Imagineering the Fully Digitized Future


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"Imagineering the Fully Digitized and Connected Future," a panel presented at the 2010 South by Southwest Interactive Festival.

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  • Welcome to our session, “Imagineering the Fully Digitized and Connected Future,” where we’ll be taking a painless and discreet trip, not centuries into the future, but just five short years. Horizons was the name of a dark ride attraction at Epcot (then known as EPCOT Center), a park at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida USA . Located on the eastern side of the "Future World" section of Epcot, the attraction used Disney 's Omnimover conveyance system, which took guests past show scenes depicting visions of the future. It is believed to be the sequel to Walt Disney 's Carousel of Progress , an attraction in Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World 's Magic Kingdom . Horizons was the only attraction in "Future World" to showcase all of Epcot's "Future World" elements: communication, community interaction, energy, transportation, anatomy, physiology, along with man's relationship to the sea, land, air, and space. The attraction officially opened on October 1, 1983, as part of Phase II of Epcot . Horizons originally closed in 1994 after General Electric ended sponsorship of the attraction. It was temporarily reopened in 1995 due to the closure of other attractions for refurbishment in "Future World." The attraction permanently closed on January 9, 1999, after which the attraction was dismantled and its structure demolished to make room for Mission: SPACE , a motion simulator thrill ride that officially opened on October 9, 2003.
  • I’ll be one of your four guides, I’m Dan Willis and I’m a user experience consultant for Sapient. Our other guides are:
  • The idea of imagineering is to describe a future reality and there’s a couple ways to do that. You could take the Star Trek approach, where you figure out what you want the future to be like and then you imagine the tools that would support that ideal future state. With this process, you get cool things like communicators, which pretty much came to pass, but you also get transporters, which aren’t quite there.
  • The other way to do your imagineering is to take the Blade Runner approach where you start with today’s reality and imagine how it might extend into the future. In this scene, people in the future have developed complex machines that they use to gauge humanity, but if you’ll notice, they also haven’t moved past green screen displays. This more practical imagineering approach is the one we’ll use today.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 2015. It may be hard to imagine, but you entered this room five years ago. In those 1,825 days since, two very important things have happened. One, every kind of content or data you can imagine has been completely digitized. This doesn’t mean that physical artifacts have gone away, far from it, it just means that all things at all times are capable of being communicated from one machine to another. Directly related to the massive digitization, all barriers for individuals to have the ability to connect to one another have been obliterated. A slew of complex negotiations have taken place and will contine to happen, but everybody now has the techinical ability to connect to anyone else. We live in exciting times.
  • We’ll be breaking the day up into segments with each one of us talking about a different four-hour span during the same day. I’ll be taking the first segment of the day. Are you ready? Your day begins at 6 a.m.
  • You’re dreaming of electric sheep when a quiet beep gets louder and louder until you finally open your eyes. Groggy, you stick your hand in the air. Your bedroom’s sensors notice and project the time and current weather onto your hand.
  • When you stick your other hand in the air, your home data center projects information about the rest of the family. Your wife is next to you asleep and your daughter is still knocked out in her own room, but it looks like the dog has been up for awhile. His activity is tracked by a sensitve pressure pad on the floor of his kennel that collects the rate of footfalls and tracks his heartrate, both of which appear to be highly elevated at the moment. You better get out of the bed before he wakes everybody else up.
  • After securing the dog and taking care of the basic necessities, you step outside for a run before work. You stick a fully recyclable sensor to the small of your back like a bandaid. The sensor sends respitory and heartrate information to the computer on your wrist that tracks your location and pace by satellite GPS. The old sensors were bulky by comparison, so these sticky ones are a big improvement. By contrast, the device on your wrist hasn’t changed much over the last few years. What happens to the data, however, has changed quite a bit. Your data is now sent instantly to your family data core housed in a secure server farm in Selfoss, Iceland. In real-time, the data is also shared with your virtual running club. It’s a highly competitive collection of running friends you’ve collected over the years. Your biggest rival is a childhood friend you haven’t seen in 20 years, but who you’ll be going head-to-head with this morning. Some of your biological data is also made available to your primary care physician’s patient tracking system and a combination of biological and distance and pace data is made available to a new foot doctor you’re working with to deal with some foot pain you’ve been experiencing.
  • After your run, you step into the shower in the master bathroom, the only area in the house that doesn’t include some kind of data collection or delivery. Some people access digitized home entertainment in their bathrooms and use devices to track their dental health or analyze their bodily fluids, but you and your family decided to opt out. You’ve found that the greater the volume of digitized data available in life, the greater the need for moments of a sort of personal radio silence.
  • Your home’s data system temporarily stores all data in the house’s second largest appliance, the refrigerator. The idea of scheduled television programming now seems quaint. Every program is available at any time. You set up your daughter’s favorite Penguins of Madagascar episode to start as soon as she enters the kitchen later in the morning. For you, the more interesting video is the stuff getting pumped out of the local grocery store. A couple of years ago, entrepreneurs realized that stores constantly broadcast unsecured video from their security cameras and that has pretty much squashed the popularity of all other reality programming. Your fridge is programmed to randomly display artwork from your child’s databases. Even with all this flashy technology, fridge magnets like the ladybug there never seem to completely go away. The bottom of the fridge displays a dashboard for all of your home’s major systems including energy use and efficiency and the charging status of every device and automobile connected to the system. Your fridge is almost the perfect appliance, which makes it all the more frustrating that the ice maker has never worked correctly.
  • Over the last five years, public transportation has become both easier and more difficult to deal with. The nice part is that when you walked out of your house, you had your home system broadcast your intention to get to the metro station. After walking just a couple of blocks towards the station, you got picked up by another participant in the program who had broadcast their intention to drive there. The guy is a stranger, the transportation app takes care of the two of you finding one another. The guy is also a little scary looking, but the security investigation for all participants is rigorous so you feel safe getting into the car. Drivers get energy credits for every rider they take with them. The downside of public transportation is all of the advertising. In your short ride to the office, you get bombarded with both two- and three-dimensional video ads, a live broadcast of a presidential speech, a loop of archival American Idol episodes, a real-time, moving satellite map showing the location of the train car as well as nearby Starbucks, and direct buying opportunities (one of which you take advantage of to have a 24-pack of toilet paper sent home).
  • Your office has replaced all of its cubicles with communal computing tables. After pressing your fingers on the surface to login, you can access everything you need to do your job. Some of your co-workers are designing on the communal computing tabletop, others are reading the morning’s news, and others are having their first client meeting with a client working out of their home in Australia. When you need to type, you drag over the projected keyboard; when you need to send a message to somebody else at the table, you slide the virtual document in their direction; and when you need to save a document to the network servers, you slide it to the middle of the table. Vendors learned quickly that if you put some sort of target at the middle of the table, folks had fewer problems. There’s a moving hockey hologram at the center of your table today. It looks like Canada is up by two scores.
  • Following a trend that came out of the end of the last century, there is very little privacy in the workplace. When functionality or privacy issues do come up, you can grab an adustable screen from the umbrella stand in the break room. Once you manipulate all sides of the screen to your liking, you rest it on the table and all information is available through the screen. When you’re done, you retract the screen and return the scroll.
  • You’ve just finished having coffee with an old college friend at Starbucks and it’s a beautiful spring day so you decide to walk back to the office through the park. You study one of the many a blossoming cherry trees.
  • You learn that this particular tree was one of the original trees given to the United States by the Japanese in 1912.  It’s over 103 years old now and one of only 90 that remain of the original 3,020 that were part of the gift. A ringing in your ear brings you out of this stream of consciousness reverie and sucks you back into the here and now.  You hit the “talk” button on your earbud and the voice of your calendar reminds you of an appointment in 15 minutes.  Ah, no chance to skip the rest of your workday.  You take a readying breathe, focus on the path ahead and walk with purpose back to your office..
  • As you settle into your chair, you plug your earbud into your device and insert a micro lens so you can join the meeting that is taking place 350 miles away from where you are. You login to the meeting just in time. About half way through the meeting, a colleague returns to his desk so you unplug your earbud and put it in – no need to make him suffer through your tedious meeting.  It’s bad enough that you’re being subjected to a bad Powerpoint presentation, no need to subject him to the droning voice as well. 
  • Mercifully, the meeting ends in time for you to get some paperwork done and some emails answered before lunchtime. While you are typing away, it occurs to you that you should try that new version of Dragon Speaking so you can just dictate your e-mails.  That certainly was a promise for the future that came to pass – speech recognition is outstanding now.  It’s just that the everyday usefulness of it wasn’t as big as people once thought it might be. Funny how that works –the expected  uses disappoint and the unexpected astound. Your daughter’s birthday is coming up.  As you’re walking out of the office, you pull up your daughter’s profile to annotate her world as you walk through downtown. It takes a moment for the biometrics scanner to authenticate you – so long that you think you might have to do a password reset – but then it catches it right and you’ve got it.
  • As you walk, you can see the stores your daughter checked into last weekend with her girlfriends. There are a number of ways to get brand name clothes selected, purchased, and custom-created, but now you see that your daughter gave a double thumbs up to a store just down the street. 
  • You watch a video your daughter posted trying on a new outfit at the store ahead.  Amazing how kids these days seem to video everything.  Thankfully, the Parental Control Act of 2014 enforces strict access rights to parents of their kids online activity.  Since she knows you check that stuff out, everything she posts has at least some restraint.  There’s still plenty of teenage silliness, but not like the problems that were happening early in the decade with teen sexting and the like.  While It still feels Big Brother-ish, it has its uses and she is still your little girl.  And ever since President Palin was elected there was plenty more to worry about than parents looking over the shoulders of their kids.
  • Inside the little shop, it’s decidedly old school. Sewing machines, mannequins, orange pin holders, and other equipment you don’t recognize.  Clearly, they  make all their clothes by hand here rather than using the kinds of 3D printers and offshore textile customizers that are now all the rage. Oh, and this shop, they don’t seem to even have an online storefront.    You talk to the owner, Stella, and she remembers your daughter and her friends.  “Nice kids,” she says.  Your daughter seemed to love this,” as she holds up what seems to be a cape.  You touch the fabric – it’s soft, like cashmere, but you also feel stiff lines, like ribs, running through it. Stella smiles and says “those are the fabric control rods.  Here, watch this.”
  • “ Wow.”  You want to ask how that works but know your on a tight time frame.  Instead you ask “how much?” knowing that the answer will be “too much.”  And you’re right.  “A bit out of my budget right now.  Thank you.”   Back to the drawing board on the gift.  Maybe, if this can be made by hand your daughter, who is very handy, could make one herself.  You make a note to see if Craft Magazine has kits for something like this. 
  • On the way back to the office, you remember you still haven't had lunch so you put a call out for nearby restaurants and any friends who might be in the area. The deli, just down the street has just sent out a 15-minute "short line" special. Better yet, an old friend has just checked in there as well.  While you don't have much time, you are happy you'll get to see an old friend while you get a bite to eat.  You walk quickly to get there while the special is still available. 
  • It's 2:00 and you've got a lot going on for a Friday, but not everything is official PBS business. It's also getting late in the day and you find yourself easily distracted. Your setup at PBS allows you to see the ongoing work of the designers that report to you. They can adjust how much you can see of their work and they can also switch off the feed at any time. You swipe a finger over Jones' feed and it pops up on your big screen. Jones is finishing up comp for a new broadcast coming to PBS KIDS called The Ice Pack. Jones is manipulating a 3D rendering of a cartoon penguin projected out of his monitor. He spins it around with his hands checking for bugs and stray nodes. The objects may be 3D but their brains are still lines of code. Jones hits a button and the penguin quacks. You ask your computer "do penguins quack?" A female voice replies "No. The call of the penguin most closely resembles..." You interrupt, "Doesn't matter". The computer stops and you say "Jones, penguins don't quack." Jones says, "Doesn't matter, it's placeholder. This penguin speaks English." Fair enough. The window past Jones penguin is dark. It's night where he is. It doesn't really matter where Jones is, as long as the comp is ready for the 3:30 meeting. You flip your screen back to your own work and switch on some music. It's a live broadcast of DC rapper Wale in the studio. It sounds like people arguing more than making music. Some ideas are cooler in theory than in practice.
  • It's 3:00 and you've got a bunch of proposals to watch - pitches of potential new PBS KIDS broadcasts. The lines between TV and the Web have become seriously blurred, if non-existent. Everything is on-demand and you choose to interact with the content as much or as little as you want. The proposals vary in completeness - one is just a video of a guy describing his idea while the Jim Henson Company's proposal scatters 3D singing clams onto your desk. While you watch the proposals, you wake up the PBS robot surrogate in London. It's used for face-to-face meetings or for strolling around the PBS offices in London just like you do in the U.S. Typically the robots are reserved for executives, but it's late on a Friday so nobody will miss it. You've got a few paintings in a show over there that opens tonight and you wouldn't miss it for the world! You set the surrogate's destination as the gallery on the West End of London and it rolls out of the building and heads for the nearest Tube station. It doesn't exactly move fast, but that's cool - it's going to be fashionably late.
  • It's 3:30. You detach a small screen from the rig at your desk and walk down the hallway to the PBS KIDS media den. You pull up Jones' feed on the small handheld panel and synch it with the room's 3-D projector. Angela, Nina and Scott arrive and Jones appears from his overseas office and walks you through the comp. The story involves the Ice Pack getting into a secret cave and the interactivity focuses on patterns. The penguins talk to Nina and help her pick up and place a number of colored 3D blocks in order. Once they are in order, the cave opens up but it's empty. This is just a comp, mind you. Silvia picks up a penguin and it kicks it's legs until she puts it down. A few minor tweaks aside, you will move full steam ahead next week. Jones' feed is now the "ZZZ" icon. He must have been pulling an all-nighter, wherever he is.
  • Back at your desk, it's 9:00 in London and you watch the surrogate explore the gallery. It finds your pieces. Your friend Jim in London shouts your name and awkwardly hugs the surrogate. You chat for a bit and he wants to go to the pub after the opening but obviously that won't work. The robot is company property and you can picture it getting knocked over and stepped on or tossed up on the roof by drunks. Plus, it's just not the same socializing with these things. Some posh ladies sneer at the robot as it wheels by them. People sometimes still look down on these primitive looking robots at fancy events, but there are about five others in the room. You chat with one of your designers, Nate in Mexico City, who is preparing to launch an update to PBS KIDS Reading Roadtrip - an interactive 3D literacy experience that puts kids in the drivers seat of a Winnebago - a FLYING Winnebago. You send the surrogate back to it's dock at PBS and pack up for the day. You detach your handheld screen and put it in your backpack. (It's one of yours.)
  • You leave the office at 5:00 and head for the subway. As you sit on the train, you put on headphones to block out all the ads on the train. On the handheld, you flip through your friends' feeds. Most of them have been blocked while they've been at work. Rich appears to be mountain biking up a hill overlooking Los Angeles. Jared is sitting in a metro car similar to this one. Sherry is staring at her husband across the table in a rib restaurant. There are cameras in everything: hats, watches, glasses, necklaces, coffee mugs and this handheld. Each person's feed consists of multiple views of where they are. Forget about self-reporting, now everyone can see for themselves in real time. Most of your employees are blocked out now. Mark, a guy you barely know from high school, is watching a movie. You haven't seen it yet so you temporarily block him. You watch Jim in London at the pub playing darts, debating with some other artists and watching a band. It's entertaining. The train ride isn't that long. Almost home.  You hope the surrogate robot made it back to the office; those things are expensive.
  • You check how many hours of flow you got today. How many hours did you spend socializing, designing, meeting? The tracker asks for your feedback: You rate each activity in terms of how much energy you got out of it vs. the recording of the tracker. The system compares your stats to those of your friends with similar jobs. What’s your energy level right now? You see you could use a little rest. The stats manager pre-populates your program with activities for the evening. It knows your energy needs, your history, your friend’s recommendations and it works around your calendar constraints to plan the perfect evening. You see that tonight you will be taking a nap, picking up a new dress, going to a dinner at a new joint and playing games. You approve the program. Why not?
  • Your day was super connected, full of information. This is why your personal tracker knows you need a few minutes of calm and solitude. The tracker searches for a Nap Pods around you and schedules the closest one available for 15 min. You walk to the pod and swipe your phone as ID. You walk and lay down the cocoon You hear nothing from the outside world. Your breathing levels are reflected as blue waves on the inside of the shell. You calm down completely.
  • FIT FACTORY is an app that stores your measurements and connects you to a community of brilliant designers and pattern makers. THE 3dKnit PRINTER is an eco friendly clothes machine that creates new clothes and unbridles old clothes to re-uses them. It’s a new chain of printing stations – somewhat like a post office. You love clothes made to fit! You browse FIT FACTORY to see the new designs the community has uploaded. You search for a cocktail dress, one shoulder. You select the design and apply it to your measurements. You authorize the payment with your password, and send it to the 3dKNIT printer. You check the address for the printer and start walking. 15 min later. You bring your old clothes to the 3DKnit Printer so they can be undone and the materials reused. You pick up your newly printed dress and head home.
  • FuG , short for Fugasm, is a genetics based cuisine that uses personal DNA profiles to optimize the dining experience. This is a swanky new restaurant. To get a reservation, You had to submit your DNA sample data and bio data from the Personal Tracker . The chef claims that he used DNA patterns to optimize the dining flavors for each customer. He uses FMRI to track the pleasure centers of people who eat his food and tweak the recipes. The waiter’s tips are calculated based on how many times you hit the floor, stunned with the joy of food. You aren’t sure about the claims, but you had to give it a try. The dinner is amazing, but something’s wrong with the desert. Your desert is ok, but when you reach to try that of your dining partner – oh, his is way better. As you finish his desert you wonder what went wrong with the testing. As you exit the restaurant, your personal tracker wants to confirm if the readings of high positive energy were indeed correct. Correct!
  • Imagineering the Fully Digitized Future

    1. South by Southwest Interactive Festival 2010
    38. <ul><li>Overlapping Concepts </li></ul><ul><li>Stitching device, rather than multi-function device </li></ul><ul><li>Every surface is a screen </li></ul><ul><li>Life is not radically different, except for the details </li></ul><ul><li>Buying things bleeds into most other areas </li></ul>
    39. <ul><li>How to Get These Slides </li></ul><ul><li>Follow @uxcrank on Twitter for announcements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SlideShare </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>YouTube </li></ul></ul>