Your Phone is Sweating

With mobile speeding the production of device ideas, companies (big and small) are learning from the digital community and leveraging successes into ever more refined in-market manifestations. With all the parallel advancements, however, little has been done to evolve beyond the “brain + finger + glass = interaction” metaphor. Enter the realm of speculative designers who are forging new sets of digital tools that embrace our spatial and sensory abilities to escape the glass.

Leah Buechley of the MIT Media Lab kicked off a challenging segment that focused on the high-low tech of looking at the materiality of the world around us – everything from wallpaper made of conductive ink (think massive/cheap circuit boards) to having plants and even mud (yep, old fashioned dirt and water mud) become fundamental input devices. In essence, convert everyday materials into conductivity and opportunity and harness the parallel advances in material science and chemical engineering.

Fabian Hemmert of the Berlin University of the Arts focused on the lateral evolution of one of our most treasured personal devices – the mobile handset. Prototype phones that could breathe (respirating faster after you’ve missed a call), ones that had heartbeats, and others still that could change their physical shape based on contextual information. There were also prototypes that communicated (with some accessories) touch, focused air, and even *moisture* from the other handset. The variations were as boundless as the ambition – inject humanness into technology.

If the above reads like a sneak peak into Bizarro-land, take a moment to consider that three decades ago, digital was command line saved to audio cassettes. Two decades ago, it was the emergence of advanced graphical user interfaces. A decade ago, digital had crested into “everydayness”. Now, we’re engaging ubiquitous technology on a corporal level (touch, gesture). Prior to each time segment, there were the artists, theorists, researchers, and visionaries that paved the way for mass adoption and commercial success.

Right now, there are fundamentally transformative ideas/platforms emerging, begging the question: how are we (in our respective industries) capable of participating in crafting this future vs merely inheriting it? Visionaries create the tech of handsets transmitting air and moisture. Marketers and creatives craft the experience of a goodbye kiss from your kids…

First published in the Canadian Marketing Association, Photo: Kolody Inc