Designing Tech To Stay Ahead Of Cultural Shifts [PSFK CONFERENCE SF]

PSFK talks with Gadi Amit about how by envisioning the near future we can reinvent the gadgets that we use to be more efficient and imaginative.

PSFK is excited to have Gadi Amit as a speaker at PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO. Gadi is the principal designer at New Deal Design, a high end agency that imagines future uses of technology while adding interesting physical and information architecture to those objects. On November 1st, Gadi will discuss how to anticipate cultural shifts and the Lytro camera, a technology that enables users to refocus the subject in a picture after it is taken.

What does it mean to be an architect of advanced reality?

At New Deal Design, we encounter a lot of technologies that aren’t yet assimilated into people’s everyday lives, some of which are so cutting edge that people actually have no idea what the technology could be providing. We usually come in at the very beginning of a project, and allow both our clients and the general public to understand a new context around that technology. For instance, a camera that we’ve done for Lytro last year is using completely different imaging technology. It’s called light field imaging, and it allows you to post‑process a new focal point or a new depth of field; something completely different than has ever been done before. Up until a few years ago it was considered to be science fiction, or the sort of stuff that you’d find in some deep lab at Stanford.

We made it into a desirable object that has a great deal of usability and appeal. In doing so, we had to reconfigure all the mechanical internal components, from mechanical, electrical, and optical components, and also to rethink the user interface of the camera itself, down to the number of buttons, the order of menus, and so on. It was reinventing, to some degree, what digital photography is now and has been in the past for many people.

The design for this object was completely new, but changed the market and created a new culture for people to use technology in a very meaningful way.

Lytro-new-deal-design

When thinking about innovation, are you required to rethink the parameters defining the future?

I think there are some limits to how far into the future you can see, but I do think that you can envision a future that is two to five years ahead quite consistently and quite effectively.

In thinking about this mid‑range future, you rely on your current state of thinking, but you can see through trends about proceeding further into the future. For instance, in the case of the Lytro camera, we know that there is a whole phenomenon of recording family life, or the fact that common photography through a mobile phone has become a major phenomenon. A lot of people are using Instagram and other programs to upload stuff to the web.

Then comes this possibility of, “Hey, if you’re already sharing the images on the web and it is already at the point where you basically click and it goes up to the cloud, what would be a situation where you actually can interact with your buddies on the image while it’s on the cloud and tell a story?”

The story is about refocusing the image through different parts of the image. Some of them could be in the background. Some of them are in the foreground. Through that interaction, you and your buddies are basically telling a new story from a single semi‑static image.

That’s a new environment. It’s somewhere between a video and a still image, and it’s very social.

Part of your work, it seems, is to consider objects that are ahead of the curve in terms of cultural shifts?

We worked a company called Better Place a few years ago to re‑imagine driving with electric cars. Their goal was to create pervasive infrastructure for charging electric cars. At that time, it wasn’t clear what is the use scenario of electric cars. We had to basically write the storyboard, step by step, and showing, illustrating what will it be to actually use a system like that. But we went beyond that. We had to actually illustrate it to city officials, because they’re sitting at the intersection of a lot of big, important bodies like government, utility companies, city politics and so on. We had to assist and do a lot of salesmanship and contextualization of how the streets, how parking lots are going to look, and so on.

All of that, including a lot of technology arrangements or figuring out a lot of pieces, and a lot of it was envisioned by my team using somewhat traditional tools like sketching, pen to paper, and showing step‑by‑step how you would use an electric car in a new environment.

Thanks Gadi!

New Deal Design // @NewDealDesign

Please join us on November 1st to hear Gadi discuss future-based innovation and the Lytro camera at PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO.

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