Storytelling in the age of Physical Internet

How the IoT is changing the way humans tell stories, and why a whole new UI is needed to create epic AI storytellers.

The fifth part in a ten part series exploring combinations of AI, IoT, Blockchains, and data. Follow the series on Medium: https://medium.com/@AkBlackwood

From the beginning of our human journey, knowledge has been shared through compelling storytelling around campfires — let’s explore the fascinating future equivalent of this ancient practice.

The Internet of Things Makes a Boring Story

But it doesn’t have to. A new interface is coming to an experience near you.

Really, the problem simply is the interface. The Internet has transformed and become more elaborate, jumping from our desks to our phones and now, to the entire world around us. Each of the progressive steps along the way required a complete rethink of how humans communicate, interact and express themselves. Furthermore, how do we interact with and within the digital domain. Terms like “mobile friendly” and “mobile first” are common expressions for experience design within the mobile and desktop Internet glossary, but where is the “IoT friendly” or the “IoT first”? Well, we simply aren’t there yet so in this post, let’s discuss some of the key points that we’ll inevitably have to work our way around as we forge a way toward a dope and functional interface design for IoT.

Storytelling in the age of physical internet

Imagine our ancestors gathering in a circle around a hand-made campfire to recount their day of critical hunter-gatherer activities to share knowledge and wisdom in order to sustain life, security and resources for the members in their tribe. An ancient practice, which remains equally crucial to the modern day human and our shared future. Why so? Because of these — security, resources and access to collective knowledge — are critical aspects of our collective survival.

Story is the oldest medium and primary vehicle for transferring knowledge, and it is the main tool for humans to communicate about their experiences. One main challenge standing in the way of mass-adoption of the Internet of Things is the sheer lack of compelling and beautiful storytelling.

The way we’ve shared information on social media during the age of the mobile internet has served us well. Physical internet, however, will require, and offer, an opportunity for a whole new type of sharing. To understand what is coming and to make most of this opportunity, we need exciting and enticing examples of how physical environments that are truly intelligent, intuitively responsive and highly personalized (way beyond the current hype of “SMART” technologies), could look and feel like and how they could ultimately lead to elevated experiences that are not just useless gimmicks and add-ons, but bring true value to each individual.

1. IoT IS cool

The Internet of Things is cool because it holds deep potential to help us lead more fulfilled and engaged lives in which we tap into our full potential — which is what all conscious beings deep down crave for. The elevating potential of Internet will eventually reside in every place you visit and between every single interaction you engage in, whether it’s with a human or a physical entity. It is a world of interaction available all around you and all the time. This is the future of things.

Right now, and understandably so, IoT is totally misunderstood and its potential remains reduced to fridges that track your beverage consumption. Currently, IoT is functional and helpful at best, but remains impersonal, boring and uninspiring. It needs to step up its game, show what it can do, and shed its juvenile exterior in order to dress up in Tom Ford, so to speak. We humans as the creators, consumers and builders of this new domain (in which we’ll eventually live our lives in) will need to make this happen, and have our inspiration and innovation find wings as a result of visions invoked by the future potential of this new technology.

Function and form will combine into the next ‘must have’ technology

The IoT hype until now has associated use cases around Physical Internet to gadgets and all sorts gimmicky things. Without compelling and consistent digital storytelling, this image in the minds of consumers and creators of IoT is hard to break. In order to not slouch our way through this initial phase of Internet transformation, but to really raise the standards from the very beginning, we must strive to present the future potential, function and value of IoT through storytelling that is high in quality. To some extent, our collective success in this task will determine the direction and pace of development with IoT.

We can learn from both our ancestors and our more recent history of technology, and do this well from the very start.

Every mass adoption of new technology is preceded by social normalization

With the recent explosion in the number of IoT companies building devices and services, we have an opportunity to bring the Physical Internet and its numerous use-cases to the everyday human experience. By doing so, we can demonstrate the power of Physical Internet and show examples of how and why the Internet extended to the physical world will eventually outmatch the value of the traditional Internet.

Showing is believing and to experience is to know

Better experiences will drive mass adoption. The more showcases, living labs, experience centres and opportunities we have to get IoT technology translated from flashy ad videos into the daily lives of people, the better chance we have to accelerate its acceptance and adoption among the masses.

2. The Physical Internet gives humans ‘super-powers’

Life is a continuous flow of events and a sequence of happenings. The Physical Internet as the digital extension to our human experience, will ultimately enable a completely new (and really, a never before seen) kind of seamless stream of interaction between events, happenings, ideas, people and experiences. Allowing it all to flow smoothly. Making it possible to revisit our previous experiences, re-evaluate them based on knowledge we have recently acquired, and translate this potential into improved experiences and wiser decisions for the future. IoT will ultimately be a time-machine for experiences and therefore, allow us to truly stand in the shoulders of giants, but in real-time while dynamically deep-learning from our own past. As an ‘Internet Delorean’ for the past and present worlds around you, the Physical Internet will give humans the ability to ‘see’ the future through the environment that surrounds them. This very thing will be the beginning of deeper understanding of life by using augmented, assisted and ambient intelligence.

The ‘IoT First’ experience design

As we add intelligence to the Internet around us through the Internet of Things, a new experience medium will evolve to serve as its interface. Everything we know and have learned about the Internet on computers and mobile phones will eventually extend to IoT. The art of interaction, decision making, weighing options and accepting change are the games humans play daily. To a computer, probability, routes, values and numbers are the language to describe these. IoT will not so much require a new language, but a new context.

IoT is the next big thing in experience design

Unlike the Internet we know today, this new experience will bridge the physical and digital worlds. What may resemble a scene from science fiction movies and feel far away in the future to most people, is closer than we think. In fact, the technology needed for all this is already here, and when fully integrated, it will form a new interaction design medium called IoT First.

3. Making IoT human with storytelling

As we get through the AI hype cycle we find more practical uses for AI. Ones where the intelligence is everywhere around us, in our objects and within all of our places rather that hiding in far away servers, never to be seen or experienced.

Stories of empowerment

Talent is universal, but opportunity sadly is often not. The democratizing impact of the Internet will extend to IoT as well. It is our collective responsibility, however, to make sure IoT is a story told well and is one that helps lift those who have historically been marginalized or silenced in our global discourse and practices. Any group that has been marginalized should have a chance to be empowered by the opportunities offered by the Physical Internet.

IoT will capture user stories but users will decide how IoT tells these stories

Imagine being able to record experiences, in which you choose to enable personality to be part of the intelligence of everything — places, objects, people, groups you visit and interact with.

Purpose interface: Personal, professional or other

When we log in to Facebook, LinkedIn or any service alike, we are using our identity and profile to sort and navigate the Internet. By allowing access to our personal preferences, digital memory, connections, networks and online behavior, we ideally allow and help build a more personalized experience for ourselves. One that has less noise, distractions and consists of information that seeks to actually serve us. Physical Internet will do the same, but based on our real-world experiences. It will not only influence how we experience things but also how we retell our experiences. That way, being like a digital filter to the lived everyday experience of human life.

The Physical Internet will be like walking through memories

This new technology will influence how we interpret the digital stream of interactions from the intelligent world around us. IoT and AI combined will enable a deeper understanding where humans can augment with computers. IoT Stories will be sharable and allow us to capture the day, moment or mood of an event and share it digitally like we do with photos and short videos now. Interpreting these digital sensor driven, and algorithmically-assessed data streams, will make the next generation of storytellers who will be telling tales through a much broader range of experiences than now, and communicating them to the world.

4. IoT experience designers will be needed

The IoT user design needs more accurate specifications. The IoT interaction designers of the future are really Digital-Physical Internet Interaction Designers with understanding of IoT UX. With this approach, we seamlessly bridge Internet, UI, devices, platforms and locations. Simply put: it is user experience design for Physical Internet, and it will be needed.

Designing the physical Internet

We know what a UX designer is — a designer for devices or interface for screens — but what about the for the entire world around us? This all contains computing power and to help unearth it all, we need UX that seamlessly bridges the digital and physical worlds.

Data for experiences

One job of a data scientist involves spending a lot of time in data preparation. This includes feature extraction or selecting variables, which are then used for predictive analytics. Deep learning does this job once trained, and then automatically, all to make life easier. However, imagine it being applied to telling the stories of digital life through the Physical Internet — would our continuously adjusting index of experience variables tell a story in itself?

Good stories around IoT will result from practice

To create a complete understanding of IoT will require stories about what is possible. Humans are inherently programmed to learn through personal experience. This means that an Internet of Things done well, will rely on experience to drive and reinforce its use and value. These two being key drivers to sustaining the adoption of IoT.

5. Why the IoT needs Shia Lebouef

The digital indexing of physical experience is best expressed through story. So the IoT done well needs good storytelling i.e. intriguing stories and great storytellers. Will this be a job for artificial intelligence?

Not yet.

The Physical Internet is, in fact, in desperate need of actual human use-cases that are experience-based. For now, it needs actors more than agents. This means that human experience based examples and classic stories will lead the forthcoming first era of IoT experience design, but not for long. AI and machine learning will eventually build narratives based on the personality of the Physical Internet.

Where the market is headed

AI works great for taking abstract and perhaps scattered data and crafting intelligent storylines around the places, objects, people, and groups connected to the 3rd wave of the Internet. In the not so far future the will be an entire industry of designers, design-houses and companies be focused on the value proposition that:

A well executed IoT storytelling translates into an elevated human experience.

Conclusion: Visual IoT storytelling

Storytelling has been there from the very beginning and remains central to how we organize information, conceptualize and communicate this curious (and rather mystical) thing called the human experience.

So with all our past and present technological advancements, where does this all lead us?

Physical Internet Will Transform Your Life, But First It Needs Great Storytelling

Gathering experiences and building personality into the Physical Internet will ultimately progress the build-up towards extending human knowledge and wisdom in an unprecedented way, and this, is the fascinating topic we shall explore in the sixth article of this series on the future of IoT.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Funny and odd: this video is descriptive storytelling, communicating an idea, something IoT needs more of.

Story by:

Adrian Kyle Blackwood

A Pioneer in Physical Internet: Award-Winning Product Designer, Researcher & Innovator. | IoT | Ai | Blockchains | Data |

Check out more: adriankyleblackwood.com