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How Three Westworld Technologies Define the Future of Product Design

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If you haven’t watched season 1 of Westworld, it’s worth binge watching it this weekend. It is the only big budget HBO show that is both a period piece and science fiction mystery drama. It depicts a futuristic dystopian world where the ultimate form of entertainment comes from visiting a theme park modeled after the old west and going on ‘adventures’ with the many ‘hosts’ of the park. If we examine a few of the technologies used in the show, designers today can get a good sense of what’s to come.

Host being made. Image Credit: HBO



3D Organic Printing

All of the hosts of Westworld are androids and they are all 3d printed. One of the most striking reoccurring visuals in the show is the process by which incomplete host bodies are dipped in a white milky substance. The inspiration for the 3D printing technique used in Westworld comes from a well-established technology called vat photo polymerization process or Carbon’s CLIP technology. By focusing an ultraviolet (UV) laser onto a vat of photopolymer resin, a layer of the design is hardened upon every pass. Many 3d printer companies have been using this technology in their consumer grade 3d printers for years.

Video from Stylewerx Client Video ProofsCaption

In Westworld, this technology is mainly used for adding fat, organic tissues, and skin to the hosts. It works in concert with a muscle fiber printer. Currently, scientists already use 3d printing to create organs, but the show hints that the process will evolve into printing complex moving organic parts. Unlike the available 3d printers today, those in Westworld are fast. As the speed of 3d printing increases, so too does the near-term possibility that it will become a viable manufacturing process to mass-produce products — from those with complex preassembled shapes to realistic functioning prosthetics and maybe someday, even organic robotic pets.

 

Holographic UI. Video From HBO

Holographic Interface of Trifold Phones


The Trifold Phone featured in Westworld can be unfolded into a tablet. In November 2016, Apple filed patents for foldable and flexible displays. Samsung has been flirting with the flexible screen for some time now. There hasn’t been a major consumer product on the market that takes advantage of the flexible screen technology yet, but at Westworld, all the staff can be seen using foldable phones. Westworld even beautifully shows us the phone’s integration with a holographic interface.

Holovect drawing of the Enterprise. Video by The-Code-Of-EntertainmentCaption

Most holograms today are projections on translucent screens, such as Tupac at Coachella (2012) or Hatsune Miku. However, that would be impractical with the small form factors of the Trifold Phones. A few technologies such Holovect and Holographic Plasma are creating holograms in mid air without the use of screens. They are currently not quite small enough to be portable, but they are shrinking. Pretty soon, we will get the real version of Help me Obiwan… you’re my only hope.

Gesture control using Leap Motion Controller. Video from asterian75


By using Leap Motion Controller, we can seamlessly interact with holograms. Alternatively, AR technology such as HoloLens and Magic Leap can also be integrated into glasses or contacts to simulate the holographic interface for the user. In the future, we can expect our productivity and communication devices to have a small form factor but pack greater connectivity, a usable holographic UI, and an expandable screen. It is not just on the horizon but something we’ll possibly see in few years. You can expect to see more products concept with that in mind on Airgora.

Image Credit: HBO


3D Printed Clothes

While the hosts are 3d printed humans, one can speculate that the fashionable clothing of the future are 3d printed too for a personalized fit. It should be noted that some of the costumes the cast wore were actually 3d printed. In an interview by Racked, costume designer Ane Crabtree revealed that Westworld used 3d printing technology to create some of the vintage fabrics of the period costumes. According to Crabtree, costume designers found vintage fabrics, hand-painted and distressed them, and then replicated the textiles using 3-D printing in order to have enough duplicates for stunt doubles and to account for wear and tear.

Kinematics Dress by Nervous System. Image Credit: Steve Marsel Studio


Our bodies are 3-dimensional but clothing is traditionally made from a flat material that is cut and painstakingly pieced together. In contrast, printed clothes are created in 3D, directly from body scans and require absolutely no assembly. Soon this technology won’t be limited to one-off fashion statements or museums, but instead expand into a common option for tailored clothing. This technology isn’t on the horizon anymore — it’s already here. Like 3d printed hosts, we’re just waiting for the speed of printing to catch up. And in this internet connected era of technological revolution, it won’t take long.

— Bonus —

Dr.Ford running maintenance on a host. Image Credit: HBO


Hyper Accurate Facial and Speech Recognition

As evident in the hosts’ interaction with the staff, the interface between users and their products will be seamless. Your devices and products should know who you are and allow you instant access without lengthy passwords.

Slick futuristic train. Image Credit: HBO


Hyperloop

There was a quick cameo to what appears to be a practical version of the hyperloop in episode 2. Production designer Zach Grobler tells Inverse, “There’s a future based on the Elon Musk system, the way they build trains right now to be high speed and go through a vacuum tube. I looked a little bit into the designs there; I didn’t want to make it too futuristic. I wanted to make it look like it’s all practical and cool in the future.” Expect wheels to slowly be phased out by faster traveling transport.

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