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User Experience

The shift to Physical-Digital design teams ... are you ready?

April 04, 2018

Theresa Emanuel was born in 1877, before electricity and cars. Back then outhouses, horse and buggy, candles, and quill pens were everyday parts of life.

My great-great grandma passed away in 1987, living to be 110 years old when briefcase-sized cell phones, microwaves and a man on the moon were our new world. I am filled with wonder imagining her life through a century filled with change. A separate article would be necessary to give justice to the story of her personal journey. However, from almost any perspective, the themes of adaptation, evolution and perseverance prevail.

As a designer and business owner today, I imagine how businesses in the early 1900s adapted to the new world. Followers had no choice but to adapt. As we’ve all experienced, “new-to-market” products rarely equate to good, human-centered design. This requires evolution and perseverance. Industrial Design didn’t even emerge as a professional practice until the early 19th century. Interaction Design (UX/UI design) emerged even later. Service design just began to emerge in the last decade.

Life today looks very different than Theresa’s, but the world is changing just as dramatically. With new sci-fi-like technology, dizzying speed of business (startups and M&As), and sophisticated, well-established design practices – as it relates to design, our physical and digital worlds are colliding and moving toward the anticipation of seamless, blended experiences. Whether you like it or not.

Wi-Fi enabled flights and interactive software projections on shopping mall floors for kids are old news. The Internet of Things (IoT) has introduced us to a multitude of connected products and experiences linking our physical and digital worlds. While products like health trackers and security systems are maturing, many products are still categorically misguided experiments.

On the cutting edge are more immersive experiences. In entertainment, The VOID is a whole-body, fully immersive experience for groups that combines on-location interactive sets and real-time technology effects, most recently introducing a Star Wars experience with Disney. While much of what we hear about virtual reality (VR) in entertainment is changing consumer expectations, it holds life-changing promise for other applications. Healthcare is leveraging VR to ease the stress and pain of chronic health issues, comforting children requiring a long hospital stay, and speeding up recovery after stroke to name a few applications. VR and augmented reality (AR) hold promise, supported by the government, and are being widely adopted by design and innovation professionals.

Integrated digital-physical products are here to stay and businesses need to prepare to adapt.

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