The Appeal of New Enterprises Born of Design Thinking
Tanaka's approach to design thinking, by which he attempts to reconnect our digitally transforming society in human-centric ways by design in the realm of the senses (AFFECTIVE DESIGN), is drawing attention from various industries. Tanaka has bridged boundaries between many disciplines to engage in co-creation projects on an unprecedented scale, starting with the conceptualization of his vision of the digital services of the future. Looking at some examples will bring to light many new possibilities.
Cross-Industry Teamwork: B. Live, the Next Generation Live Viewing Event
B. Live is the world's first next generation live viewing event. In January 2018, the all-star game of “B. League,” Japan's men's professional basketball league, was hold in Kumamoto and broadcast in Ebisu, Tokyo using the latest technology.
An extraordinary, three-dimensional sense of realism was shared between the two distant locations using a massive, 550-inch 4K screen to show the game; reproducing the sounds of players' movements and shots using Sound Intelligence, and even transmitting the vibrations felt on the court to the venue using haptics.
“The B. Live event held in January 2018 was a spectacle that reproduced the sounds of three-dimensional space totally in a different place. This was something that had never been attempted before. What was especially challenging was getting people from various industries, such as the broadcasting industry and the events industry, involved in the planning. The question was whether we could output a value greater than the price of the tickets for the audience through this experience. We got off to a bit of a rough start, but when we looked at the audience survey results, we found that we had achieved higher satisfaction rates compared to normal public viewing events, even though the tickets cost more than twice as much. Our aim is to build an unprecedented type of social infrastructure that provides an immersive experience through sounds and sensations as well as digitally transmits sensational experiences. In addition, instead of merely attempting to transmit data more accurately, we found that we could broadcast the spectator experience in a way that reaches more people than ever beforeーand to any location we wantedーby developing algorithms that create immersive experiences that match the game's rhythm and excitement.
By creating a new kind of entertainment experience that offers even more excitement than live events and television broadcasts, we believe that we can reach a wider audienceーincluding less engaged fans who normally would not bother to attend an eventーby delivering an experience like none they have ever felt before.”
Designing Our Unconscious Hours: Understanding Sleep and Other Daily Activities
“Since March 2017, we have been engaged in a project that uses sleep analysis technology to create new businesses. Besides being an effort to implement data collection, analysis, and feedback in digital businesses, this project also adopts approaches and perspectives such as consulting in actual stores and acting as agents to serve the end customer. I find this fascinating. They say that you spend about a third of your life asleep. However, no one fully grasps the essence of the act of sleeping as it applies to him or her. Things that are felt every day, whether it is feeling refreshed, lethargic, or anywhere in betweenーthere are actually reasons behind these sensations. By sensing the states of our sleep, we can take the results and connect them to medical expertise. This allows each of us to understand the quality of our sleep through quantifiable data and medical knowledge. I keenly feel the importance of computing to address the basic activities we engage in on a daily basis but do not fully understand. We are now in the initial stages of taking a comprehensive approach to the design, including how to convey to users their unconscious actions and change them in natural ways, and what kind of interface should be employed for each industry. It would be ideal if we could create an ecosystem together with our project members in which partners who make efforts to create the ideal sleep can connect in natural ways.”
His Experience as an Architect Served as a Source of Design Thinking
Designing sensations with a human-centric focusーthis is consistently Tanaka's objective. In this context, what is the source of his design thinking, as he has always synchronized cutting-edge technology with various business ventures?
“My business card says that I am a professional architect, which often surprises people. But yes, I started my design career in architecture and spatial design.
My idea that design is something closely tied to the senses is actually something that originated while I was in training at a design office in Milan, where master designer Antonia Astori, an architect who heads an Italian brand called Driade, worked. She can take an idea or sketch and judge it instantly, making comments like, “This is wonderful,” “This is new,” “This won't work,” “This conveys no emotion,” “I don't feel any passion,” and so on. She added her reasoning afterwards, of course, but her first reaction was totally based on intuition. No matter how well you can explain something through logic, if it cannot be perceived intuitively, it will not be accepted. That said, a design that is perceived well intuitively can be improved upon and advanced with minimal reasoning. I learned that if we can move people in some way without having to explain what we are doing logically, people's behavior can be changed naturally.”
Connecting Different Industries with Human-Centric Design Thinking
“When I was designing my parents' home as an architect, a major part of the concept was my late grandmother's lifestyle, who spent much of her final years on the veranda. To keep connecting with people even after you can no longer move around freely, and to value communication with neighbors and friendsーto facilitate these things, I decided to design a house with a terrace placed so as to meet the flow of people on the street.
Homes and environments have the power to change people's lives. I think we now live in an age where we are integrating digital technology into our lives in ways that create better, more fulfilling urban lifestyles. In design, it is also important that we view cities and environments from a much wider perspective, and that we consider the flow and connections between people. For example, if the window in front of you lets in the sounds of conversations depending on the situation, or only lets in pleasant sounds, it can fundamentally change lives, buildings, and cities.
Until now, the mainstream approach in the digital realm has treated the environment as an incidental element, and design has been implemented in terms of products and GUIs. Now, however, to engage in new ventures to create new experiences, services, and products, we need an ideal vision and UX (user experience) to integrate the type of hardware, UI, and surrounding space in a way that connects people. Integrating designs from various realms and creating the single, optimal serviceーI feel that this is somewhat similar to how we do architecture and urban development.
To summarize design thinking, I think that it is a process in which we think simply and thoroughly through the user's eyes. However, this is a very difficult feat. If we think through everything from the user's perspective, the design must cross many boundaries. For example, observing the basic human act of 'sleeping' requires you to also involve various other industries surrounding food, exercise, and other aspects. Yet for individuals, these are not distinct elements, but rather all factors contributing to their sleeping habits.
I want to focus on new sensations from a human perspective, not a technological one, and to harness the impact this has on new businesses. I want to help create a society where we can take the scattered services that target individual human activities and connect them by crossing industry boundaries, thereby providing ideal services for people.”
To Create a Utopia, Not a Dystopia
The question of whether a society with advanced technology will serve as a positive force for humanity is a source of both anticipation and concern for many. Design thinking also gives us a chance to seriously consider our responsibilities to the future.
“Whether our society's future is dystopian or utopian depends on how the design departments of digital companies like us proceed.
We will continue to approach AFFECTIVE DESIGN by crossing industry boundaries to help spur many new innovative efforts and services. To create value, we will combine this with effective business plansーthis is the methodology we have developed with the insight gained through co-creation projects with various customers.
As we demonstrated through sounds (Sound Intelligence) and sleep (Sleep Consultation Service, etc.), we can create better services that feel more natural to people by focusing on the human senses and behaviors that arise from them. We can also cross industry boundaries and utilize AFFECTIVE DESIGN. Our vision is to harness advances in digital technology to create a utopian society. The future cannot be measured. We define possibilities, and then we create it.”
Design Thinking Brings Us Closer to the Ideal Future
“Design thinking is, in some ways, a way of thinking that helps spark creativity. It can serve to increase the creativity of Fujitsu and our customers.
Organizations that make it their mission to tackle innovation and new challenges tend to stand on the forefront in order to face the challenges of developing relationships and building consensus with those in other fields. Turning a single innovative idea into a business is very difficult, and the obstacles are many. If you try to start from scratch with the idea that you can achieve something through digital technology, you have a long battle ahead.
Instead of trying to spark innovation from nothing, it is important to give it some kind of base like AFFECTIVE DESIGN, which focuses on human-centric thinking and a new sense of value. Through the process and structuring of consensus-building developed from gathering a diverse range of expertise, and by envisioning a future by harnessing creativity cultivated on the ground in urban communities, I believe we can significantly shorten the amount of time it takes to shift our trajectory in the right direction. We have already started collaborative projects with companies in various industries, such as automakers and airline companies. We plan to continue to help customers connect by crossing industry boundaries.
I invite others to first start small through one of our little gatherings.”
- Masuhito Tanaka
Design Director and Professional Architect
- Masuhito Tanaka uses his expertise in comprehensive design, including urban and architectural spatial design, to engage in integrated design activities such as creating concepts, services, products, spaces, and promotional activities. He leads a wide range of new business projects, including those related to co-creation. His notable awards include the Nikkei New Office Award, the SDA Award, and the Good Design Award.