5 Mindblowing Things We Heard at SXSW

5 Mindblowing Things We Heard at SXSW

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President Obama, the hyperloop, Wired's Kevin Kelly, Microsoft's HoloLens, Twitter's Biz Stone and, wait for it... Pee Wee Herman! Among the thousands of conversations at SXSW, it can be hard to separate the signal from the noise, so we asked IDEO's SXSW speakers to share their greatest hits. What they came back with—robots, genomics, VR, criminal justice, privacy—proves that design is going places it's never gone before.

1. "85 percent of cancer can be cured in the next five years."
—Dr. Sanjay Patil

The health care industry missed the PC and internet revolution, but they won't miss the big data and analytics revolution, said Dr. Sanjay Patil, chief medical informaticist at MDLIVE, and John Sculley, a board member. According to the American Medical Association, 75 percent of in-person visits could be handled virtually. But they cautioned that it took 10 years for people to get comfortable with online banking and ATMs. Still, Patil and Sculley believe genomics and precision medicine will trigger massive shifts sooner than we might think, and had some very hopeful predictions. —Betsy Fields Smith, senior design and research lead

2. Robots would be smarter if we didn't interrupt them.

If we want robots to learn from us, we have to design them with the human capability of expressing their intent and emotion said Panellists Leila Takayama, senior UX researcher, Google[x]; product designer Nuri Kim, Fellow Robots CIO Thavidu Ranatunga, and Stanford Center for Design Research executive director Wendy Ju spoke about

For example, a robot often learns that a door is a door by staring at it for hours on end. If a person walks in front of a robot while it is learning, this can compromise the training session and hours of work. We need to design careful and intuitive indicators as to what state robots are in. If, for example, a robot was learning by staring at a door while scratching its chin or tapping its forehead, it would serve as a reminder to not interrupt their lesson.

This relates to work we are doing with autonomous vehicles. We will need to develop a new vocabulary of mobility through which vehicles and people can communicate. What sort of cues, both subtle and bold, have we come to expect drivers that help you anticipate their behavior? How might we thoughtfully design some of these cues into autonomous vehicles to make the future safer and more intuitive to move through? —Danny Stillion, partner/executive design director

3. The Jetson’s-style kitchen of the future is here.

The "kitchen of the future" technology exists and there are businesses being built upon it right now. We heard why in a panel called "From Palate to Plate: Defining a Taste Platform." It was framed as a panel about food data, but spoke more to how we interact with food today and might do so in the future, including replacement cycles for appliances, the lack of a portable “taste profile”, and so forth. We're thinking about these things at IDEO, too. Check out the Concept Kitchen 2025, work we collaborated on with IKEA.

While we've realized much of the Sputnik-era vision of the kitchen of the future, there's a fourth circle—system interconnectivity—that we need to start to consider. —Justin Massa, director of business strategy

4. Data will reform our criminal justice system.

What does the rise of information design for a complex social problem such as criminal justice reform look like? There is a growing movement to use open, public data for political advocacy and reform. And yet, even with a wealth of data, we’re unable to design for more accurate, immediate, and actionable ways of using it.

This panel, made up of experts and innovators using data for policy reform and program development said the most vulnerable in the system—offenders and their families—could benefit from the use of more transparent and actionable data, such as preventing false confessions in interrogation or exonerating prisoners from false convictions with DNA testing. They also spoke about the power of predictive policing in cities, and protecting those who are re-entering civilian life with data privacy so that they can secure a job or a loan. —Yennie Lee, impact manager, IDEO.org

5. Virtual Reality may change your beliefs.

Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of hype around VR at SXSW. But outside of finding a second home outside gaming, the use cases I'm most excited about are empathy building, and overcoming trauma. VR can deliver sophisticated, deep storytelling that stays with you. It puts you very close to being in someone else's shoes.

Planned Parenthood is doing just that, showcasing its seven-minute film "Across The Line", which follows one woman's journey from her car to the abortion clinic as she confronts a sea of pro-life protesters. Some footage is live action, some animated, but the audio is a live recording from outside a clinic in Illinois. It’s upsetting. And it may just change someone's mind on this issue. —Karoline K, communications designer

Huge thanks to Karoline K for the illustrations in this story.

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