Speculative Product Design

Do we own our hardware?



Skills: 
Futuring
Design Fiction-ing
Speculative Research
Physical Computing
Software Prototyping

Using futuring frameworks to identify and extrapolate from weak signals in the present, I created a design fiction of a future state in the world and then created this diegetic prototype to create a discussion around ownership will change in the future. 

Weak Signal 1 : Ownership is a loosening concept
 


World of Warcraft server shutdown
It’s almost a regular occasion that software products are ‘end of lifed’ and service for the user’s endpoint applications just stops. This often creates situations where: 

Weak Signal 2: People make efforts to take back these products


Here we can see an example of a product that a company is intentionally disableing until you pay to buy another ‘activator’. However, we can see that users have figured out how to circumvent this tricky business model and are spreading and sharing that knowledge.

In order to spur a discussion about how these weak signals, I imagined what kind of world that these trends might create. One where hardware products are left useless and unsupported just as often as software products are today. 
Here
is a more in depth look at my futuring process. 


A key aspect to this is that I wanted this to be something everyday, something that regular people would have to contend with. This led me to pick a simple, kitchen item, a regular electric water heater.

In order to quickly get people into this world, I created a ‘Headline of the Future’. This keys people in to the fact that your prototype is diegetic, e.g. it is part of a story that takes place in a world very similar to our own, but slightly different in a key way. Here we see how an everyday product could become ‘bricked’ due to the fact tha 



I created a prototype of this IOT water heater, and an example of how it might behave. This prototype takes the form of a smart kettle from the future. To indicate this, I actually hooked up a relay and Particle Photon to its internal circutry and turned it into a real IOT kettle, one that could heat water from a touch of a button on your phone.



The story ark:

Given that our user has just woken up to discover that his kettle won’t even heat water anymore because it is unsupported by its manufacturer anymore. What do many people do? They go online in order to find a solution to the problem. So, in a similar way that the guy who was angry about his acne mask found a tutorial online, I’ve created a tutorial online in the classic tradition of youtube tutorials that demonstrates how to fix the kettle.



And how does this ‘fix’ even work? Well, it uses a peice of ‘software’ (processing sketch) that emulates a kind of rootkit or repair tool.
In general, the trend that I wanted to discuss is below:
Finally, you can see the entire system in action here: