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What to Expect from Science in 2017: Design

The most important thing we must keep in mind when talking about future innovation is that there is no one single scenario or outcome. For instance, we may have forgotten or missed something, and this might appear as a surprise. Then, as follows, a new trend or area of studies will emerge. There also is a particular Russian specialty: some trends already exist, but it’s nevertheless impossible to understand their actual scale.
Ilya Sobol

Creator and Curator of the ‘Industrial Design. Design of the Future’ study track

Neural networks are an obvious trend that’s hard to deny or ignore. This year, we’ve seen much activity with image recognition technologies, and there already are several start-ups in this field in Russia. This includes software that can change an image so that it can imitate an artist’s style, or identify people in photos and search for them on social media. Furthermore, in regards to forecasts, in addition to image recognition, some technologies will likely emerge that can generate texts or even entire adaptive web pages.

This year, we heard a lot of fantastic theories regarding autonomous devices. For example, Kamaz has developed a self-driving truck, while Tesla has created iconic self-driving cars. Several Tesla cars are probably driving through Moscow at this very minute, but it’s unclear whether there will be more of them. In addition, driverless cars on Russian roads have yet to be regulated and approved yet. In 2017, we might see this Kamaz vehicle, not being driven in a testing area, but, for example, delivering goods to supermarkets. We’ll likely see some further developments in this area.

The fourth industrial revolution is taking place right now. It means that anyone who doesn’t even know how to process materials can nonetheless design their idea on a computer, whereby the machine will perform all of the complex work of processing it. At last, only simple assembly will be necessary.

It’s already clear that the concept of personal devices for digital production has become popular. By this, I mean any device that can produce something and/or is controlled by a computer, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, milling machines, water jet cutters, and even digital sewing machines. There are a lot of companies and centres, which now can offer access to such equipment. These are not only manufacturers, but also places where anyone can come and learn to do everything.

I believe that this trend will continue next year. However, it is likely that many of these centres will start closing, since there still isn’t yet a critical mass of people able to manage such projects successfully. Furthermore, there also is a lack of appropriate public demand for such services.

Another unexpected trend, which is hard to gauge in Russia and globally in terms of growth, is city farming - a trend towards planting automation. For instance, two agro-hackatons recently took place, where the teams set out to invent devices for planting in apartments. These devices feature humidity indicators, pumps, temperature indicators, and light switches. Furthermore, they have interfaces for direct control from a user’s smartphone. It’s difficult to predict how this will develop, but, probably, we’ll be seeing some apartment farmers who will able to produce many tomatoes at home, so that there will be enough for further sale. However, it is my belief that this won’t happen any earlier than in three years’ time.

Design entrepreneurship is a trend that we have recently uncovered and discussed within the design community over the last several months. This can only be considered in correlation with industrial design, which implies certain costs for materials and processing. The overall conclusion is designers understand that they can’t change the clients’ thinking. Therefore, they are now abandoning service design (design created to solve clients’ tasks) and, instead, becoming entrepreneurs and even clients themselves. They come up with an idea, determine what this product should look like, and then decide how it can be produced and sold. This is an important trend, since it affects not only the design industry, but also manufacturers.

Additional materials:

Futurology. Future as a Personal Project. What an ‘artificial revolution’ means; why humanity is facing more internal threats than external changes, and how the future can be assembled with one’s own hands.

15 Trends that will Impact Technology, Business, and Our World.

Six Designers Accept the Challenge and Redesign a Cell Tower, a Hospital Gown, a Toilet, and a Bicycle Lock.

What to Expect in 2017 — a Research Forecast

On the eve of New Year’s, it is customary to take a look into the near future. We asked HSE experts in various fields to share their forecasts on which areas of research might be the most interesting and promising in 2017. They tell us about what discoveries and breakthroughs await us in 2017, as well as how this could even change our lives.

Read all forecasts

December 26, 2016