4 Emerging themes from Frontiers 2017

Frontiers 4

The Frontiers Conference 2017 Milano took place last week. While Creative Director Chris Miller and Partner Peter Newbould stepped on stage, the rest of us were in the audience, taking in the latest news, be it on design, health, AI, robotics, 5G, Industry 4.0, software or communication. Here are the ideas that we were the most inspired by:

Future of healthcare

Is the future of healthcare about “caring or curing”? When will doctors start prescribing apps for care? And how will you react when the dystopian app on your phone blocks your order of your favorite greasy French fries?

Christopher Schutte, Director of Experiential Spaces


We are not far from AI listening to the motor of our car and order spare parts (smart preventative maintenance). At the same time, human agent interaction (HAI) is opening the door for us to have conversations with our phones and even elevators – where the agency will respond. AI at present is a probabilistic approach, so instead of artificial we should call it “quantitative intelligence”. Never before has such rich social data been available for machines to learn empathy and social intelligence. The bigger question is, perhaps: Will the marriage of artificial intelligence and quantum computing lead us toward utopia or dystopia?

Christopher Schutte, Director of Experiential Spaces

Predicting security

Researchers are trying to improve the safety of bank offices, both inside and outside (ATM protection) with the help of machine learning. They trained a computer to recognize attacks to ATMs by positioning a depth camera on top of one and simulating lots of different attacks; the videos were fed to an algorithm that can now identify an attack within three seconds and set off an alarm. While it wasn’t possible to use video inside of the bank offices because the scene is too complex and changes for every branch, they were able to use audio recordings with the same approach. An interesting aspect is that if robbers discover a new technique to hack an ATM, the bank can just train the algorithm again and push the update remotely to the system without the need to physically update every ATM.

Loris Bottello, Product and Interaction Designer

The Importance of empathy

In developing bots, empathy is becoming more and more important, and researchers are focusing their attention on the semantics of how we communicate, and what kind of answers we want to receive in different situations to create better bots than before. Be it physical bots, online apps or virtual assistants like Siri, the lack of empathy is not just a minus – it can actually scare people! Sometimes, it is even better to not create bots that have recognizable characteristics, unless the empathy aspect is highly developed. The analogy is the same as with books versus movies – when reading a book (or using a bot), you have to imagine the characters, while with movies, the visual images leave less to the imagination. As a service designer, my aim is always to understand our customers. Personas, for example, are an empathy tool. They help us step in the shoes of our customers, to better understand their needs, and to create the best services possible for them.

Daniela Duran, Service Designer

Read more about the Frontiers Conference 2017 Milano here, about Chris Miller here, or take a look at our work in IoT, product, and digital design.

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