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Functional Forms

Location: Fleet Room
Average rating: ***..
(3.67, 3 ratings)

The made world is aggressively dematerializing through a combination of reality capture and digital manufacturing. In principle anything our sensing machines can see, our making machines can reproduce, at an increasing rate and with increasing fidelity. Simultaneously distinctions between sensing, information processing, and actuation blur in devices where the skeleton and shell are equal parts of the functionality as the interior components. These two trends are intersecting in devices that are constructed as a single unit. In some cases, the material a device is made of can simultaneously capture information, process it and act on it.

Against this background commodity materials and machines mean complex behaviors are not dependent on unique material properties, or singular machines, but how the material is arranged, the pattern. Like mask work in an integrated circuit, the power of the device shifts from materials and machines to how the patterns in which materials are arranged.

Using examples from paper folding to multi-material 3D printing and printed electronics, I will examine how defining novel fine-grain patterns of commodity materials using commodity machines is a key activity in the design and manufacture of smart, connected devices from shoes to buildings. I will talk about how making the trillion-device Internet of Things is going to be wildly unlike how consumer electronics are currently manufactured.

Photo of Mike Kuniavsky

Mike Kuniavsky


Mike Kuniavsky leads user experience design in the Innovation Services Group at PARC, a Xerox company. A twenty-year veteran of digital product development, he designs products, business processes, and services at the leading edge of technological change. Prior to PARC, Mike co-founded several successful user experience centered companies, including ThingM, which designs and manufactures ubiquitous computing and Internet of Things products, and Adaptive Path, a well-known design consultancy. He has worked with top technology companies, such as Samsung, Sony, Nokia, Whirlpool, and Qualcomm, to design new products, guide product strategy, and create user-centered design and development cultures. Mike is the author of “Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research” and “Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design.”