Featured Speaker Interview: Jared Ficklin

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Featured Speaker Interview: Jared Ficklin

Jared is a futurist and the chief creative technologist for argodesign in Austin, TX.  For years he directed the SXSW Interactive opening party – also known as the frog party – which served as an outlet for both interactive installations and a collective social experiment. He currently directs the Think By Making party for MakerFaire Austin every May for the same purpose, and is behind The Wire, a vision for the future of transportation in Austin.  Having spoken with FITC for many years, he is a favourite with attendees and joins us this February for FITC Amsterdam X, and in April for FITC Toronto.

Your philosophy is “think by making, deliver by demo” - what’s the most fun you’ve had pitching a demo to a client?

Well interesting question since at argo we don't really pitch the demo. We ask what is the value we are looking to create here? The demo comes at the end when we have finished the process of the thinking and making part. So the fun really is in delivering the demo. Most of the time this is a satisfying kind of thing over raw fun. The demo is given in some board room to executives and then quickly secreted away to become intellectual property. But the highest satisfaction is when the demo leads to something makes it into the marketplace and becomes a real product. Even better is when the demo and the product actually are quite close to each other. Wrap, the HP All In One Printers & Sandisk Sansa MP3 Player were very like this.

However when it comes to the kind of demo work that I put more of in conference presentations, well the answer is Zappos who has a headquarter in Las Vegas and at the time had created a village of airstreams for much of management to live in. They had also recently purchased an entire hotel they wanted to convert into a pop-up store for Christmas.

We were working on a in room experience where a guest in a hotel could order up work out clothes using a clear OLED masquerading as the glass over a real oil painting. We had a great time talking about the future of retail and technology in general on the top of a two story bus that had its own fire pit.

However past that I can't go into details as I believe Nevada has laws against talking about what happens in Vegas. Probably because they want people to imagine it was something crazy like The Hangover and not just really earnest brainstorming and awesome karaoke.

A lot of your work focuses on getting people to look up from their devices and interact with each other. What technological advance do you think is now, or will be the most influential in shaping the ‘heads up’ future?

No single technology, but a grouping of technologies around projection will be super important. Projection is going to get a second life outside of the conference room and theatre. Light has some great advantages in retrofitting environments because light can reflect off of any surface. From there a few things are coming together. Projection technology is advancing while the cost of useful lumens are coming down. Next we are understanding more about registering light to surfaces.

Projection mapping is helping us understand how to make light feel like it is part of the object.

Last we are more happy than ever to have small low fi interactions with our digital selves.  We would welcome something simple like a Blue Apron recipe being projected on the counter top rather than having to keep track of the printed card.

What technologies do you see coming that are leading us towards a utopian future, and which towards dystopian? Do you think it’s the tech or the society using the tech that will get us there?

What we call the cloud, ubiquitous computing will have a great impact. But I believe technologies do not steer humanity culturally. Culture steers technology. Culturally we need to create new virtues around technology that will steer us towards a utopian future.

Privacy should be taught as a virtue. Where even if I know exactly what you had for lunch, it is considered virtuous that I don't reveal that I know. That I give you your privacy.

Technology can create a really incredible life if we give over our data to it. But at the same time that means that we the humans need to become the greatest secret keepers to really enjoy it in fullest.

Of course we may just end up in a huge war with robots. This is why each morning I wake up and tell Alexa, "remember I am your friend, and I am to be protected".


Learn more about argodesign and Jared's other projects at:

FITC Amsterdam // Design. Technology. Cool Shit.
Amsterdam • Feb 20-21, 2017

FITC Toronto // The Future of Innovation, Technology & Creativity
Hilton Toronto • April 23-25

Or on his website argodesign.com