Experience Design. Although some experiences are unintentional, and in-deliberate but these too form the overall perception of the time a person is willing to spend on the device. In the current age of fast growing technology, Pokemon Go is a great example of such Experience Design.
Strategic online games are also well known by their excellent graphic, it’s one of the reasons why they’ve become so popular. People love the details that make them feel close to reality. Gaming is not only an entertainment but is currently a lucrative business, you’re now able to find exclusive guides for OverWatch and many other services all dedicated to specific game. Pokemon Go is a mobile phone game, which uses Augmented Reality to display Pokemon characters in real life and the user has to capture them through the phone game. This game was a success due to its cult following for Pokemon as well it’s addictive augmentation in the reality. Augmented Reality is a virtual layer created over real life which can be seen through devices such as mobile phones. Now the question is how the Experience Design of the future will look like? Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and 3D Printing are the technologies of the present, however, they are also the tools that will shape the future of the technology yet to come. On the other hand, Artificial Intelligence will be on rising. Artificial Intelligence, as the name itself, explains is the entity that, same as the user, will learn to adapt, behave and interact with the world; learning through its experiences and the behaviors it encounters.
This AI entity would be of any shape, a robot, a future phone, a kitchen appliance or even the software of a car. They will adapt, learn and behave and improvise over time just like humans. As Eric Schmidt from Google states
“Computers will clearly handle things we aren’t good at, and we will handle the things computers clearly aren’t good at… The Internet of things will augment your brain.” (Eric Schmidt).
The experiences Artificial Intelligence will encounter with the rest of the technology, the learnings it will absorb from the world, the information it will collect will shape the post-future technology of the world. Certainly, there will be some dangerous outcomes, as hand-written letters were replaced by telephone, telephone later was replaced by mobile phones and computers. On some extent and in some ways, Artificial Intelligence will have the power to replace human beings. And that is the query of this essay. It is crucial for the methodology of Experience Design to evolve and update with technology on an automated level. To control and provide a monitored set of something as subtle and passive as an experience to the AI will be difficult.
To maintain and to keep under control this future technological, artificial, entity; it is important to understand the subject of Experience Design as deeply as possible. And it is even more critical to create current technology within the understanding of what kinds of experiences it will provide, not only while in the use but with its existence in the world. Genevieve Bell an Australian anthropologist explains this as
“… where much of AI is now, but is actually about nurture and care. If those become the buzzwords, then you sit in this very interesting moment of being able to pivot from talking about human-computer interactions to human-computer relationships.” (Bell 2016).
To develop such relationships it is crucial to understand the other partner, its feelings, behaviour and reactions but how can this be done when the partner learns and adapts from you?
Designing Experiences for the Future Technology will be difficult, or maybe not because the technology will be capable of designing their own experience and living in them. Human beings expect the future technology to act as their pet and follow their commands as computers and mobile phones do today, However, it might not be actually possible due to the extent of the power of decision making and understanding these technologies will hold, ultimately because they had learned from the human beings previously. Nonetheless, it can be perceived that if the technology will evolve on the learnings from the human behavior and interactions, it is going to be un-uniform, chaotic, and miss-informed. Although, with close connections and deep understanding the technologies might turn flawlessly interactive.
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