EDITOR’S NOTE: Ambuli Victor Chienjo is a teacher of English at Shiswa High School and also a professional trainer in Drama particularly narratives, solo verses and also a director of stage plays.
The U.K. took the first significant
step toward 5G mobile rollout last month when Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, started
considering where it should fit on
the airwaves. We will all notice the difference in 2020, when 5G is due to go live, because its goal is to give the impression of “infinite
capacity” according to the
University of Surrey’s 5G innovation center . Its speed, at 3,000 times
faster than 4G, will mean having
mind-bending things like
we have reception.
Beyond the appetising hype that
sees us getting closer to the world portrayed in our favourite sci-fi films, 5G heralds a fundamental shift for designers of our digital experiences, and by extension what we experience as users. That is because 5G, alongside parallel developments that will supercharge wired capacity, will transform the devices we increasingly rely on into portals of theoretically unlimited and instantly accessible remote
Amazon is already showing the way with its Silk browser, bringing us closer to an ‘ Amazonian future of
many screens and few processors ’.
The web browser decides which web pages to render locally and which to run remotely on Amazon’s EC2 servers for optimal performance
and ultimately the most fluid user experience. Google is also looking at making the mobile web feel native .
These early examples aside of the way things are going, the advent of 5G means digital design could head in one of two opposing directions. With less need to make technical limits dictate the pace of change it could be as open to influence and generate trends as fast as the fashion industry.
Alternatively, 5G has the potential to bring our experiences across
devices into line, capturing our
attention within one seamless
human machine interface. This
could lead to a more slowly
evolving future for digital design.
Creativity without Constraint
Digital designers and developers
have long worked within the
parameters set by device
processing power. Having limits can be productive , and until now, those pushing the limits as far as they can go to achieve novel results in graphical and interface design have been the ones to spark trends in that design. This process of striving to create tech-driven rarity, and with it desirability, has been called
By and large, the process is inward looking and not so concerned with taking inspiration from trends in the wider world, because of the focus on maximising what technology can do. Lacking a significant dialogue with the world outside digital design, its effect offline is correspondingly more
Microsoft arguably failed at
expensive design with the over-
ambitious introduction of
transparent elements in 2006’s
Vista that were so demanding on
system resources that they caused usability issues. The relentless march of Moore’s Law meant that transparency soon became technically easier to “afford” and a more widespread trend was born.
Apple, meanwhile, is the master at expensive design to a large extent because it has perfected the art of making software tailored for a controlled set of hardware and vice versa. In the mobile space, for example, it walks the line between system resources and design inspiration more adeptly than Google.
Being open to all, Google’s Android operating system means its designers can never be quite sure of the specifications it’s designing for. More frequent updates imply that devices will age more quickly.
With 5G and the access that it will
provide to massive remote
computational power on top of the
more predictable (yet still stellar)
trajectory envisaged by Moore’s
Law, imaginations will become
unfettered from technical
We could expect to see an
explosion of creativity and a
broader field of prospective trend
setters, more free to draw
inspiration faster from wider social
and aesthetic trends and designs.
This will make life unsettling for
incumbents who are defined by
their mastery of expensive design.
Greater off and online interplay will
also provide an opportunity for the
most influential digital-experience
designers to reflect their ideas back
into offline environments. Already different sectors are trying to accommodate expectations that
people have developed through the design of digital experiences, e.g.
in offline automotive retail .
Finally, a note to recognise that the rollout of 5G will by no means be uniform across the globe and that Moore’s Law does not impact
everyone in the same way at the
same time because of telecoms
infrastructure and affordable
hardware reasons. For those
designers and developers who do
get inspired by technical
constraints, there will therefore be
no shortage of opportunities to
design solutions that push device
boundaries for the foreseeable
future. For the rest, unconstrained
Or a One-Size-Fits-All Future?
We already have device
convergence, whereby a mobile
phone now does what you once
needed a separate video recorder,
camera, telephone, GPS device,
pedometer, etc. to do. But there
are still gulfs between the
processing power of a tablet and a
smartwatch, or for that matter car
or TV, that create inconsistencies
between how you experience
products or services from the same
provider on different devices.
Tech companies are already
anticipating a future where
outsourcing processing power
creates opportunities for the
convergence of experiences .
Google’s vision for Android as a
unified platform across a broad
range of products rather than as a phone OS, for example, creates a common backbone for what will become inherently more interoperable devices sharing the
same degree of processing power. As a consumer, you will be able to apply the same intuitions to your
driving as mobile device
experiences. The logical conclusion is the creation of the first seamless human machine interface across all your interactions.
On the flip side, this world,
perhaps, creates a small number of all-encompassing walled
experiential gardens with captive
audiences, which only need to
evolve at their own pace.
In either future, device capabilities, per se, aren’t the priority, and the onus can and should shift to meeting user needs. The big
question is whether we want
novelty or seamlessly intuitive
experiences. I think we want both, and in a world of infinite capacity the tech companies that can design both intuitive and culturally resonant experiences will be rewarded. And those that can design holographic projections of course. I really want to see that.