Now in its 11th year, Thinking Digital is a day and half of inspiring workshops and talks hosted in Newcastle, TheTin’s second home. It’s a wonderfully varied event and has become a regular fixture in our calendar.
This year was as good as any, starting off with the Annual Startup Competition on the Wednesday afternoon, where 10 companies were given 3 minutes each to pitch. Whilst many of the products or concepts themselves gave food for thought, what interested most was the varied approaches each had taken in getting a product to market, or through funding.
Three talks resonated, complimenting and emphasising our thinking around some of the cutting edge platforms we have been looking at recently here at TheTin.
On to Thursday for the main event, we saw a fantastically diverse selection of speakers. Amongst other topics, we were challenged to think of wellbeing in the digital age, how time now revolves around us instead of being the linchpin of our daily lives, and how generally technology can be used to better society.
We even got a fantastic insight into the development process for special effects from non-other than the Creative Director at ILM responsible for bringing Star Wars to life, for a lifelong SW nerd, a personal highlight!
But there were three talks which resonated, complimenting and emphasising our thinking around some of the cutting edge platforms we have been looking at recently here at TheTin.
For too long, I have been a Flat Earther
Mike Taulty works in the developer group at Microsoft, yet wasn’t there just to give us a sales pitch for HoloLens, but to challenge the way we think about how we interact with the computers, and the rest of the world.
We have been living in an age of 2-dimensional input for a long time. Whilst the era of touch has enabled us to interact directly, without the need for keyboard or mouse, we are still working with 2D interfaces displayed on flat surfaces.
The advent of VR, MR, and AR is allowing us to interact directly with 3D content, using our heads to navigate, and our bodies for input, no longer replying on a traditional GUI. But commonly, these experiences are still being built using our 2D tools.
Stereoscopic 360-degree video is becoming common, resulting in experiences that immerse the viewer in ways the window of TV simply can’t replicate. But what about the rest of a brands' assets?
For too long we have been in a Flat Earth mentality, thinking of brands appearing in print and on screen, but now is the time to be looking to the future. We need to consider how users will experience brands in these new mixed realities. There’s lots to consider, from motion to scale, not to mention placement.
Start with people, not computers
Max Amordeluso is the Lead Evangelist for Amazon Alexa in Europe. He gave an insight into the thinking behind designing services and experiences for the voice age.
CUIs (conversational interfaces) have boomed thanks to the sales of Alexa (and Google Home) but to be really useful they need to be intelligent. Max explained how ESP (echo spacial perception) allows multiple assistants to be placed in the same space, with only the one closest to the user responding to requests, mimicking the way we interact with people in the real world.
Speed is important, a slow response from a CUI will create a disconnect with the user, and shatter the illusion of having a real conversation. Additionally, Alexa has voice training capabilities allowing it to recognise different peoples voices, and provide personalised responses which further strengthen the bond.
He stressed how it's important to “write for the ears, not the eyes” and how having multiple ways to answer the same question (think saying “OK” or “Sure thing” instead of nearly “Yes” every time) creates a more natural dialogue. Essentially, visually people like uniformity, with sound, people prefer variety.
Hi, I’m Moon and I identify as a Cyborg…
Undoubtedly the most curious talk of the day was presented my Moon Ribas, a cyborg activist. Moon described an underground community of people who are extending what it means to be human through technological implants.
Moon has permanently embedded a sensor in her feet that vibrates in time with earthquakes on the planet, the idea behind this is to create a stronger connection between her and the planet.
Just like how IoT devices are revolutionising the way we interact with our surroundings, is biotechnology going to have the same effect with how we interact with ourselves?
Blurring the lines between what is human and what is technology could produce some interesting opportunities, not to mention ethical hurdles to overcome.
For brands, working out how to embrace these new technologies will be a challenge for the future.
With the ascendance of mixed realities, where will the customer of tomorrow interact with your brand, and how will it be represented in a three-dimensional space?
How do you maintain consistency in your tone of voice, whilst providing the variety needed for fluid and natural conversations for voice computing?
And whilst implants in the body may never become common place, we can learn a lot about interactions by thinking about the connection between ourselves and the physical world.
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