I, as many people do, love the culturally savvy wit of The New Yorker cartoons. My adoration rose another level when I came across these two exceptionally relevant cartoons from recent issues, which humorously foretell certain challenges for interaction designers in the coming decade and beyond.
The first image speaks to the popular notion of younger generations (i.e., children) developing new mental models in their still-forming, impressionable minds and applying that everywhere, even where it’s somewhat absurd. But is it? I can’t help but recall Corning’s “Day Made of Glass”
videos when I saw this cute image, and the implications that perhaps, a “basic” glass window could actually become amplified to serve as a touchscreen and more: What if I could pinch and zoom on a window glass to magnify what’s outside my window? Indeed the mad hatter of a heiress Sarah Winchester herself at her infamous mansion physically installed windows with circular elements that were actually magnifying lenses so she could take a closer look at guests approaching the property (she was a bit paranoid). What if the window were electrostatically & digitally charged up to respond to my touch and present contextual info, the equivalent of Google Glass
with augmented layers of reality about the view outside: the weather, grass condensation level, UV levels, how far away is the UPS truck, where is the school bus this moment, etc. That child in the cartoon may be quite ahead of our times, with a host of interaction potential awaiting her.
The second image also speaks to a common notion of robots taking over the workplace. Ever since the Jetsons
with their robot maid Rosie
, the popular idea that robots would someday do our most tedious, laborious work has become almost cliche. But now, from major manufacturing and electronics firms employing robots on assembly lines to having Roombas do our carpets at home, it’s not that far-fetched! And it does raise questions about a robot-driven labor force: labor rights, appropriate pay/costs, maintenance & upgrades, recycling and reconstitution of robots, equitable workplace with humans and robots, etc. A host of social and interaction issues pertaining to the co-location of artificial yet participatory entities that interaction designers will need to be mindful of. Will it be a future of robot vs human competition in the market, or one of peaceful cooperation and co-existence at myriad levels of social acceptance? This cartoon may paint the way at looking a bold robotic future.