The Future is Now: Pushing the Boundaries of Design Tech

As graphic and web designers, we enjoy the idea of solving creative problems for either print or digital environments. The end product could be a design that lives on a piece of paper or a live website for people to view on various devices.

As design technology grows and fields merge, the line between what we feel design is and what professionals are doing has blurred. The concept of ubiquitous computing has been explored in movies for some time now and is becoming more of a reality in our everyday lives. How humans and computers interact doesn’t always start and stop with desktop computers, mobile devices, or even gesture-based interfaces where we can type to input commands. Large companies and small start-ups are pushing the boundaries of what design technology is and starting to fulfill some of the predictions seen in movies.

Hello, Computer

Dealing with technology in our environment has been envisioned in futuristic stories for a long time. One of my favorite examples is in Star Trek 4 – The Voyage Home. Long story short, the space crew of the enterprise travels back in time to the 20th century and has to interact with a computer from the 1980’s. In the scene below (at the 1:18 mark) Scotty tries to talk to the computer to interact with it. This is natural to his character because in the future that is how it works.


While mobile devices with voice command have been around for a while, one still needs to hold and turn on the device. The subtle aspects of truly hands free technology that is integrated into our environment is just starting to see fruition.

Amazon Echo

While it might look like another portable speaker, Amazon Echo is much more. Echo connects directly with Wifi and allows the user to access information via voice command. For example if your hands are full and you would like to know the weather, you just ask and Echo will tell you. Echo has blue tooth connectivity, allows you to prompt questions while music is playing and adapts to your speech patterns. According to the promotional site echo has “dual downward-firing speakers produce 360° omni-directional audio to fill the room with immersive sound.”


By the company Hello, “Sense is a simple system that tracks your sleep behavior, monitors the environment of your bedroom and reinvents the alarm.” Sense has a minimalist design and consists of two parts, a small globe that sits on a night stand and a subtle attachment that connects to the users pillow. This hands free concept allows the user to record sleeping patterns without waking up or inputting data anywhere. It is no wonder Sense’s kickstarted campaign has far out succeeded it’s goal.

Shall we play a game?

Sometimes it’s not how you create something. It’s the way you create it, that makes the end product that much different. The way we interact with computers changes our relationship with creating content and the experiences we have. In the movie War Games, Matthew Broderick interacts with the computer to play a deadly game of global thermonuclear war. Without giving out too much of the plot, the computer experience ends up being very real. How we interact, play and use a digital device is becoming just as important as what is being displayed on the screen.


Leap Motion

When the Nintendo Wii came out in 2006, it showed the general public that playing video games could be done with the whole body. The Leap Motion brings the same aspect of using three dimensional space but applies it to the desk top computer creation experience. Using a small sensor device, hands replace the mouse and allow for free form movements to control what is happening on the screen. By allowing the hands to be touch free, the movements can be very similar to that of a 3D artist.


Following the theme of going beyond a touch screen experience in learning and gaming, Osmo is an app and physical based system that allows kids to “Play Beyond the Screen.” While the Osmo system still uses the iPad, it augments it with a reflector on the camera to allow for various physical play possibilities. By creating a larger area for play, Osmo allows for more social interactions and avoids kids trying to pull the iPad away from each other.


UMake is a new 3D drawing app for the iPad that allows the user the ability to sketch in freehand while moving the composition in three dimensional space similar to traditional CAD environments. It was created by former employees from Autodesk that wanted something that was intuitive and made directly for the creative user. UMake allows the user to sketch directly in the 3D environment, turning and shifting perspectives from the X-Horizontal axis, Y-Vertical axis and Z-Spatial axis.

Great Scott!

In Back to the Future: Part II, Marty McFly travels to the future of 2015, which is now. The movie predicted many things such as flying cars, hover boards, self-lacing shoes and even a self-drying jacket. It’s 2015, so where is my self-drying jacket? While they did not get the prediction of the self-drying jacket, the concept of wearable computing is very much a reality and starting to see some major growth spurts.

Nike Fuel Band

Nike Fuel Band is a wearable device that is worn on the wrist and used during physical activity. The band connects to smart devices, tracks movement and energy burned. The results of the activities can be seen on Nike+ online and uses a gamification system with points to encourage the participant to react and maintain goals.

Pebble Watch

While we are still waiting for the Apple Watch to be released, the Pebble Watch displays what a small screen on our wrist can do. The pebble watch uses a Bluetooth connection to show notifications (incoming calls, text messages, emails) from a smart device connected to the internet.

T4557In the areas that traditional ways of running a business have failed the corporate world, design thinking has picked up the slack. Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation by Idris Mootee introduces a model of using design thinking that is relevant to and productive for business management, marketing, and design strategies, as well as presents ways to apply design thinking in day to day work. Discover how design thinking can inspire creative solutions to solve complicated business problems, and ultimately transform companies and cultures. Explore the advantages and utilizations of design thinking, learn how the design thinking process can help conquer the eight primary challenges most businesses face, and utilize exercises, activities, and other resources to begin reaping the benefits of design thinking. Get the book here.