Airbnb's design studio Samara (which was formed, at least in part, by their acquisition of Lapka) has announced a fairly vague, techno-optimist sounding project called Backyard. From Airbnb's own PR team: "Backyard is an initiative to prototype new ways that homes can be built and shared, guided by an ambition to realize more humanistic, future-oriented, and waste-conscious design." Those pronouncements seem willfully naive of the company's own impact on neighborhoods, which some reports suggest contributes to displacing residents by driving up rent prices. We do need to prototype better futures on the local level, but if Airbnb wants to achieve the kind of sustainable, human-centered solutions they mention in their announcement, they will be better off collaborating with those already living and working in communities engaged in grassroots efforts, rather than letting designers dream up new concepts totally detached from the world as it stands.
Microsoft is showcasing a new design system for Windows, but with an eye toward a near-future where augmented reality technologies are common, and require a different kind of UI vernacular.
Feeding the Future:
Roadmapping the Future:
Taking sci-fi world-building practices and using them as inputs for business strategy has become more popular over recent years, and hints at the sort of existential fears lurking inside some of the largest corporations and institutions. Whether it's disruption by nimbler startups or a climate change induced black swan event, organizations that have amassed power in the 20th century want to remain viable as far into the 21st as possible, to the point that they are turning to services that get ever closer to fortune telling, told through branded, rose-colored glasses.
Maersk, the biggest container shipping company in the world, says they are working to hit zero emissions for their shipping fleet by 2050. The goal is distant, but the company's very public declaration is a positive step for an energy-hungry industry. Corporate promises like this all too often amount to empty statements that are later walked back, though Maersk seems to have a decent track record on energy initiatives, citing a per-container emission reduction of 46% since 2007.
A good explanation of why automated manufacturing processes for even mildly complex products remain relatively rare, despite significant technological advances: "Highly automated systems are brittle and have limited room for error. In the language of systems and signals engineering, they are high-frequency systems, where the manufacturing process has to account for many specific and determined steps, with little room for deviation from a specific program or routine." Unfortunately for those of us looking to be unburdened by putting robots in charge of domestic chores like folding laundry or tidying up, the variability of the home presents the would-be automaton with exactly the kind of unpredictable scenarios that flummox today's machines, "AI powered" or not.