July 25, 2004

Smart Furniture Side Show, Part 3

The Smart Furniture Side Show, Part 3

[The concluding part of a talk I gave to the 2ad conference in April. Part 1, Part 2]

The Car

Let's look at a smart room you likely already own, your car. Not burdened with "complex" questions like "how do we automate the home?" or "how do we use technology to support collaboration in the office?" car designers just went ahead and introduced technology. Over the last 20 years, the amount of technology--tightly integrated technology--in cars has steadily increased. Many, many mistakes were made. Anyone remember the Nissan 300ZX that annoyingly told you--in a nice female voice--that your door was open, every goddamn time it was open? Sometimes it would say it in Spanish, if the wrong chip was installed at the dealership. That was 1986. But the engineers kept at it, and they keep at it. Their stuff rarely needs upgrading, it rarely crashes and it works closer and closer together all the time.

The Big Picture

The examples I've discussed are ideas, not things. I'm up here waving my arms and talking specifics, but I don't think that these things are the be all and end all of smart furniture. They may be bad examples. No, my point is that once we start thinking about furniture as a personal technology platform, we can start asking a whole new class of questions, that we must--as technologists and designers--ask these questions.

My second point is that information acts like a material, it is a material, when in objects. Like rebar in concrete, it changes the fundamental properties of the things its embedded in. As monolithic computers break apart into 'devices', shards--tiny computers, networks and interfaces--embed in the objects that are already around us. And what's always around us? It's furniture.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let this be a lesson to you. When you sit your car on the way home, or when you're at your desk, or falling asleep tonight in your bed, don't think of the freaks of the Smart Furniture Side Show. Don't think of them! Don't think of what they're going to look like, what they'll do, how many of them there will be. No, ladies and gentlemen, just think of one thing, think of how lucky you are that they're your future.

Posted by mikek at July 25, 2004 04:50 PM | TrackBack
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