Ten years from now, how will we make things? As technologies like 3-D printing and connected devices advance, the products around us have the potential to make our lives better–spawning more creativity, helping us learn in new ways, and reshaping economies. In a project called Made In The Future, innovation and design consultancy IDEO took a look at some of the ways technology will change in the next decade.
Each concept, based on research with MIT Media Lab and other partners, explores a bigger theme–like the idea that products will soon be customizable in new ways. The themes led to crazy and not-so-crazy suggestions: A tabletop device on your coffee table might crank out a little sculpture using sound waves every time you have a conversation, for example, or your shirt might keep track of your emotions and then email a chart to your therapist at the end of the day.
“In some ways, the concepts explored the bigger idea, as opposed to being the end goal,” explains Colin Raney, managing director of IDEO’s Boston studio. “I’m pretty sure you won’t see these concepts exactly in 10 years. But you will be able to see those themes very strongly.”
One of the wilder concepts was an outdoor sweater factory for the desert in Death Valley: New material would react to the sunlight and grow fibers that could be made into clothing. Since the material doesn’t exist yet, this is probably pretty unlikely to happen. But the bigger idea behind it–that technology can bring new opportunities to struggling places by uncovering new resources–is already happening.
Each of the designs is illustrated in a short video that the team quickly made in-house with physical props. “We decided to make things and hopefully it will provoke people,” Raney says. They want to provoke more than conversation: Ideally, they say, someone will be inspired to go build something they see here.
“I think what we hope for the audience is the same thing we hoped for as designers–being able to ask really big questions about the future and being able to answer them through design,” Raney says. “That’s really exciting. It’s a really positive lens to put on where we can go with the world, it’s a positive lens for how we can create better interactions and better ways to live with each other.”