Think about your favourite possession (don’t read on until you can picture it in your head)… Now ask yourself, was that possession something that you ‘needed’ or something that you ‘wanted’. I’d gamble good money on the majority not thinking of their toilet, or their bed, or their cooker. As our basic needs are met our mind set changes.
I read a review article the other day which criticised what I saw as an extremely innovative technology, the activity tracker, claiming that there was ‘no need for it’ in everyday life. Since when has a ‘need’ dictated the ultimate success of a product? Because we do not need something does not mean that it won’t be useful, do we need our television sets?
Shortly after reading this article I attended an event in which individuals, far more intelligent that myself, addressed technologies that may be able to help individuals diagnosed with long term conditions. What was the route to market for these innovations? Convince those in positions of power within health and social care organisations to implement their technologies into already developed programmes. Most likely leading to such technologies being forced onto individuals within these organisations. There’s nothing less desirable than a technology being forced upon you, we all want to have choice.
I’m not naïve, in many cases the only way of implementing technologies and making a real difference on a large scale is to attempt to gain funding from large public sector organisations. But isn’t this the sole reason why there is such resistance when attempting to implement technologies? We’re designing products in order to impress organisations, in order to gain the necessary funding to manufacture and implement technologies aimed at a population who have had no contribution to the process.
To add insult to injury these technologies are being designed for a subset of individuals under the assumption that users are not capable of utilising technologies that may be unfamiliar and new.
I’d like to see technologies developed that are desirable for the entire population, not seen as necessary for the ‘elderly’. The problems with isolation in aging individuals is well known but yet it seems all interventions are aimed towards segregating a still highly capable group yet further. The most sustainable and successful companies are those that present useful applications in a manner that is intriguing and interesting.
For true application and sustainability I don’t think we have to segment and specify. Why not create a technology intuitive enough for all to use? If a technology first saturates a middle aged market with stereotypically more disposable income than older generations such a technology can be extrapolated up until a point at which it can be so widespread that prices can fall, and production can expand in order to cater for demand. Then everyone is more likely to desire the innovation. Only then can we truly put its potential in long term care to use. Facebook was designed to be simple enough for everyone to use, but to show no differentiation in design to anybody, whilst customisable it provides a format that allow the user takes control of their area providing identity and independence. Allowing the platform itself to collate the data necessary for optimal success. It wasn’t luck that dictated Facebook’s success, it was the recognition that everybody wants the same things, just presented in a slightly different way.
The potential for use of online gaming for interaction has been discussed a lot in recent literature and I find this particularly interesting. I do see problems with an increase in online communication reducing face to face conversation however the benefit seems to outweigh the risk in terms of reducing isolation. I feel such a technology can be taken far further than anything we’ve ever imagined. What gives online gaming such potential for success? It’s desirable to end users through engagement and enjoyment. I’ll leave it there for now and talk about the potential for online gaming in a future article, keep an eye out for that.
Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)