Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Feb 2019

Unshapen and Focused

Being thrust back to the future of unshapen mobiles and their implications

Spent a nice day recently, conversing with other information/experience design professionals during World IA Day. Some of the conversations sprung towards either the tools we use, or how hard it is to focus product and process because of the amount of options which seem to be at our fingertips. Literal fingertips in this case — was using Pencil and Tap to take notes. The introduction of newer forms of input or expression seems to have hit something of a fever pitch over the week. Besides the context of conferences currently happening, there’s also a shift underfoot to question and explore what felt like certainties. This has led to a number of unshapen forms, and perhaps some more focus towards what people want for their tools to do.

Microsoft at MWC Barcelona: Introducing Microsoft HoloLens 2 - The Official Microsoft Blog

Why would one use a computer that fits on their head instead of sitting in front of a terminal? Why do they learn new gestural commands, versus leveraging the years of keyboard, mice, and/or touch? What’s really “better” if this is causing so much transformation? And yet, these questions are so focused they miss the unshapen opportunity. Microsoft postures HoloLens 2 as a computer for people who aren’t in front of computers but need to leverage computing to do their job (start at 4:40). This is focused in an unshapen context. But allows for a focus to something which can enable others.

Then there are those folded screens showing up on the newly announced Samsung and Huawei mobiles. Is there a reason for these? Can these technologies (multiple batteries stitched together with software, folded screens, windowed interfaces, etc.) answer something about computing that’s considered a compromise with tablets or large phones? Or, is the transforming phone the bridge to the wearable and voice-augmented device as the telephony — the foldable screen being an adaptable input interface accessory? Certainly, if not looking at these as addressing a compromise we can start to have these perspectives. But what others? What about mobile and/or tablets is unshapen and could use some attempt at focus?

Get to Know the Galaxy Fold - Samsung

Huawei Mate X: a closer look at MWC 2019 - Engadget

Perhaps the apprehension with these kinds of devices are because they do expose the potential of life outside of assumed norms. For much about technologies, processes, and behaviors, we forget that there was a time when these were new also. They challenged norms and it was difficult to see the things yet imagined.

To be unshapen doesn’t mean to be unfocused. And, as we are seeing with these and other announcements at MWC, to what we notice in regional and global policy might have had focus for one stage of life, pen towards describing what comes next.