A transformation from intelligent to emotive – no, it’s not your girlfriend during an argument. According to Philips, it’s the future of technology. While the trend in recent years has been to produce self-thinking (intelligent) products, the people at Philips believe that in another decade or so there may be a shift toward products that are more intuitive to human emotion.
Philips Design Probes program is a “far-future research initiative that tracks trends and developments that may ultimately evolve into mainstream issues that have significant impact on business”. The program uses research in five areas – politics, economy, culture, environment and technology – to stipulate what the future might hold. Though the language on Philips Web site is a bit obscure, the ultimate aim of the program seems to be to try to get a sense of what life will be like after 2020, and identify how technology products will fit into that world in new ways.
And, so far, the Design Probes project has resulted in a number of innovative ideas. One of those ideas is for SKIN: Dresses (pictured), which are dresses that use emotive technology to read a person’s mood and respond with color and pattern. This idea is part of a whole SKIN area that posits a shift will take place in technology from “intelligent” products to “sensitive” products. These sensitive products will use high-tech materials to sense emotions and the surrounding environment. So, an individual wearing one of the dresses could see its appearance suddenly altered as it senses her emotions change.
Along with the SKIN: Dresses, another related idea conceived by Philips is SKIN: Tattoos. According to a video on the Philips site, these tattoos would expand and change on the skin based on mood and sensation. In the video, the emotional states of two lovers are visualized by tattoo transformations on the skin. Certainly, the idea of items like clothes and tattoos communicating human emotion is an intriguing one – even if it still seems like science fiction at this point.
But the Probes program is intended to encourage product designers to think outside the box. While many of the ideas may never be produced, the program creates anything from narratives to prototypes to help get the ideas across, and stimulate debate. Philips also hopes that looking into the far future will eventually help the company improve the way they innovate.
For companies, developing new tech products can be crapshoot. Essentially, you have to look into the crystal ball and hope you don’t waste time developing a product (a) people won’t want or (b) that is no longer relevant at the time of its release. And, according to figures in Business Week, “up to 96 percent of projects fail to meet the targets for return on investment.” Such numbers have led Philips to believe there may be better ways of creating new innovations. And, who knows, in the future when your girlfriend gets mad her dress may turn a burning red and her entire body may become covered in demonic tattoos.