A Vision of the Future for Home and Work Experiences by Microsoft Surface

The concept of creating vision videos to sell an idea has been around since there has been cameras and specially TVs. Just like today Microsoft publishes a Health future vision video, 50 years ago people were also pitching the “Hospital of the Future” or movies and documentaries were displaying how life would be like with future technology.

Portraying the future has always been a passion for humans. The “What comes next?” question drives many people of many backgrounds, from painters, designers, developers, engineers, politicians, stock brokers and of course gamblers. Video as a medium to communicate messages is very effective because it is so rich. Video offers moving images and sound that communicate ideas in a more tangible, digestible manner to people. Video does a better job in tricking people to think that what they are watching is “real” – “If I see it, hear it and makes sense then it should be real”… and if not real at least it is more “credible”.

One of the most exciting things about going to the movies is we let ourselves immerse for 90 minutes in a surreal world but a world credible enough that we can actually identify ourselves with characters and story. The result is we enjoy the movie. Everytime I see a User Interface in a movie I go like wow, cool, it is inspiring. Sure, HD holograms that I can touch and manipulate in the air exist yet but I don’t care – My premise as a designer is there are no limits and not borders. That’s the only way you can think outside the box. It is not that you should be naive or even stupid – I won’t propose my client a 3D Hologram touch UI tomorrow March 9th 2010 but removing limitations during early stages of the design process frees you up to come up with creative solutions. That’s why I love movies, because they are crazy, and unbelievable and they go beyond what I see everyday. Movies are paid vision videos of 90 minutes… and some of these like Iron Man or Avatar have made billions of dollars.

Throughout history Microsoft has also created many future vision videos. Before I worked for Microsoft I remember watching late 90’s .NET future videos . I loved those. I tried to find those in YouTube but couldn’t. I have them in DVD at home. I’ll probably upload for you to watch. Most of the things I’ve seen there have now become real (10 years later). In this same spirit, the Surface team in Redmond has produced a couple videos to share their vision for the future. The videos were actually made public some 10 months ago but they are fun to watch.

To understand the two following videos, you might want to watch August de los Reyes Natural User Interface session. The idea for these vision videos is to express some of the concepts behind the research and thinking of how natural user interfaces will change our lifes in the near future. These couple videos look simply unbelievable (almost not credible) but if you watch August’s session you will understand where the Surface team was coming from when the envisioned Home and Work in the future and why these videos might actually be more realistic (in future terms) than we might think today.

Natural User Interface (NUI) is here. New systems of interaction require new approaches to design. Microsoft Surface stands at the forefront of this product space. This presentation looks at one of the richest sources for inventing the future: the past. By analyzing preceding inflection points in user interface, we can derive some patterns that point to the brave NUI world.

An abstract of life in the workplace of tomorrow with suppressed visibility of technology and devices; directed by Microsoft’s Dane Storrusten, created and by INVIVIA

An abstract of life in the home of tomorrow with suppressed visibility of technology and devices; directed by Microsoft’s August de los Reyes, created and by INVIVIA

So the question is why would only big corporations produce vision videos? The answer is NO!, everyone, all of us who are part of the IT industry, the Web… the UX and Design world… we should all see ourselves at the beginning of a new project for a client as a James Cameron or a George Lucas. Vision videos are for everyone. Vision videos do not have to be always thinking 50 years ahead… make vision videos 1 year head… 6 months ahead… 6 weeks ahead. Help your client visualize the future. There is “magic” when someone (like you) are able to show your client where they will be in 6 months (after they hire YOU to design and develop their new website, business application, or mobile experience)… and yes, here comes the marketing pitch! Use SketchFlow! whoa! – did I just trick you into reading this whole blog post to finish with getting SketchFlow? if you are reading this, chances are I succeeded 🙂 but no, seriously, there are many tools designers use to visualize the future… Adobe After Effects is a great tool to produce videos with effects and a lot of agencies use it. It is not a prototyping tool per se but people use it for visualization. I call it “the Photoshop of video”. Mastering AfterEffects is not easy though. Also lot of people use Powerpoint! yes, slides with animations to communicate how the final application or website will look like – the vision of the future… well, I think you will also find that Expression Blend and SketchFlow can help you create these future visions. You can create animation easily and integrate images or graphics from Photoshop or Illustrator. You can integrate video and even simulate how your client’s experience will behave “in the future” by making this Silverlight-based vision interactive. Prototyping is about helping you visualize where you are going to and discover issues and opportunities before hand. The same principle of the power of video applies: the richer the medium is to communicate your message – like a future vision interactive prototype – the more engaging and charismatic your ideas will be for your client.

Future vision videos and prototypes get people excited!
You determine the timespan of your “vision” (e.g 50 years, 10 years, 1 year, 6 months or 6 weeks)
Use different media to share your vision to your client. They will love it.

For example, check out this terrific vision of the future video that with INCREDIBLE detail described how life would be in the year 2000.
Follow me @arturot and if you are going to MIX10 drop me a tweet to chat.

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