So what does the future of technology look like? As a graduate student at Stanford, I worked with a research team looking into this question. We prototyped and developed concepts of what we think technology will look like in the future. We looked at the most recent technological advances and paired it with a human-centered approach to research. I left the project after a year to focus on teaching design thinking, but the research group continues developing and crafting these core ideas. Their work was recently published in Nature:
Bring on the bodyNET
Electronics are set to merge with our bodies to extend our perceptions. Smartphones and watches will give way to the…
The bodyNET is the core concept developed during my time with the project. In it’s essence, we are predicting that we will no longer have a central technological device that we interact with (i.e. our cell phone) but an ecosystem of connected wearables.
Now when we talk about wearables, we aren’t just talking about fitbits. We are talking about four different layers of technology:
On Skin Devices
These four categories will work together to make a cohesive ecosystem of technology.
At the center of this ecosystem is a central battery and processor. It will most likely live on your back, either in clothing or connected to your skin. By centralizing power, we can decentralize the human-technology interactions. Devices will no longer have to carry their own batteries or processors. They will become smaller, lighter, and more manageable. This means we will no longer be trapped by our touch screens but we will be able to use the dexterity and creativity that humans are so good at.
A big part of this project was considering the human elements of technology. Google Glass failed because it was culturally unacceptable. None of us want to walk around in a world where AR places advertisements everywhere we look. We don’t want to be constantly distracted by our technology. And we don’t want technology that simply measures our activities. We want technology that enhance our human capabilities and experiences. While the bodyNET has the potential to change the way we interact with the world, it is up to us to ensure the quality of those interactions improves our lives.
How We Got Here
We used a human-centered design process to understand how people currently interact with wearables and we built prototypes to test how they will engage with them in the future.
Here’s a look at the prototypes we built:
Stanford is continuing this research to refine and build the bodyNET through technological advancement. We now need other people to join in and design the future of wearables. By considering the bodyNET, we can build a world that allows humans to be more empathetic, creative, and free.