Firstly, welcome to NEXT Interface’s brand new blog! In this blog we will be covering emerging and disruptive technologies that we think will impact and drive change. Coming from a strong research & development engineering background, we hope to provide some deep insights as to how new, emerging and evolving technology will disrupt our shared future.
I believe both technology and our understanding of it is rapidly changing, and that the traditional perspective on engineering design and technology management is approaching a paradigm shift – a shift away from current human dependent design to more reliance on evolutionary and automated design systems. On the other hand, there will be increased focus and demand for human centered roles that map ideas to solution spaces and then provide inputs to automated design.
Combined with virtual design, testing and validation as well as smart manufacturing technology, the importance of engineers in the traditional role of design, system engineering and development will undergo a profound change. New possibilities will emerge with more intense focus on competitive tool chains, design algorithms and the need for parameterization of advanced, rapidly evolving design machines.
A high demand for ideas translation specialists who specialize in transforming human thought and societal requirements into system design requirements. These translated requirements will then be read by artificial design agents that create ’better than human engineered’ products. This is the future of innovation and has already found humble beginnings in embedded software and hardware development: Genetic Algorithms (GAs) for auto routing of multi-layer PC boards have been around for some time now. The automotive industry has taken this type of technology to the next level with automated design of complex electrical vehicle architecture systems.
Virtual design tool chains are becoming the norm . Complex software that usually requires thousands of man hours of manual coding is now generated and validated with the click of a mouse button using graphical modelling tools. Sophisticated mobile applications can be created by simple drag and drop interfaces. ‘Model driven development’ is an already mature process utilized by engineering design houses. This is only the beginning and the tip of the iceberg of what is to come. Certainly, looking at the future of current development tools and their next generation evolution suggests fundamental change in the engineering development process is inevitable. Increased emphasis in the field of human machine interfacing (HMI) will increase importance as product requirements (read human needs) are captured in the form that these artificial design agents can understand to complete the design.
The automated product design and development process can be extended into the manufacturing realm of automated assemblers (Rethink Robotics’ Baxter has many many ancestors already just in a different form!). Coupled with 3D printing of individual components, and store houses run by artificial intelligence and robotic handles devoid of humans, the parts supply chain is essentially taken care of without human intervention. So what tasks are left for the humble engineer to do?
How engineers interact and interface with these future technologies and just what new roles will be for future design engineers remains to be seen – but one task that will remain (at least up up until the time machines understand humans more than humans understand themselves) is that of human machine interfacing. This is an exciting field with massive potential for new possibilities in the future and will be one of the main themes running throughout this blog. Likewise, artificial intelligence, future design, product development, innovation, meta-innovation, innovation tools, emerging technologies and materials as well as supporting ecosystems will all be themes running in the next several blogs I plan to write in the coming months.