A little over a week ago I returned from SXSW, the massive interactive, film, and music festival that the city of Austin graciously tolerates every year. The Interactive portion—Synapse’s motivation for attending—was an amazing five days of conference sessions, keynotes, technology porn, parties, and advertising and marketing overload. Through all of this, there emerged some very interesting trends that are sure to be keynote topics at next year’s festival.
Hardware, hardware, hardware
Much has already been written about the democratization of hardware development via 3D printing and its role in allowing greater access to prototyping and iteration.
However, despite this increased accessibility to development-tools, successful hardware devices cannot be made in a vacuum or quickly prototyped and shipped off to production. Building on the renewed interest in hardware, the stage is now set to discuss how to bring innovators, inventors, designers, developers, and engineers together to bring full technology product ecosystems from idea to reality. SXSW Interactive can be the forum where the whole user-experience conversation includes how to leverage multiple like-minded partners and focus on a singular outcome to create breakthrough devices.
The impact of self-tracking technology on healthcare or “Health 3.0” will be massive, especially when devices can either be small enough to be unobtrusive or allow for greater comfort it can be incorporated into your clothing in a subtle way that doesn’t make you look like Tron when you wear it.
Some of the best healthcare-ish concepts and devices discussed at SXSW included:
- Clothing with built in sensors, allowing for continuous breast cancer screening or loss of cell and tissue function.
- Public health tracking like the Asthmapolis asthma GPS device, as well as behavior mapping through location data, and video games for the elderly that help with focus and brain stimulation.
Probably the most interesting part of the growing culture of self-tracking is the amount of data on individuals that could be leveraged by governments, businesses, hospitals, employers, and theme parks to weave together a behavioral picture of a person, family, or group of like-minded customers.
Devices like smart phones send out location data every time they search for a signal. This information doesn’t just tell others where we go and what we do, it can also be used to identify us since our location and pattern is as unique or more so than our fingerprints, irises, or DNA. The same thing cannot be in two places at the same time, therefore location allows for accurate and reliable data. All of this data stays constant overtime and will lead to a collective intelligence, which will identify what we need to know before we ask by determining where we are located and telling us what to do next.
Experience driven design
Returning to the topic of hardware, this year’s SXSW included many discussions around user experience in the design of devices as well as software. Successful experience design and engineering relies on iteration instead of relying on a "recipe." Hardware and software engineers and developers will be pushed to better collaborate on projects that first define an experience and then design a system through feeling and action.