The Dulling Of Digital

Dulling Of Digital

In answer to: Digital is getting very dull. Surely it's time for complete re-invention of the norm. Some serious inspiration. Imagination. True originality. Not design, Jira ticket. Limited by off shore development. Anyone got anything genuinely innovative to share? 

This questions was posted on LinkedIn by a person from the UK who describes themselves as a design director, designer and consultant… well Clare, this answer is for you… and anyone else who cares to read.

Digital has been my career since the turn of the century, so I've ridden the highs and lows, gone through a couple of dotcom runs, the roll out of web 2.0, watched e-commerce thrive and been responsible for taking mobile devices from voice only to hand-held Internet connected all singing-dancing damn near fuckin' super computers… so yes, this is a topic I know I'm qualified to wade into whole-heartedly.

Over that time I can call out where imagination and innovation have created shifts, leading to where we are now… such as consumer data for mobile phones, touch enabled devices, web based applications (email especially), WYISWYG design and development tools and near-real/real time read and write data bases… I know that all seems pretty boring, but if pause for a moment these broad ideas have led to many specific innovations, such as Internet based banking, e-commerce, business opportunities and engaging with government departments. We can now co-operate with co-workers based almost anywhere in the world in real-time via Internet enabled messaging, voice and video.

The hot trends right now are around supplementing our current engagement in the world about us via Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR)… however it's not really original or innovative. The concept of both is pretty much been with humans since… well, since we became humans. There is ample evidence we have always looked both inward and outward for ways to engage with the world around us. It's just been in more recent centuries we have started to apply more levels of technology.

I'll make this easy for you to understand, so you can see through the AR/VR bullshit that's being chucked about… when I was seven, through in-school testing, it was identified I had a vision problem. My Mum took me into the central hospital for testing, where I was diagnosed with myopia (short-sighted) and that I would need to wear glasses. And I have worn corrective lenses pretty much ever since… in short, I live my life in a permanent state of AR and I'm generally pretty fuckin' happy about that. If I'd been born before the 20th Century, there's a good chance I'd have lived my life not being able to see anything clearly that existed beyond my arms length.

So clearly AR is not that original…

As for VR… well in it's essentially another in-built human desire with a layer of technology thrown in… humans have always been story tellers and story listeners, we desire and crave stories that we can become so absorbed in, we can shift our own reality (even momentarily), via imagination to be within it. In our heads we virtually go there… it's our desire to hold on to our dreams in a woken state…

Let me be clear… I'm not taking the curmudgeon role of 'you fucking kids know nothing'… it's more look through the noise and look for real opportunities to innovate and engage with people in a way that's whole hearted and will make a difference.

So I'm going to throw out some bread-crumbs of where designers and developers should be mucking about to create and drive some innovation…

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence… though I'm less inclined personally to use the term AI, a better term is Intelligent Response (IR… y'all can thank me for the defining it later… I accept coffee, food and mountain bike components as valid payment), where using real-time matching of inputted data (text, voice etc.) becomes a first line solution for customer interactions. We are a long way off from creating true AI (as true AI will be conscious and aware... remember that people "conscious and aware"), but a lot of progress is being made in IR, what it needs though is a lot of work in how it can be deployed. A current examples is the generally limited chat-bots that abound, handling text and voice inquires, however these are essentially an enhanced IVR (Interactive Voice Response) designed to gateway customers.

An IR system will respond to the customer instantly, based on who they are and their relationship (new, existing etc.) to your organisation and move from there. I can imagine an IR system in a retail environment that recognises an existing customer as the enter and the provides the staff with names, purchasing history, preferences etc. thus enabling the staff to focus on providing high quality personal service.

Also you could look at IR to help enable and deliver online e-commerce experiences, utilising cookie data, localisation and when a customer confirms their identity, matching to previous purchases/behaviour.

The next bread-crumb is simplification and integration of identity… digital interaction has been pushed out increasingly to ensure our devices have become more complex and capable of multiple functions, where the best example is a mobile phone that now: contains a still camera, music player, movement monitor, location tracking, Internet connected, game device, video camera, payment enabler… and the list keeps growing. This explosion of multifunctional capability has crept into so many things, televisions, fridges, cars and juice extractors… and with them has come a complexity of hardware, software and operating systems… it's more than a Koala-can-fucking-bear.

The way is open for those who can turn the digital (and non-digital) interactions toward simpler analogue behaviour, with the 'heavy lifting' is done the background by the digital enablement.

For example, imagine a key that can be used to access your car, your home, your office and when needed gives you access to your neighbours house to feed their cat… but it's a clearly a key, something as humans we have been hard-wired to identify for the last couple of thousand years, and not an application, interactive card and some other crazy shit.

As I said designers, the solution lies in making the 'heavy lifting' happen in the background, control of the identity and security. This is moving away from the current trend of placing the technology at the front of function.

I'd be keen to here what others may have to say… please discuss.

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