Humans are spatial creatures. We evolved to navigate complex environments and manipulate three dimensional objects. Yet our digital life today is mostly confined to the thin rectangular space of a screen. Not only have touchscreens restricted our hands to a form of glorified finger painting, but the digital world in general hasn’t made great use of our abilities for spatial reasoning and situation awareness… until now.
We are standing at the edge of yet another major technological shift: spatial (AR, VR, MR), cognitive (ML, AI) and physical (IoT, Wearables) computing are on the verge of reshaping reality. The internet is increasingly weaving itself into the fabric of our physical reality, and the future will be a complex layer cake of digital and physical elements rolled into one continuous ambient connected experience, a blend of real and virtual that is more than the sum of its parts.
While the smartphone is unlikely to completely go away, it will not remain the dominant computing platform forever. What comes next will require a very different perspective on design, interaction, service design, entrepreneurship, etc. For anyone dealing with the impact of digital media on a daily basis, this should be an exciting (if somewhat overwhelming) prospect.
The promise of a digitally mediated and fully personalised experience of reality might convince people to give up even more of their data. It will reify and amplify some of the negative side effects of predictive and recommendation algorithms we already observe online (filter bubbles, racial biases, profiling, etc). The spatial transformation of digital media, communication, and technology will give a new dimension to moral, ethical, and political issues we only face online today. How will we guard against unintended consequences, and ensure that informed consent and personal freedom survive in the process?
To deal with spatial transformation and address emerging needs, we will have to invent a new design discipline incorporating spatial, interactive, behavioral, human-centered and ethical design concerns.