The Future of Healthcare in Commutes

Speculative Design & Design Fiction

Jessica Nip
Feb 9, 2018 · 7 min read

Preliminary Research

Design Fiction is…

- not a “prediction” of the future, a particular utopian or dystopian
- a way to tell stories about alternatives and unexpected trajectories
- to propose and build elements of a possible future without being too precious or detailed about them
- meant to spark conversations about the near future, check the sanity of visions and uncover hidden perspectives
- to make multiple propositions meant to lead to productive conversations about what’s next


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Left— The city of the future, as illustrated in a 1928 edition of Popular Mechanics, would see traffic re-routed below ground to avoid congestion.

Right— Cars that are water-tight and weather-proof, with sides made entirely of glass, and seats that could be moved anywhere in the vehicle. It would be decked out with power steering, brakes, heating, and a small control board for navigation. A finger lever would replace the steering wheel.

Interesting Reads

People designing and iterating based on identified needs through time— from analog unorganized sorting, a cabinet of files to organize a whole city, to the alphabet-decimal system and beyond.

Initial Exploration

Areas of Interest

  • Consider topics prevalent in your life and culture
  • Deliverables: Manuals, packaging, videos, advertising, etc.(Insert photos here)

Future Wheel Mapping

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Future Signs & Trends

  • Driver or driverless? Automation—faster, less steps, cheaper, sustainable
  • Individual or group experience? Less ‘private’ spaces but shared spaces — home-sharing, ride-sharing, etc.
  • Does car/plane ownership matter in the future?
  • VR traveling
  • Air taxis
  • What if you could travel and walk around cities before you arrive?
  • What needs to happen when traveling between point A and B? → safety, relaxation, productivity, access to information; “frictionless”
  • Existing self-driving Uber integration with information transparency of ride and driver
  • What will we do in our transits? → health checks, exercise, dine/meeting venue,
  • Our future will be faster, safer, cheaper, and more connected than ever.

Metaphorical Rooms

What should the ‘room’ of commute be in the future?

“Rooms serve purposes: kitchens are for cooking, dining rooms are for eating, and offices are for working. The better we define those rooms and their purposes, the more productive they become.”

Author experiments with future automation and explores the social and personal experience of commute + working inside his car in his driveway for a day.

“Tomorrow’s commute: dynamic, multi-modal, on-demand

Organizations, city authorities, and even enlightened governments should increasingly invest in happier, healthier, calmer, and more creative workers. Accordingly, we’ll see public-transport bodies, car companies, and technology firms design a new wave of commuting services that support creative productivity.

Commuting may get worse before it gets better. The United Nations reckons 60% of the world’s population will move to cities by 2030 — up from 50% today — which might threaten to overwhelm the public transportation systems already operating beyond full capacity.

When we asked what people would want from their commute, a significant number said they wanted to be more productive and healthier. Work, health, and mobility are intertwined in complex and codependent ways….all have to work together and incentivize each other to support happier, healthier, and more productive city dwellers.” —QZ

Direction & Thoughts

As our world becomes more connected than ever, we begin to spend less time taking care of our well-being and more time on productivity in all aspects of our life. I’m interested in exploring these proposals under the scope of the future of commuting — we will likely be able to customize our commutes to productivity, sleep, shopping, or entertainment. Could our commutes be used as time for reflection? To eat? To check up on ourselves?

I’m interested in taking my project down one of the 3 directions —

  1. Reflection/downtime
    Weak signals —Being alone/isolated (through technology) in a crowd, lack of reflection time
  2. Eating
    Weak signals — Soylent, diet pills, fast food, food ordering apps
  3. Health/physical well-being
    Weak signals— Fitbit, tracking apps, smart clothing, sensors

Exploring Well-being on Commute

  • Plays music when you’re stressed
  • Provides status of health, biometrics
  • Where you get diagnosed and collect medicine right away
  • Letting people be in control of their health
  • Health — food, exercise, supplements, monitoring over time
  • Temperature, pulse, body shape + weight, blood pressure, 3D scanning,
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Existing Innovations

  • Bowhead HealthImmediate, customized vitamin dispenser
    Through a blood-prick test or saliva, users submit a small sample into the machine. This then gets sent to doctors who can instantly detect any key deficiencies. Based on this data, the machine dispenses a vitamin-based pill, just for you.
  • Habit — uses biometric testing to recommend personalized eating plans and then sends the meals to your door

Critique & Questions

  • What other products / services could exist in this future commute environment?
  • What would a scene from someone’s life look like — with things that work, and things that maybe don’t quite work as hoped?
  • What problems would a designer working in that era be asked to solve?

Highly Engaging/Believable Scenarios of Health 2050—

Film/Media References

  • Star Trek’s Sick Bay

Speculative Design Concept

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I first began by dissecting what “well-being” meant in today’s world, highlighting the 5 levels of health and aspects of explorations parallel to today’s landscape. Then by researching theories proposed by professionals about healthcare 2050, I conceptualized a list of products/services that may exist in the future I’m imagining. I found that the products/services starred* were opportunities for future touch points based on today’s natural, innate prep + commute steps. Some problems of the era were also identified, considering health data privacy issues, lack of regulation in medical 3D printing, affordability, and liability of self-diagnostic health services.

Context > (Aspects to highlight; ways to communicate)

  • Caring for health is a social norm > ads, foods/products available, highly accessible health touch points (physical + digital)
  • Information is readily accessible, technology is non-intrusive and people have a lot of choice to act on available options > adaptive systems that offer individual relevance — individual to community scale
  • Most people are healthy so when people fall ill, immediate quarantine is recommended and a norm > quickest self-driving service, immediate notifications to family and workspace
  • A lot of pressure from public opinion, healthcare softwares are regulated by governments, private data is encrypted by biometrics > immediate transparency in effectiveness of systems
  • Playtime movie — sound reference

Developing Animation

To convey the core aspects of my design concept, I decided the best channel of communication would be an animation.

Concept Storyboard

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Visual References

Graphic Asset Creation

I created graphics for all the scenes using Illustrator, which were then imported into After Effects for animation.

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Final Video

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