“Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect.” – Benny Hill, British comic
Have you ever met someone who looks at the best of what you’ve done – the shining star of your success and says…”meh.” I have not met him, but I imagine Brett Victor, the man behind WorryDream.com to be exactly “that guy.”
Please, let’s be serious – the tagline under his name is “Purveyor of Impossible Dreams.” Feels like something out of a Fantasy novel or comic book.
Except when you get to his CV – which starts with this, and again – I take Brett’s words here, these from his CV: At “Apple. I designed the initial user interface concepts for iPad, iPod Nano, and half a dozen experimental hardware platforms. Initiated, designed, and prototyped over seventy concept projects, including radically reinvented interfaces for video editing, animation, drawing, learning, collaboration, mail, photos, and much more. Invented features for Mac OS X Lion. Worked with designers and engineers from all parts of Apple. Routinely presented to top-level management.”
I came by Brett’s work via his piece “A Brief rant on the Future of Interaction Design” which contains a video that, if we had all the innovation contained therein, we would say had delivered significant innovation. But, for men like Brett it’s not enough. “It’s a timid increment from the status quo, and the status quo, from an interaction perspective, is actually rather terrible.”
He simply thinks differently. His long-ish diatribe talks a lot about our hands and the wizardry they deliver. And he offers us this
“And this is my plea — be inspired by the untapped potential of human capabilities. Don’t just extrapolate yesterday’s technology and then cram people into it.”
His basic argument, if I might net it down is that we are not using the full sum of our gestures – of our bodies – to interact with technology. We place some barrier between ourselves and the interaction. Technology is in fact headed in this direction and we have talked about it this week. When I look at the concept of an “Experience Store,” the places where we show off all our high technology and careful considerations for customers in a retail-styled environment, we miss a lot of this. Kevin and I have been on a search of experience stores lately, ones that engage more senses than expected. Things that evoke our understanding in ways we had not considered. To wit, buying a bed is tactile (in so very many ways) and the experience we had at the Sleep Number store in Oakbrook, IL delivered a very tactile experience. We saw the surfers and the scents and the water at your toes at Hollister, NYC. There’s an actual Dreamliner in the Boeing experience in Renton, WA. Test putting a bag up and sitting in the seat. It’s a whole body experience. Yet, so many retail experiences still spend their time trying to cram in coolness as opposed to actually being cool.
It is that incremental, as opposed to the transformational. Sure, all of these were expensive installations. I am not denying that. That doesn’t mean they have to be. We’ve already discussed how sensors can help deliver better experiences and how analytics can change/tune/respond to a user. What do those sensors do? They integrate a user and an experience. They take sensory feedback into account. Yet, when you walk into, for instance, a Bed Bath and Beyond, all the sheets are in bags. How do I know whether a 200-thread count is different than a 1,000 count one? The latest versions of Android respond to facial recognition. We have so much more power to integrate our bodies and ourselves into an experience.
And with that, we would have the experience not as shown in the Bruce Willis movie Surrogates – where the sensory experience is artificially stimulated, to a real one. One that actually smells like the coffee in our favorite coffee house, or allows us to touch silky smooth hair, or allows us to hear the sound of a pan being hot enough to allow us to add the onions to sauté. We want guidance and enrichment, not replacement. And technology has the capacity to help train our senses. Not to replace them.
If I were picking a place for you to start, I’d recommend explorable explanations.