SEGD Xlab Speaker Interview: Jackson Young

Read Time: 3 minutes

In anticipation of SEGD 2021 Xlab (January 27, 28, and 29), SEGD is interviewing some of the Xlab’s guest speakers. Next up is Jackson Young, Digital Experience Design Director (consultant). Young will be presenting “To Screen or Not to Screen: Our Question for the Future” during Session 2 of Xlab on Thursday, January 28.

It’s difficult to remember a time before smartphones, even for those of us who grew up during the Age of Analog. Today, personal handheld technology is ubiquitous—and seemingly indispensable. How did we live in a past without the ability to instantaneously find driving directions, look-up a trivia fact, read today’s headlines, watch the latest music video, or communicate with a friend?

“There are now 3.8 billion people with smartphones in their pockets,” says Jackson Young, Digital Design Experience Director and independent consultant. “When it was started by Apple in 2007, people might not have seen the impact it would have on us—and how many devices it would replace—it’s pretty phenomenal.”

In his upcoming Xlab presentation, “To Screen or Not to Screen: Our Question for the Future,” Young will explore human tendencies to underestimate the dramatic impact of technologies over the long run. One example: mobile technology. When introduced 13 years ago, no one anticipated the profound impact smartphones would have on human society today.

“There are now multiple technological advancements at the cusp of changing human lives tomorrow,” says Young, “and it is critical for designers to look into the future and anticipate the changes that will soon be here.”

Explaining the evolution of our interactions with screens, Young states “We went from one screen on average [a TV set] and now, in our daily lives, we interact with 28 screens [on average]. We don’t think about it. We’re so enamored with and dependent on screens, but potentially, in another few years, these screens could be going away; it will be a brand new world we’ll be living in.”

What are some of the new technologies that could potentially take the place of our two-dimensional screens? In his Xlab presentation, Young will explore VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) and the current trends in these two fields.

VR and AR exploit our natural inclination to view the world in three dimensions, as opposed to flat screens which project a two-dimensional view of the world. Using computer technology, VR simulates 3-D environments that we can be immersed in and interact with. (Oculus and PSVR are good examples). AR, on the other hand, superimposes a computer-generated image onto a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. (Definitions both adapted from Oxford Languages.)

“There are other types of interfaces we’re experimenting with, such as brain computer interface (BCI), which is fascinating because you can use thought to control computers and interactions,” says Young. “Then, of course, with the onset of voice control devices—Alexa and Siri—the interaction with computers is already getting more natural,” continues Young. “And so, with VR, AR, BCI technology, it begs the question: Will we ultimately be doing away with the screens and interfacing with content and data via our thoughts?”

It may seem that we’re a long way from discarding screens, but in recent years the pace of technological development has continued to increase exponentially. This quickening evolution, coupled with the adoption rate of mass technology, are two phenomena that interest Young.

“It is fascinating when you look at the adoption rate of technology,” says Young. “It took 46 years for a quarter of the American population to have electricity in their homes. And the adoption rates of radio and TV, not as long, but still 31 years and 26 years, respectively. For the Web to take off, it only took seven years!”

So, where does that leave exhibition designers and experience designers? In recent years, some adventurous museums have incorporated AR technology into exhibitions. Young mentions one prominent example at Singapore’s ArtScience Museum: Venture into the Wild: An Immersive Virtual Adventure. This permanent “exhibition” uses Lenovo hardware and Google software to take visitors on a journey through the South Asian rainforests. Screen technology (a tablet) is used, but the experience begins to show visitors the potential for turning a museum’s public spaces into 3-D adventures.

“That is exactly the future. You can take any environment, integrate AR, and then have that space come to life,” says Young. “Imagine that within five years, the tablet is now a small pair of glasses … anyone wearing them can be in that space and suddenly experience wonders and information coming to life in front of their eyes, in full 3-dimensions.”

Register for Jackson Young’s Xlab presentation to learn more!