Speculative Service Design

Customisation in the shared economy.

Pre industrial revolution all objects were all unique to you. Post industrial revolution mass manufacture made it possible for you and your neighbour to have the same design of object. As our possessions now begin to enter a shared economy you and your neighbour share the same objects. We no longer have possession of our own and we don’t care for them the same way we do our own. We take much better of a car we own than a car we lease. 

Designing emotion into objects has always been core skill of Industrial Design. Well designed objects create an emotional connection with their owners, objects their owners care for and hold on to for longer. How do we design emotion and develop relationship with the objects of the shared economy? 

From my interviews asking individuals what objects are most meaningful to them, the top object was not even an ‘object’ at all, it was photos. Although traditionally a tactile object, photos today are information stored in a hard drive or cloud. They are not so much possessions as they are a set of memories in information. It may be possible that the most meaningful relationships we have today are information driven.

This insight enables us to design emotion into the objects of the shared economy, be it cars, bikes, homes or umbrellas. For this new economy to thrive consumers must learn to care for their the objects of the shared economy the same way the care for their own. This is currently not the case. In 2017 a Chinese umbrella sharing startup lost almost all of its 300,000 umbrella in a matter of weeks (http://shanghaiist.com/2017/07/10/umbrella-sharing-fail.php). In Australia users of the recent oBike dockless bike sharing program frequently find bikes up trees or in rivers (http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/inventions/how-do-bike-sharing-services-like-obike-and-reddygo-make-money/news-story/882c22777c7ecf3bef587e0fb8bf44f9). 

Exploring the umbrella as a case study in a speculative service. As soon as you unlock the umbrella it associates with you. Personalising the colour, for example, to the individuals predicted preference. Over extended use with the product machine learning develops a personal connection with the user. In the case of an umbrella this could be reminding the user when they prefer to take an umbrella with them, in the case of a car it could be the users preferred route to a location, in the case of a bike it could the their riding preferences. After the umbrella is docked back into the shared economy, the information associated to the aesthetic, persona and relationship of your umbrella is uploaded to the cloud. 

When you next pick up an umbrella, or any other shared object for that mater, the information is downloaded, making the object personal and theirs. Users no longer own a physical object. They own the relationship with the information that makes the object personal to them. However if the shared object is damaged, lost or stolen the information in not updated and the relationship with the object is lost.

Seeking for Interview Connections

Please contact me if you or someone you know would like to talk!

I’d like to start talking to people who use digital technologies to manufacture or who create objects through more traditional means, anyone who is using artificial intelligence to enhance user experiences or who are thinking about the implications of an increasingly digitally driven world.


Pre-research Speculative Design 3

Shelf for Your Things

Shelf for Your Things is a custom shelving designer that is built specifically around the possessions of the user. Through online software the user inputs the dimensions of their possessions and arranges them on the screen as the software visualises a shelving design around them. 

The software enables individuals to essentially ‘feel like a designer’. While they are not given full control over the design of the shelf, they are given control over specific aspects of the design that matter most, through the lens of their possessions.

As each shelf is unique, each shelf must be manufactured on demand. To achieve this the shelves would be through CNC processes. This enables the shelves to be manufactured and assembled locally by any CNC bureau or manufacture contractor. Inspired by cement trucks, that mix cement and essentially manufacture their product on route, I envisioned a CNC truck that manufactures customers shelves on route to assembling them in their house. 

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Pre-research Speculative Design 2

One of One

One of One alters the aesthetic design of a product each time one is sold through parametric design and digital manufacture. While still a product of mass manufacture, each product that is produced is unique. 

This idea stemmed from a carriage clock gifted to me by my Grandmother. The carriage clock has immense value through its association with our family history - however after seeing the exact same carriage clock at the New York Maker Faire the realisation that my carriage clock was just another product of mass manufacture immediately devalued the significance this object as an object of value. 

One of One explores the modern equivalent of the carriage clock, the wrist watch. With this idea I am asking myself if this object will have more inherent value simply by adjusting the appearance of it to be unique, one of one, and essentially irreplaceable. Maybe.

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Random 2D form generation test. Could it be possible to design a watch through a similar process?

Random 2D form generation test. Could it be possible to design a watch through a similar process?

Pre-research Speculative Design 1

AI Powered NYC Ramen Blog

What happens when we employ AI in one of the Internets most personal spaces, social media? I explored this idea through an AI powered Ramen Blog on Instagram. The AI takes random images of ramen noodles and amalgamates them with a random reviews - posting the review on Instagram as if a person reviewing a local ramen restaurant. While very rudimentary, the nature of the blog immediately picks up an personality (of sorts). 

What stemmed from this explorations was the idea of a corporate personality. Companies attempt to hold a personality through carefully curates public relations, press releases and social media interactions. Could AI embody a personality that is more aligned with a company than a team of humans running the the companies social media? Essentially through designing the personality, language nuances, interests and values of a company, could this a company live its social media life autonomously? Almost certainly and I would be surprised if companies ran their social media autonomously already.

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