2015Twelve essential GDA perspectives on design trends
Jun Rekimoto
Director’s message

Ubiquity and new funding and fabrication in information / communication design


Most entries relevant to the “Information / Communication” Focused Issue deal with func-tions controlled by people, as seen in interaction with digital devices. Three distinctive trends were apparent in entries this year, which I introduce here with a few observations.

First, a broader range of entries now involves digital devices with network functionality generally associated with the Internet of Things (IoT). Some, such as the Qrio smart lock or Photosynth smart locking/unlocking system, offer convenient security. Others support fitness, such as Sony’s smartphone-compatible, training-oriented music player, and still others keep family members in touch, such as Yukai Engineering’s connected “robot” that is convenient for smartphone users. Visionaries proposed the concept of ubiquitous compu-ting more than two decades ago, and it is finally unfolding at a rapid pace around us and shaping society in tangible ways. Smartphones in particular form a shared infrastructure, linking individual users and society at large to a variety of devices. People have only begun to scratch the surface of IoT and ways to tap its potential. We look forward to seeing amaz-ing new applications and clear, focused demonstrations of how the technology can improve our lives.

Expanded crowdfunding is another trend. Now, sophisticated production of digital devices and other hardware is within the reach of startups. In Japan, this source of capital also supports filmmakers and others in the creative community, through a service called Mo-tionGallery. Internationally, the original Kickstarter crowdfunding service supports pro-jects that have gone on to win awards, such as the Tangram smart jump rope that uses LED afterimages to display fitness data mid-air as users jump. Another crowdfunded product is MESH, a smart DIY and sharing platform that was proposed by a large corpora-tion but met its funding target through contributions from average people. Now that product development can take new paths, individual designers and small design offices can also develop their own products. Crowdfunding promises to bring unique and enjoyable examples of design to life as never before.

A third factor that now affects how design takes shape (and is eventually sold) is more ac-cessible fabrication technology, with a prime example being 3D printing. 3D printers were once used exclusively in prototyping or production of mock-ups, but as a recent 3D-printed bionic arm from Exiii admirably shows, the technology now enables users to create prod-ucts that suit them for a fraction of the normal cost. As the trend continues, we can imagine more products customized for each user’s physique or preferences, and sold at mo-re affordable prices. In pre-industrial society, each product was once made by hand. Fabri-cation, communication – as via the Internet – and other technologies have changed so tremendously that we may be headed toward a digitally tailor-made future.

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