Designing for Emerging Technologies


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A Call to Arms

Since the dawn of technology, humanity has lived with both its benefits and burdens. The fire that cooks our food also burns our hands; the mills and factories that produce our clothes often pollute our water and air; the computers that process our data sometimes crash and send our mission-critical records into oblivion. From the Agricultural to the Industrial to the Information Revolution, humanity has enjoyed great advantages from technology, but we have suffered the consequences of flawed thinking regarding its use, resulting in wasteful consumption of our world’s resources, problems for our environment, and social disruption. Humanity enters the new millennium struggling with the challenges we’ve created for ourselves in areas from energy to infrastructure, transportation to healthcare, and manufacturing to agriculture. To address these challenges, we will no doubt turn once again to technology: in the coming century, we’ll be able to hack our DNA, embed computers in our bodies, and print replacement organs. The question is, what will we do when we find ourselves with the capability to do just about anything we can dream of?

To explore that question—at least from a design perspective—let’s consider the implications of four significant emerging technologies whose growth, maturation, and widespread commercial adoption has the potential to disrupt the current economic order:

  • A networked, intelligent world connected by the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • More efficient and effective manufacturing, healthcare, and disaster relief aided by advanced robotics
  • Custom, just-in-time manufacturing, driven by additive fabrication/3D printing
  • Medicine, food, and fuel created by altering the code of life itself, through genomics and synthetic biology

Through the lens of these disruptive technologies, we’ll look at what designing products, services, and experiences for people might require and examine some of the high-level user experience (UX) tenets practitioners might consider when approaching the design for such new fields.

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