It was with some trepidation that I was asked to talk by Adam Scott of Free State at their inaugural Zeitgeist Project 2012. The event was a fringe event / curtain-raiser for CMO's and CTO's from a range of global brands attending the IFA Consumer Electronics Fair in Berlin in September and I was asked, in the spirit of free thinking I guess (certainly not because I know what I'm talking about) to choose a piece of consumer technology that represented the zeitgeist. THere is a nice overview of the whole thing here.
Obviously for me the connection between the online world and the physical was the direction I immediately headed in: (these are the notes from my talk - the video is below)
I wanted to talk just as an enthusiast about an area of the digital world that's undergoing significant change mainly due to the democratization of funding mechanisms like kickstarter and more fluid production processes.
Another important aspect is a psychological one. We live in a post digital world.
This is a term coined a while ago to describe the point in time when we stop being awed by the power of computing in our lives… and just like cameras or combustion engines this is true. we no longer marvel at all the astonishing technology that you will se, we simply demand more.
We expect our phone to allow a three way international video-conferencing call with no latency and for it to be free.
It isn't normal. It's extraordinary.
So I am more interested in places where the interface between the real world and this magical one.
There's a term called biophillia which is a hypothesis that states we have an innate connection with nature. WIth trees. wood, organic materials.
And our lives have become ephemeral. Invisible.
For example we listen to digital music, play online games, take digital photos on digital phones that are saved invisibly into the sky, we go to work and we do this and we don't actually make anything.
I think others this evening have or will talking about our innate need for patina and physicality, to create deep and longer lasting memories and how this is best effected by sensory mash upß sonic/visual/taste&touch etc but predominantly organic - innate and
- cross-modal experiences
So we love that damage, distress, residue and patina caused by physicality and we want to see it in digital as well as traditional consumer products .
Scratches on a record.
creases on a book.
the crack on your android. the dent on your macbook
the trace of the hand.
this organic complexity is more authentic and in a world of ephemeral magic I find that authenticity is lacking.
So my examples are grass-roots projects, I'm afraid several are prototypes, but increasingly they indicate the need to move digital into physical, instead of augmented reality, we want reality augmented.
little printer from berg is a physical box that creates a thermal printed newspaper from the internet for you each day personalized to your world.
We have heard about 3d printing technology for a while. But with printrbot we are finally seeing them in homes and offices. I have one on my desk, unfortunately it's still in 74 separate pieces, but it is there. and it was about $500
tableau by Jon Kestner is a beautiful model of how you can bridge the divide between the digital and analogue generations using some affordable gadgetry, a drawer, and a touch of showmanship.
Jon Kestner is a partner at super mechanical who also produce twine - a piece of consumer electronics that lets you program with your phone to tell you when things happen - i.e. you want to get a tweet when your laundry's done, an email when the basement floods, or a text message when you left the garage door open. THis is the 21centuries equivalent of programming the VCR. You may not be able to do it - but your kids will.
pebble is a watch that tries to harness the computing potential of your phone in a more convenient consumer device. They made 11m dollars on kickstarter when only asking for $10000
Consumers want these things. I want one.
But apparently I have to pick one thing.
Well it's a close run thing between twine and my winner - because I really feel the remote controls of the future are going to allow us to program environmental triggers into our lives and we haven't even begun to really think about what that means.
In the meantime my award goes to makeymakey. That they call an invention kit for anyone but could be equally described as a way to program physical objects to do digital things. It's really easiest to show rather than tell so here's a great video that they made for kickstarter that to me is the future of consumer electronics.