We're told time and again that we live in an era where
differentiated experience is key. Then why are so many experiences the same?
Facebook copies Snapchat, Uber copies Lyft, Microsoft copies everyone. This
copycat syndrome isn't confined to just surface dimensions but whole business
models. Karwai Wong and Will Anderson, design strategists at SapientRazorfish,
interrogated this phenomenon today.
In their summation there are three fundamental reasons this
is happening. The first is the incestuous use of the same "best in
class" case studies. The second is stale ideation techniques that just
reveal the same problems/opportunities. The third is the emphasis on short-term
value that limits the scope of design thinking.
The duo proposed two interventions to help. First, new frameworks that show the social consequences of these oft-copied digital products. Second, a call for strategists to "kill their darlings" when their approaches gather rust.
At Zone we've recently launched an AI-Voice taskforce, so a
lot of my time at SXSW will be dedicated to that topic. Sophie Kleber, executive
director of Product & Innovation at Huge, spoke about the design of AI
experiences today. Designers have always evoked emotions, eg the friendliness
of the bug-eyed sprite, but voice brings that to the fore more than ever before.
Kleber walked through the expected 2021 $36.7bn market for
emotional recognition software. She discussed the rising stars of facial and
voice recognition and biometrics spaces. That tech helps establish the
emotional cues of a customer but more is required to understand context and how
a system should respond. Kleber suggested designers familiarise themselves with
psychology to do their jobs tomorrow.
Her framework had two axes: a customer’s design for emotion and a brand’s permission to play. When there is neither, the system should tune out. When the former is high but the latter is low, it should react like a machine. When play is possible, the system can react like an extension of self or like a human.
This panel was hosted by Sara Sorcher of The Christian
Science Monitor and featured Chris Piehota of the FBI, Brian Brackeen of facial
recognition company Kairos and Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation. The panel debated whether biometrics were making things more
secure/convenient or if it was creepy. The answer from the audience when asked
was: yes, both.
Doctorow, who is a regular and gifted speaker, eloquently
spoke about the risk. The more the private sector gathers, the cheaper it gets
for the government to surveil. That erodes the ability for the government to
constrain corporate surveillance. Every time we use a tech product or service
we're paying corporates for these invasions. Governments in turn raid that
Bracken argued the private sector wants regulation but
Washington gridlock makes it impossible. He also raised the spectre of the
implicit racism of recent facial recognition tech. Now, the tech has learned so
much about race that it is an effective tool for genealogy use cases.
That claim terrified Piehota, who said the government has
taken many steps to preserve civil liberties from this tech. He mentioned how
his agency couples constrained version of the tech with a human element. These
"super recognisers" have a marginally better success rate over the
tech alone. Today, anyway.