Here we would like to introduce FUTURE LIFE FACTORY, which will exhibit in the Panasonic House @ SXSW 2018, together with Game Changer Catapult. In our previous interview, we talked about an overview of the activities of FUTURE LIFE FACTORY. This time we want to get a more in-depth view of the WEAR SPACE and +WINDOW that will be exhibited at SXSW 2018.
-- Firstly, how did you come up with these two design themes?
Initially, we decided we would enter our design concepts for the Red Dot Design Awards, so we engaged in concentrated ideation over the short period of one and a half months. Over the repeated process of diffusion and concentration of ideas, we used five unique criteria1 established by FUTURE LIFE FACTORY to make objective evaluations. From this, we were left with six ideas. Two of those were WEAR SPACE and +WINDOW. One point shared by both of them is that both were created out of a natural process from the designers' own experiences and awareness of problems leading to these ideas. From the conceptual stage, we made simple prototypes to verify their value, working through trial and errors to bring the ideas into focus.
1. Five criteria: does it have newness? Is it commercially feasible? Does it have future potential? Will it solve social problems? Is it suitable for the future of Panasonic?
-- Please tell us about the activities for WEAR SPACE.
WEAR SPACE is a new wearable device consisting of headphones with noise-canceling functions and a partition to adjust the field of view. Even if the user is in an open space, by putting on WEAR SPACE, instantly they can create a barrier between themselves and the surrounding area, creating a psychological personal space.
This idea managed to win the Best of the Best award at the Red Dot Design Awards. We showed eight prototypes at the A Light un Light exhibition held by the fashion brand Anrealage at Ikebukuro Parco. Visitors were able to actually touch WEAR SPACE and try it out. We are also displaying it at another exhibition now at the Japan House in Los Angeles (up to March 18). Of course, up to now pre-release products are almost never shown to members of the ordinary public. By showing WEAR SPACE to ordinary people while it is still in the prototype phase, we can incorporate actual comments and revise the concept, to increase the accuracy of the product.
Another problem we faced inside the company was the difficulty the Home Entertainment Business Division had with WEAR SPACE due to the fact that it isn't designed for listening to music. Accordingly, we cooperated with Cerevo to prototype designs for mass production. This was the first time for a design organization to undertake this sort of product development, which led to some conflict as to whether this was the right thing for the design division to do. But thanks to this we can engage in this sort of challenge, so that is what we intend to do.
-- How did the collaboration with the fashion brand ANREALAGE come about?
WEAR SPACE is worn in a completely different way to previous wearable devices. Whether it is accepted by the world at large definitely depends on how it is designed in terms of fashion. Though Kunihiko Morinaga is active in the fashion world, he is also able to consider the roles and potential of fashion from a technological perspective, and I knew he was the only person to turn to when it comes to the evaluation of Wear Space. So I made an appointment with him to try and get even the smallest bit of advice.
When I met Morinaga for the first time, I had no prototype, just a sketch of our idea. All the same, through our talk, he supported the concept of WEAR SPACE, and he said he'd like to use it in an Anrealage exhibition. That's how it was decided.
-- What was the reaction to WEAR SPACE at the ANREALAGE's exhibition?
The result of showing this design-led idea directly to ordinary people at the exhibition led to a lot of people expressing surprise at Panasonic doing such interesting things with design. The same sort of thing has been said about other projects as well as WEAR SPACE, but I'm hoping our little activities will little by little go against the expectations of what Panasonic design is, in a good sense.
ANREALAGE's exhibition at Ikebukuro PARCO
ANREALAGE's exhibition at Los Angeles
-- Please tell us about the activities for +WINDOW.
+WINDOW is a new type of window that you can anywhere place in a windowless room to give you light, breeze, and sounds. It offers new value for interior living spaces by alleviating any sense of space restriction or enclosure, and helps soothe the mind and body.
1st prototype of +WINDOW
This idea won an Honorable Mention award at the Red Dot Design Awards. After it got the award, there was a certain level of understanding inside the company about the concept, as we do have a lot of windowless offices here, but there were also naysayers who questioned its efficacy. In order to quantify and verify these ambiguous aesthetic values of +WINDOW, we took the novel step of engaging in medical trials with the cooperation of the University of Fukui Hospital. This was a completely different approach to ordinary design methods, but we tried it in order to verify the value of the idea for eventual use in a product.
Talking again about what was happening inside the company, we are an advanced development team of the Appliances Company mostly handling consumer electronics. But +WINDOW, as a concept that enhances the value of living spaces, also comes under the housing domain of the Eco Solutions Company. I think +WINDOW has a significant level of meaning then, as a solution stretching across two massive Companies.
2nd prototype of +WINDOW
-- What did the medical experiment actual involve? Can you be more specific?
We carried out a comparison experiment using a windowless room, a room with +WINDOW, and a room with a real window. We measured the saliva, heart rates, and brain waves of test subjects after spending 20 minutes in a windowless room and 20 minutes in a room with a real window, and after they spent 20 minutes in a windowless room and 20 minutes in a room with +WINDOW. Then we compared the differences in figures. Although the detailed analysis is still being carried out, a preliminary report on the results seems to show that +WINDOW can provide the same relaxation effect as a genuine window. We spent a total of 16 days at the University of Fukui Hospital conducting the experiments, which is definitely like going the long way to find an answer, but the results look good, I'm happy to have done it.
Also, in the past, there have been many ideas with a theoretical basis of bringing relaxation effects by incorporating light and sound features. I think this project will in some way verify the value of these ideas. The results of this medical experiment can be used not just for +WINDOW but for verifying other ideas as well, so we intend to actively share them with other departments.
Medical experiment at the University of Fukui Hospital
-- Tell us about other activities that FUTURE LIFE FACTORY is going to do.
First, we're going to see what sort of a reaction there is at SXSW, and through the network we develop from that, we intend to find other opportunities that will lead future products.
We hope to turn WEAR SPACE into an actual product within this year. There is a heap of problems we have to deal with, like procuring financing, how to manufacture it, where to sell it, quality assurance and so on, but I'd like us to do as much as we can on the design. For +WINDOW, we're thinking of linking it to the skylight lighting that the Eco Solutions Company is working on.
We hope that the activities of FUTURE LIFE FACTORY will be able to have an impact on the future of Panasonic as a whole by creating dynamic interactions between various internal departments and people outside the company. Please continue to follow our endeavors!