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Our future relationship with technology, or the relationship technology has with us. 

This trailer for the Ridley Scottfilm Prometheus features conversations with David8, an android produced to support humans in the future. In this trailer David8 answers questions that explorer the relationship he has with humans. 

The tone of the film suggests that there may be sinister or troubling aspects to this relationship. 

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The Tyranny of Assistive Technology

This entertaining film by Superflux explores the potential implications of decisions made now on our futures. Superflux uses speculative design to “explore the uncertainties of everyday life and emerging technology in a new light”(http://www.nesta.org.uk/)

Titled ‘Uninvited Guests’, this film shows a possible conflict between the good intentions behind assistive technologies and the emotional needs of the individual.

User Serviceable Parts Inside

serviceable label

All to often users are excluded from engaging with the repair and maintenance of their own products as they are advised not to do so by the manuals and labelling on products. I have even come across examples of manuals supplied with children’s bicycles that advise the owners not to undertake any maintenance or adjustments.

printer access

This proposal could apply to many different products that encase their inner workings within a concealing body. The design principle that supports this concept encourages the development of products that allow easy and safe access to the inner workings and allow users to conduct regular servicing and maintenance.

printer sketches
concept development sketches

In this case, users can carefully apply oil to the roller bearings and are able to replace the drive belt once it becomes stretched of worn. Printers are an interesting subject as domestic users frequently replace ink cartridges which requires a level of access to the interior of the product.

 

 

Scopes

Digital products do not generally lay their operation open to the eye in the same way that mechanical products can. This can make it almost impossible for the untrained amateur to understand how a device works, what may be wrong with it and how one should go about maintaining it. The proliferation of screen based interfaces should lead to the opportunity for products to ‘tell us what is wrong’ with them, but this can be problematic when screens freeze or software crashes.

These Digital Scopes are based on commonly recognised medical instruments that are used in diagnosis, but also for the ‘check-up’. These devices plug into the various ports of digital products and offer the user both diagnostic information and advice on maintenance procedures that would help improve the performance of the device.

diagnostic scopes

This concept aims to demystify the product and empower users to take ownership of the maintenance of their digital devices. Responding to the finding that there is often a need (or perceived need) for specialist knowledge to enable effective maintenance, these scopes reflect the necessity for products to provide a clear indication to users that maintenance is necessary.

modularity

The majority of items, identified in the Maintenance Survey results, that users associated with the meed for regular maintenance were mechanical in nature. Alongside this, users identified the need for specialist knowledge and specialist facilities as the primary reasons for deferring some or all of the maintenance to someone else.

If it is desirable to encourage users/owners to engage with the active maintenance of their possessions, finding a way to remove the barriers presented by the need for this knowledge and equipment could help to facilitate greater participation.

The concept of modular design has been known for a long time and is ofter recognised as a feature of system furniture design, but has been applied in many fields. Interestingly, modularity is highlighted as a key principle in the NASA design of maintenance guide that is applied to Spacecraft Design.

modular

Modular design is practiced in the automotive industry, but only in the way in which components can be shared across a range of vehicles. As stated on the Modular Motor concept board, the Nexcel system under development by Castrol shows the way in which previously complex maintenance procedures can be democratised through design development.

As Castrol predominately deal with oil products, it is likely that the development of this system will be limited to the sector that they operate in. However, this principle has the potential to be applied across many other maintenance procedures and many other product categories beyond the automotive sector.

modular sketch
early concept sketch