IoF OpenDot fablab - Photo by OpenDot

OpenDot fablab – Photo by DotDotDot.

Milan 2016 – New digital technologies are shaping design innovation. But many fear that the Internet of Things might substitute human-to-human relations with a click. ArchiPanic joined the Internet of Furniture open talk and posed a simple question to Carlo Ratti, Reto WettachJessica Nebel and Alessandro Masserdotti: “As innovators, what to say to those who don’t know what to expect or just simply fear what lies ahead?”.

Carlo Ratti Associati Lift Bit ph Max Tomasinelli

Lift-Bit by Carlo Ratti Associati – Photos by Max Tomasinelli.

Shape-shifting sofas, open-source platforms and high-tech capsules for co-working spaces, but also moody toasters and the state of the art of Artificial Intelligence… The Internet of Furniture open talk was hosted by OpenDot fablab, a project by DotDotDot interaction design practice in Milan.

RELATED STORIES: Read more about design digital revolution on ArchiPanic…

Reto Wettach @ IoF talk.

Reto Wettach @ IoF talk.

Internet of Things is not about objects talking to objects”. Says MIT professor Carlo Ratti, founder of Carlo Ratti Associati and director of MIT Senseable City Lab. “In the beginning people were fascinated about a refrigerator talking to another refrigerator. But who cares? What do they need to talk about? The exciting thing is if that refrigerator is online and can help us to improve our lifestyle. As the human-side must always be at the centre”.

Carlo Ratti Associati Lift Bit ph Max Tomasinelli
Carlo Ratti Associati Lift Bit ph Max Tomasinelli
Carlo Ratti Associati Lift Bit ph Max Tomasinelli
Carlo Ratti Associati Lift Bit ph Max Tomasinelli
Carlo Ratti Associati Lift Bit ph Max Tomasinelli
Carlo Ratti Associati Lift Bit ph Max Tomasinelli
At La Triennale, Carlo Ratti Associati presented Lift-Bit, the first shape-shifting modular sofa that can be controlled with a hand gesture or with a mobile application. Lift-Bit comes as a constellation of units that can be assembled together in order to create a bed, a set of armchairs or self-adjustable individual stools. The project was developed in collaboration with Vitra and is on show at the exhibition “Rooms. Novel living concepts” curated by Beppe Finessi – Watch VIDEO.

Reto Wettach, founder of IXDS design practice says “People are not stupid. “Smart PR-Oriented designs don’t go much far. See Google Glasses. The point is design itself. Design means to have a method to understand and find solutions for what people really need. And they don’t generally ask for fancy gadgets. Technology is an ingredient you don’t have to spoil. The true mission is to make people’s life better”.

"OK glass, find banana" Photo by Thomas Hawk - Flickr CC.

“OK glass, find banana” Photographer Thomas Hawk plays around with Google Glasses – Flickr CC.

Reto Wettach is also founder of Fritzing, an open-source platform that offers to non-professionals the tools to engeneer and develop their own Internet of Things designs. “How can we contribute to make people understand the IoT? I believe that the more we know, the more we can advance. That why Fritzing was born” – Watch VIDEO.

RELATED STORY: ECAL students approached the internet of things from the psicological point of view of those who relate with smart-designs.

Designer Jessica Nebel, member of  Steelcase leading manufacturer of furniture for offices, hospitals and classrooms, says: “As an Industrial Designer I am very much concerned with the human aspects of products and technology. At Steelcase, our work is based on experimental curiosity and reflection on insights gained through research. I do not think that craft ist the only way to make objects more human. One example of human-driven technology? A kindle that adjusts to elderly people’s sight allowing them to keep reading”.

Steelcase Smart BRODY - courtesy of Jessica Nebel

Steelcase developed a smart version of BRODY, a compact office capsule for co-working open-spaces – Photo by Steelcase.

ArchiPanic: As a designer which are the upcoming challenges to make the Internet of Thing less scary, more understandable and therefore more accepted? Jessica Nebel: “One of the challenges is to overcome flamboyant PR-oriented designs and make products that are more easily understandable and tuned with our natural way of thinking. The other challenge comes from the fact that IoT designs need to be constantly updated. Indeed, wether it is low-tech or high-tech, a chair is supposed to live more than 5 year. And that is much more than an smartphone that, sadly, you can get rid of every few years”.

Steelcase Smart DIVISIO - courtesy of Jessica Nebel

Steelcase developed a smart version of DIVISIO office dividers for co-working open-spaces – Photo by Steelcase.

Alessandro Masserdotti, co-founder of DotDotDot reassured about Artificial Intelligence “Sci-Fi cinema and literature make us think to A.I. as robots thinking and feeling like humans. Luckly this is not how it really is. Human intelligence is enough to do all we need. Today Artificial Intelligence is mostly used to support us in what we can’t do like managing big quantities of data or perform multiple action at the same time”. What about Human-IoT interaction? “I don’t like smart objects that take you time to learn how to use their interface, that keep pushing redundant notifications or even tell you off. But i did like Simone Rebaudengo’s provocative project for an IoT toaster called Brad”.

Brad does toasts, old style. But it is connected with a network of smart-toasters and has its own personality. You can’t own it but host it. If it doesn’t make enough toasts, it feels pointless and starts tweeting to others people to own it… And the bad owner has to let it go. In this case, the ironic project is a provocation to make us think about the importance of owning and sharing objects”.

RELATED STORIES: Students and alumni at Design Academy Eindhoven respond to overwhelming digital-driven design with an analogue exhibition focused on products that want to be touched… and a petting zoo.

Touch Base - Design Academy Eindhoven

“Touch Base” Exhibition by Design Academy Eindhoven – Ph. courtesy of Design Academy Eindhoven.

Watch the full video of Opendot talk HERE.