Artificial intelligence: Friend or foe?

by on Oct 17, 2017 in Dose of Design
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Hack Rod hopes to be the first generatively designed, 3D-printed car. A hot-rod chassis was scanned and digitised, and imported as a 3D model into a computer that produced many design options before printing

Hack Rod hopes to be the first generatively designed, 3D-printed car. A hot-rod chassis was scanned and digitised, and imported as a 3D model into a computer that produced many design options before printing

The rapid development of artificial intelligence is matched only by concerns – some well-founded, some not – about its impact on human creativity and more generally our society. Two Hong Kong creatives – product designer Johan Persson of C'Monde Studios and architect Alexander Wong, founder of his eponymous practice – eschew fears of a Kubrick-esque cybernetic takeover to consider a vision in which AI plays an increasingly important and complementary role, at least in the design process

Designers often pride themselves on their creative ingenuity and ability to translate complex abstract thoughts into real objects. As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more pervasive, designers are becoming nervous – for good reason. Fortune predicts the value of AI to grow to US$70 billion by 2020. We are living in an AI boom, where machines mimic the human brain and, in many cases, outperform it.

Johan Persson

Johan Persson

Human-centred innovation with true competitive value begins with developing an understanding of customers' unmet or unarticulated needs. One of the greatest struggles for designers has long been creating objects that work well for individuals, all of the time. Enter AI.

AI stretches innovation by allowing designers to cater to, and anticipate, individual users' needs. Emotion-sensing AI technology built into products detects users' emotions and drives positive behaviour change. A brilliant example is Emospark, a cube-shaped AI home device that uses language analysis and facial recognition to assess human emotions and map an emotional profile to deliver selected music, video and images to enhance the mood.

Products are no longer just performing basic functions, but are aware of their surroundings and users' emotions, and can act upon them.

Alexander Wong

Alexander Wong

The future of design will be very much affected by the use of artificial intelligence, and it's causing a lot of undue fear and stress in our profession. People are asking questions like "Where will AI lead us?" and "Who will survive this seismic shift in our profession?"

In fact, AI will speed up the design process by solving problems faster, producing more options to choose from. It will focus on a more solution-driven or context-specific way of designing, and it give us the chance to remove all historical clichés. AI will really enhance the human ability to design and not diminish it in any way – we just have to learn how to adapt ourselves as we go along and make the most of this new technology. So being frightened of AI is not the way forward – we cannot be Luddites!

Dragon bench by Joris Laarman

Dragon bench by Joris Laarman

This new technology will also indirectly include more people outside the design industry; they'll have a real say in "designing for the future", particularly through findings from big data. AI could also learn from – and predict – human behaviour, and aid the process of design evolution through the collection of big data at each stage of the design process. New technology will also accelerate the exchange of ideas by connecting everything globally on the net.

AI streamlines the design process by removing undue complexities from designers' everyday lives, so we as a profession can spend more time experiencing our own designs or those by others which will in turn improve the quality of our design thinking.

This is an excerpt from the “AI: Friend or foe?" article from the October 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.

To continue reading, get your copy of Perspective.

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