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Designing For Interactive Spaces [Opinion]

Designing For Interactive Spaces [Opinion]

From screen to space, an important change in the ways we design.

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Din Tan Chin Seng

The emergence of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), image recognition, AI, and other spatial-based technologies offers an opportunity for computers to become obsolete as such devices become part of the environment.

As these technologies reshape our world and the way we live, work, and play, they will increasingly be embedded within the physical spaces we inhabit. Soon, we will no longer be looking at the computer as a product, but as a space.

From classrooms, and offices to retail stores, computers will become an integral part of spaces and objects we see through the walls, floors, mirrors etc. This is an important shift as the future of experiences is immersive.

While we have yet to see the full impact of spatial technologies in our everyday lives, the world has witnessed a surge of interest in these new technologies.

In recent years, brands and businesses are eager to take advantage of spatial-based technologies to engage their customers with interactive spatial experiences for marketing or social benefits. Industries such as dining, retail, entertainment, hospitality, and many more are not only using AR and VR but also 3D spatial projection and sensory technology to offer customers seamless virtual experiences.

For example, Nike’s “Unlimited Stadium” created in 2016 and located at the centre of Manila saw a 200 meter-track of interactive LED screens, where up to 300 runners took part in a virtual race against themselves.

Closer to home, Whimsy Malaysia had set a new benchmark for fine dining in Kuala Lumpur by introducing a multisensory dining experience. Using state-of-the-art 360° projection mapping technology, the restaurant “transported” diners into various worlds and dimensions. The cinematic dining experience treated diners’ senses and lifted their dining experience to a whole new level of its own.

In an increasingly digital world, two major design trends for business are catching up rapidly – smart home and smart environment design. 

According to recent research, the design market size is expected to gain market growth with a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 7.9 per cent reaching 214,860 million by 2025. The arts, entertainment and recreation services sector on the other hand recorded an annual growth rate of 5.7 per cent per annum. This signifies that approximately 85,000 new jobs within Klang Valley in living spaces and environment design are expected to be filled.

As businesses start to experiment with spatial computing, it gives new meaning to the idea of spatial design and prompts designers to rethink the way they design spaces. No matter how much visual design they apply, it remains, in the words of Bret Victor, ‘pictures under glass’. The lack of a third dimension in their existing workflow and practices adds complexity.

Moving forward, the creative industry is poised for another major leap forward and it is no longer enough for designers to simply design for aesthetic pleasure but also for spatial engagement, personalisation, and connectedness. Designers need to understand how one designs spaces that move, change, adapt and interact as this is an emerging trend that will impact them.

Aspiring designers are to be equipped with relevant knowledge, skills and mindset to enable them to design interactively and with space in mind as they are no longer designing for a screen. They should focus on creating experiences that strengthen the relationship between people and their environment, promoting participation, collaboration, and communication. More than just spatial designers, they are specialists, interactive designers, and experience designers who work with clients to create a meaningful experience within a physical space.

Recognising the shifts with technology in play and the evolution of a designer’s role, education systems should explore nurturing and producing future designers who can integrate digital technology and traditional spatial design principles, to improve the way we interact with our surroundings in everyday life.

As a result, Taylor’s University will be offering Malaysia’s first undergraduate degree of its kind, the Bachelor of Interactive Spatial Design to answer current world demands with technological advancement. Engaged through immersive learning, students will learn the theoretical foundations of spatial design alongside interactive technology and automation content for interior and exterior environments.

Offering two specialisations, Smart Home Design and Smart Environment Design students have three learning track options to choose from – conventional internship, work-based learning experience with industry partners such as FrameMotion Studio, Virtual X and Ministry XR, or the technopreneurship mode that provides students an opportunity to start a business with mentorship.

With over two decades of experience as an academician specialising in UX design and believes the process can be applied in any domain, be it commercial or education, Din Tan Chin Seng is the Programme Director of the Bachelor of Interactive Spatial Design (Honours) programme and a Senior Lecturer at The Design School, Faculty of Innovation & Technology, Taylor’s University.

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