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The generation facing the ground. We tilt our heads up to 60° in search of the next TikTok trend. We lose sight of each other because we no longer look at each other. Studies have found that the smartphone creates a shift in appreciation. The paradox here is that the smartphone is used as a substitute for a lack of social validation, even though it is precisely this that has been created by being the trigger for communicative interruptions in face-to-face interactions. Furthermore, such interfaces could also have a positive effect on phenomena such as phubbing: the phenomenon in which a person is ignored in the presence of others in favor of a smartphone. So if interfaces of the future occur less quantitatively because they are only needed when they are needed, then this will lead to a significant increase in mental balance and interpersonal attention. We are creating a kind of oxymoron of interaction: Mindful and humane interfaces promoted by the technology itself. The world is becoming bittersweet.

The real seaminess — context instead of isolation

Seamless Experience currently generates 355 million search results on Google. Studies, reports, and the next hype train are betting that seamless experience will be the next customer stop. But hardly anything is visible. And there is a banal reason for this: we live in a world of fragmented and isolated service offerings. We call them apps. And apps hardly talk to each other. They are shy and introverted. So what would happen if there were no more apps? No more shy, communicative services? What if the next service experience consisted of the sum of many offers and content? AI platforms such as ChatGPT now put us in the comfortable position of no longer having to plan and book our journey via umpteen different apps and platforms, but rather bundling them together in a holistic way. There are currently 6.4 million apps in the app stores. 6.4 million isolated and uncommunicative services. In the future, we will probably seek less contact with the 6.4 million individual users and instead create outcomes by input. So the next stop is ‘The real seaminess’.

The Renaissance of reduction

Over time, the insatiable urge for more and better has set in. We expect the quality of photographic lenses compressed into tablet-sized smartphone lenses, and new apps with exactly the one feature I need right now. And smartphones have already reached the retirement home of technology after two years at the latest. However, this desire for more does not satisfy a supposed need, but only creates even more insatiability.

Good design is as little as possible.

The 10th principle from Dieter Rams’ “10 Principles of Good Design”. And the AI Pin follows precisely this credo. No Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion, no travel bag of irrelevant apps, no dazzling interfaces. Paying money for this doesn’t sound very tempting at first. But the temptation comes from reduction. Because reduction creates time for relationships. Relationships with people. The new will be the less.

Good design is as little design as possible as 10th principle by Dieter Rams next to a Braun T3 pocket radio
Good design is as little design as possible / image by Timo Wagner

Situational contextualization

Imagine using one of these new devices such as the AI Pin or AR Lenses to project a route to a new restaurant that has been suggested to you based on your preferences. So you start walking, guided by the reduced augmented reality interface. A 25-minute walk, that’s what you wanted. You enjoy the balmy air, which is now getting gustier. Your device sends you to the nearest drugstore to get an umbrella because it has detected a cumulonimbus cloud in the distance that will pour over you in the next 10 minutes. Your weather app doesn’t tell you all that. Now imagine you are in your home, wearing one of these new wearables and you are advised to move your Monstera houseplant to a shadier spot because slight discoloration on the leaves has probably been caused by too much sun. All these possibilities, these situational contexts, make this magical difference when I don’t ask for it.

Image by Zane Liu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rmIo5Gen14

The rejection of doom-scrolling

We all know it. The irrelevant scrolling through news and social media feeds with an increased focus on negative headlines. We try to solve ignorance through information gathering. We land on the first negative headline and look for the solution in the next swipe. But we don’t find it. And we keep swiping and swiping and find ourselves in an addictive endless spiral of irrelevant content that we can’t escape. We are addicted. In search of the next populist kick. Ambient interactions in combination with AI can become this positive antagonist. If there are no more apps, there is no infinity scrolling anymore. If there is an AI that reacts empathetically, I will no longer be shown purely negative messages. If there are no more apps, there are no more classic advertising formats, which are nothing more than another manipulative diversion into another endless spiral. A world without apps, without in-app advertising, and a return to real human needs could be wonderful.

The sustainability thing

A small factor that is perhaps not yet relevant today is the issue of sustainability. According to estimates and assuming that there are currently 3.5 billion smartphones in existence and that they are charged daily, these smartphones consume as much CO2 globally as 707,000 cars, 1.5 million long-haul flights, or 37% of a coal-fired power plant. Devices that have reduced interfaces and are only really used when needed, and therefore need to be charged less, can at least make a small contribution here.

In the future, ambient interactions will definitely offer answers to the desires of our time. We will become more mindful again, and more attentive to our counterparts, technology can surprise us because it understands us and interactions will be embedded in our surrounding nature. We are creating a true symbiosis between nature and artificiality. We let digital layers merge into our environment until they are no longer perceived as digital. We are well on the way to understanding technology again as what it should be. As a supplement to us, not as a manipulative draught horse.

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