The future will be physical – Alan Richardson

Frog design’s creative director, showed some of their cases and how he sees the future of the web developing into something more tangible. Coming from a UX point of view, he gave examples of physical (and 20th century) technologies that we use and that we conform to (trains) or that conform to us (cars). We adapt to technology or it adapts to us.Though he didn’t remark on it, I guess the latter is the preferable and optimal use of technology from a human point of view.

Computers are a type of technology that we have had to conform to, the web is a good example of this. Browsers and operating systems are prohibitive but Richardson believes that the browser will become less important relative to other access points. This convergence of the web and the physical objects we find in our world, is the next phase. He highlighted the Times Square take over for GE where stepping inside the browser was the concept – allowing the interaction of people around the world to the advertising screens.

He made clear that phones and computers are on a collision course. Merging together, resulting in communication devices that are mobile, enabling content creation and real time reporting. Before objects and the web were separate, now they begin to intersect and in the medical area it is a pragmatic blend.

He showed a concept relaying health data in real time to doctors. Monitoring patients with heart problems, motion, heart rate and body temp being wirelessly transmitted to the cloud via smart phone to electronic devices. The benefit – allowing a patient to alert the doctor or healthcare workers when certain points have been reached through monitoring. Giving more freedom to the patient and more time to the healthcare practitioners. This seemed an excellent use of technology, and one you can imagine being used widely.


Richardson then showed the webjects – his word for completely blended physical objects with the web. There are two types. The first is the object inside the web – a wrapper of services around the object. Zipcar was the example of an ecosystem of a physical product with a wrapper of touch points of the mobile, website and service to create a car sharing business. The ecosystem formed of physical objects meshed with web software and services.

The other type is the web inside the object using the object as a portal with the object interacting with the web it as it is used. He gave an example of this with a multi-touch in-store augmented reality device for Intel. Here uses would be scanned by a camera, their gender and physical attributes then pre-loading the shelves with the right sizes and styles for that person. A demo at the moment it did give a view of how the digital experience will become placed alongside the real physical objects, with the benefit of closing sales faster.

No relevance, no point

Richardson closed the talk by stating that technology creates needs, but without relevance, solutions will not develop or be adopted. This statement seemed particularly apt with the amount of startups we had seen that day, some of them having no clear relevance at all. Apple’s success is a strange firm to follow or replicate, but what they have understood is the power of making connections between their products and the creation of their ecosystem. Of course the problem that is becoming apparent now is that ecosystem is invite only, and a closed shop…

See the presentation here

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