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Oct142012

Google Glasses are Just the Start: Louisa Heinrich on the Rise of "Living Services" 

Speaker Spotlight
As group director of strategy at Fjord, Louisa Heinrich uses powerful storytelling abilities to help design teams thrive. Her passion is understanding the ways digital technologies can adapt to and enhance the human experience. With the Future of Web Apps/Future of Mobile conference just around the corner, we asked Louisa about "Living Services" and the future of adaptable digital technologies.

What are "living services" and how will their emergence change how we develop interactive technologies?

"Living services" refers to two kinds of shifts: one, a shift away from disconnected interactions across multiple screens to more fluid interactions that move and manifest wherever they're most relevant. Instead of the user having to focus on a service, perhaps the service can subtly notify the user when there's an opportunity or need to engage. This enables a much more heads-up way of life.

You've said that living services will evolve and change over time. How can developers and designers keep their creations up to date?

By keeping our eye on people, observing how they react and interact, and identifying opportunities to make their experiences better. Also by learning new skills to cope with new technologies – gestural interfaces require a different skill set than touch interfaces; providing subtle, ambient cues is different to classic notification design.

By now, most people are familiar with the Google glasses concept. What are some other exciting living services applications that we might not know about?

Nest, the learning thermostat, which cleverly detects who's in the room and adjusts temperatures accordingly. Boondoggle winter wake-up, an iOS app that adjusts what time it wakes you in the winter based on how bad the weather is and thus how long it will take you to get to work. If the weather's really awful (I.e. The roads are impassable) it won't wake you at all. GlowCaps, which are connected caps for pill bottles that know when you (or your granny) have taken the medication and lights up to remind you when you haven't.

What role should standards bodies (W3C, etc.) play in the emergence of living services?

There's a lot at stake here in terms of personal information, and standards bodies can really help with these questions through frameworks whereby people can own their own data and licence it at will, without concern of being spied on. Also, the more connected objects there are, the more we will need to ensure that they all communicate in a predictable way, so that services can quickly adopt and adapt new sensors and tech as it emerges – only where it's useful and relevant to people, of course!

What lessons will developers and designers take from your talk that will help them prepare for the world of living services?

Hopefully, that designing great experiences isn't about trying to force new behaviours or the adoption of new technologies, but rather using these new technologies to augment human lives in meaningful ways. This is design for subtlety, and it requires great humility and observation. Also, I hope people will get excited about all the new possibilities that are emerging and the new skills areas we'll get to explore!

What other speakers at the Future of Web Apps / Future of Mobile are you excited to meet or just listen to?

It'll be nice to see Ewan MacLeod, and Paul Boag's talk title is awesome. Bruce Lawson is always great for a bit of brain-melting too…

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