Monthly Archives: August 2014

Future Chicken – Unity as a Design and Prototyping Tool

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 11.27.31 AMThe future … what a concept.

Oftentimes our popular vision of the future includes robot servants, environments full of iridescent architecture, space conquest, and humanity saving heroes. These projections, while entertaining, are oftentimes audacious in ways that are hard to believe or relate to.

Last year’s Her gave a more refreshing, human, and believable vision of the future. It wasn’t very different from contemporary life; the ebbs and flows of life and its messy emotions aren’t typically developed in our futuristic movie heroes.

When prompted to create a simulation with Unity and an Oculus Rift, I kept this vision of the future in mind. Unity, a video game development environment, was used as a vehicle to speculate on the physical-digital interactions that could happen in the internet of everything, 25 years from now. I made a few assumptions:

1. Life in general won’t change too much. People will still go to their day jobs. They will still be bored.
2. Internet of everything. Household objects, and architecture will be embedded with microprocessors and sensors; they’ll talk to each other and to you.
3. Handheld middle-ware. Handhelds won’t go away, they will evolve to serve as the primary middleware to interface with both the physical and digital worlds.
4. Subscription based comforts. Digital services and products will find ways to make home life easier, for a low monthly price.
5. The home is a marketing tool. With connected everything, there are so many new ways to sell you things and influence your behavior.

A video of the prototype is below.

Some of the questions that I hope this demonstration prompts are:
1. How can this type of simulation be used by designers, design technologists, and developers to evaluate design decisions, iterate on designs more quickly, communicate intent, and lower risk?
2. What other opportunities are there in the connected home for corporations and vendors to sell you things? How obvious and creepy will they be? Will we just learn to tolerate it?
3. What kinds of changes will be demanded of our architecture (both buildings and systems) by connected everything? Can embedding personalities into our objects and architecture make life better?
4. Will we still be carrying around handhelds in 25 years? What other types of wearables and devices will augment our daily lives? Do you hear the cars driving around outside? Sound like combustion engines … do you think we’ll still be hearing those in 25 years?

The value of a tool like Unity for both designers and developers is that it provides more cues to prompt these types of questions. Designers are enabled to evaluate the look, feel, and flow of an experience while collaborating with developers and design technologist on the code and development strategy. Perhaps such a process can result in shared ownership of the design intent and development strategy by all parties, including clients.