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Brief Published: 7 Feb 2017

AI and Robotics: Utopia or Dystopia?

Max Fraser interviewed Alice Rawsthorn at the launch of the Design Academy at A/D/O

Brooklyn’s creative hub A/D/O launched its first Design Academy event with three days of talks, films and installations surrounding the theme Utopia Vs. Dystopia. A key sub-theme to emerge from talks was the role design plays in introducing nascent artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic technology to consumers.

  • French industrial designer Yves Behar believes the world is entering a “fourth dimension” of design, enabled by AI, robotics and smart environments. “For the first time, we can think about how design engages and evolves over time, and how its value changes as it becomes more personal.”

    This new wave of design, Behar explained, should avoid visual clichés and the anthropomorphisation (attributing human form or personality to objects) of technology. Instead, design should enable learning and the prediction of human behaviour. Behar cited his San Francisco-based studio Fuseproject’s active ageing companion ElliQ as a prime example of an emotionally intelligent product that evolves by learning the user’s preferences.
    He also noted its Snoo Smart Sleeper crib, which responds to a crying baby with the right level of rocking and white noise, putting its success down to the robot’s design (the cradle itself) coming from a familiar frame of reference.

  • “This is a transformative time when design is being given the opportunity to fulfill much more complex and meaningful roles,” said British design critic Alice Rawsthorn, echoing Behar. AI and robotics will “flush out moral debates that are less about the technology and more about issues raised by their application,” she explained, urging a holistic approach that brings designers in from the outset and not periodically.