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Hats off to the Robots

In a week that has seen a number of heroic technology failures at the CES technology extravaganza in the United States, I cannot help but sit back and ask myself, a simple question - is technology for the sake of it driving these failures, or are these ‘innovations’ actually going to help improve lives?

Many of you may have seen the spectacular flop that is the Aeolus robot - a machine that is supposed to clean your home, but refused to do so when instructed by the presenter, and who can forget when the painfully embarrassing Cloi robot, which was supposed to be LG’s attempt at simplifying a connected world, failed to perform the simple tasks asked of it.

It is refreshing that, amongst all of these spectacular failures, one company, Honda, has taken a different approach. They are harnessing the power of technology to solve real human problems - the four-wheeled 3E-D18 (the naming needs some work), that was designed to help builders or the emergency services move heavy loads around, and the equally poorly named 3E-B18 - an upright alternative to a wheelchair that offers better mobility to people of determination or the elderly.

As many of you who read my blog will know, I am a big fan of human-centered technology. What does this mean? It means that humans are at the center of interactions. It means that we need to consider how we use technology to improve our lives without removing the human element. It does not mean that technology is the king - as it so evidently was in some of the examples I have given above. Undoubtedly, technology can be used to improve our lives, simplify complex tasks, entertain us, and manage repetition, however, we are people - and we like people - and designers should not lose sight of this.

Getting the balance right between developing nonsense technologies that over complicate our lives and are the preserve of the high tech few, and what real people want is surely the biggest challenge facing technology companies moving forward. I am sure we have all seen iPads in bank branches? In one bank I visited recently I saw large gesture controlled screens, and I am sure you will all remember the talking robot that some banks are using in their branches to speak to customers... seriously.

Feel free to call me naive, but what happened to human-to-human relationships? I am left wondering that once people have got fed up with their bank telling them they must stand in front of a screen and wave their arms to find out information on loan products, or the washing machine being connected to the garage door, and the electronic voice telling you that you should exercise, or that you have to do this or that, we will be once again talking about how great it is to be greeted with a smile, a friendly face to be made to feel special... and businesses will realise that some things can be done by robots and some can’t.

Nick Griffin is Global Strategy Director at I-AM

I-AM are one of the world's leading customer experience design agencies.


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