Artificial intelligence Brain Wire

How AI is changing the game for Industrial Designers

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an umbrella term used to describe a range of technologies that enable machines to perform tasks that would typically require human intelligence. It involves using computer algorithms to simulate intelligent behavior and decision-making based on large sets of data.

The key components of AI include machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision. Machine learning involves the use of algorithms that allow machines to learn from data and make decisions based on that information. Natural language processing (NLP) involves the ability of machines to understand, interpret, and generate human language. Computer vision involves teaching machines to interpret and understand visual data such as images and videos.

How did we get here ?

When looking at the history of computer, one of the first instrument that can come to our mind is the calculator. The first mechanical calculator that could perform arithmetic calculations was invented by Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and philosopher, in 1642. Pascal’s calculator, called the Pascaline, was a brass box that used a series of gears to perform addition and subtraction. It was designed to help his father, a tax collector, in his work. While it was a remarkable technological achievement for its time, it did not have the ability to learn, reason, or make decisions.

Blaise Pascal – Pascaline – Wikipedia

The first computer that was able to perform like a human brain was the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), developed in the mid-1940s. While the ENIAC was not technically an AI system, it was the first programmable computer and could be considered an early precursor to AI.

The modern history of AI dates back to the 1950s when researchers began exploring the possibility of creating intelligent machines. The first true AI system, is generally considered to be the Logic Theorist, developed by Allen Newell and J.C. Shaw in 1956. It was designed to prove mathematical theorems using a set of axioms and inference rules. It was the first computer program to demonstrate human-like problem-solving abilities and was a major milestone in the development of AI.

While early efforts focused on rule-based systems that relied on sets of predefined rules to guide decision-making. These systems were limited in their capabilities and proved to be insufficient for complex tasks. In the 1980s, the field of AI experienced a resurgence with the development of machine learning algorithms. This led to significant advances in areas such as computer vision, speech recognition, and natural language processing. However, progress was slow due to limitations in computing power and the availability of data.

In recent years (months even), the exponential growth of computing power and the explosion of data have led to significant breakthroughs in AI. Deep learning, a subset of machine learning, has enabled machines to process and analyze vast amounts of data, leading to major advances in areas such as image and speech recognition. Natural language processing has also improved significantly, with machines now able to understand and generate human language with a high degree of accuracy.

The applications of AI are vast and varied, with numerous industries beginning to explore the potential of this technology. In healthcare, AI is being used to analyze patient data and develop personalized treatment plans. In finance, it is used for fraud detection, risk management, and algorithmic trading. In transportation, self-driving cars and trucks are being developed using AI technology.

The Impact of AI on industrial design

In the manufacturing industry AI has the potential to revolutionize the way products are designed, developed, and manufactured.

One of the most significant examples of AI in industrial design is generative design. This technique involves using algorithms to generate multiple design options based on input criteria (such as size, weight, and material), is becoming increasingly popular in the field of industrial design. This approach allows designers to explore a wide range of design options quickly and efficiently. AI software’s can then evaluates each option based on performance, cost, and other factors, resulting in an optimized design that meets the specified criteria. Generative design has the potential to significantly reduce the time and effort required for product development, as well as improving the quality of the final product.

Examples of Ai generated Lamp design in the style of famous designers, Marcel Wanders and Philippe Starck by Michael King, posted on Medium.

Another example of AI in industrial design is simulation. AI algorithms can be used to simulate and test different design options, allowing designers to identify potential issues and make improvements before development begins. This approach saves time and resources and results in better-quality products. Simulation software allows designers to render their designs in a virtual environment, reducing the need for costly physical prototyping, organizing a photo shooting, using actors or models etc.

Optimization is also an important application of AI in industrial design. AI algorithms can be used to optimize various aspects of product design, such as shape, material usage, and performance. Optimization can lead to products that are more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly.

The potential benefits of AI in industrial design are numerous. It can lead to faster prototyping, more efficient design processes, and improved product quality. AI can also help designers explore a wider range of design options, leading to more innovative and creative solutions. By automating tedious and repetitive tasks, AI can free up designers to focus on high-level design thinking and problem-solving.

One example of a company that is successfully using AI in industrial design is Adidas. The company has developed a 4D printing process that uses AI algorithms to optimize the design of its Futurecraft 4D shoes. The design is optimized for comfort, durability, and performance, resulting in a product that is highly sought after by consumers.

Adidas – Futurecraft 4d shoe – 2017

Herman Miller is another company that is successfully using AI in industrial design. Together with Fuze Project, the company has developed a software tool called Live OS that uses AI algorithms to optimize office layouts and furniture arrangements. The tool collects data on how people use office spaces and uses that information to make recommendations for more efficient and effective layouts. The primary purpose of Live OS is to encourage physical activity in workspaces that are mostly sedentary. Live OS-connected furniture automatically reminds users when they’ve been sitting for too long, either through gentle vibration or by lighting up a small module attached to the surface.

Herman Miller – Live OS

Challenges, limitations and ethical considerations of AI in design.

There are fears among designers about the impact of AI on their profession. One of the most significant concerns is job loss. As AI technology becomes more advanced, it has the potential to automate many of the tasks that designers currently perform.

Another concern is the loss of creative control. AI algorithms may generate designs that are optimized for specific criteria but may lack the human touch and creativity that is essential to good design. Designers may also worry about the ethical implications of AI, such as the potential for bias in decision-making and the impact on the environment. Here are some of the key challenges and limitations we can foresee:

  • Bias and ethics:

AI tools are only as unbiased as the data and algorithms used to create them. If these are flawed, the resulting designs may also be biased or flawed. There is also a risk of AI being used unethically or in ways that may harm users or the environment. Designers must be aware of these risks and take steps to mitigate them.

  • Expertise and knowledge:

AI tools require a certain level of expertise and knowledge to use effectively. This can be a barrier for some designers who may not have the necessary skills or resources to use these tools. As such, there is a risk that AI could exacerbate existing inequalities in the design industry.

  • Dependence on technology:

While AI can streamline and optimize many aspects of the design process, it also creates a dependence on technology. If this technology fails or becomes obsolete, designers may be left without the necessary skills or resources to continue their work. The appearance of 3D modeling software is still seen as threat to the designers ability to draw. AI will probably be consider a threat to our ability to think in volume.

  • Privacy and security:

AI tools often require access to sensitive data, such as user behavior and preferences. This creates a risk for privacy and security breaches. Designers must take steps to protect this data and ensure that it is used responsibly.

  • Cost and accessibility:

While some AI tools are free in some form, the best can be costly and may not be accessible to all designers. This can create a barrier to entry for some designers and limit the potential benefits of AI in industrial design.

Redefining design expertise in the age of AI

As AI increasingly becomes integrated into industrial design processes, the nature of expertise in design is changing. In the past, technical proficiency in tools and software was the primary focus of design education and training. However, as AI is able to automate many of these tasks, the emphasis is shifting towards creativity and problem-solving skills. Designers who are able to think critically and approach problems from multiple perspectives are likely to be more successful in the age of AI.

By automating tedious tasks and providing new insights. By creating thousands of design options in a fraction of the time it would take a human designer. By allowing designers to explore more possibilities and find more optimal solutions. AI can complement and enhance human expertise.

Interdisciplinary collaboration between designers and AI experts is essential for the successful integration of AI into a design processes. Designers can provide valuable domain knowledge and creative input, while AI experts can bring technical expertise and a deep understanding of AI capabilities and limitations. By working together, designers and AI experts can create more effective and efficient design processes that take advantage of the strengths of both humans and machines. They will then be able to focus on high-level design thinking and problem-solving, which cannot be easily automated by AI.

The rise of AI also has implications for design education and training. Design programs will need to incorporate AI tools and techniques into their curriculum in order to prepare students for the changing nature of the industry. This will require collaboration between design schools and AI research groups, as well as a focus on developing interdisciplinary skills that allow designers to work effectively with AI experts.

Navigating the future of Industrial Design

As an industrial designer, I must admit that when I first saw what AI was able to do, I was afraid. The thought of a machine taking over my job and replacing my creative input with algorithm-generated designs was unsettling. I worried that my expertise, honed through years of education and experience, would become obsolete in the face of AI’s seemingly limitless capabilities. Furthermore, the potential ethical implications of AI in design were a source of concern, as I feared that the technology could be used to create products that were not in the best interest of users or society as a whole.

However, as I began to learn more about AI and its potential applications, I realized that it could be a powerful tool for unlocking new levels of creativity and efficiency. By working in collaboration with AI, designers can achieve better results and faster prototypes, ultimately allowing me to focus on the high-level thinking that is essential to great design.

Looking towards the future, it is clear that AI will continue to play a major role in all creative fields. AI can streamline the design process and open up new possibilities, transforming the way we approach design problems and unlocking new levels of efficiency and creativity. As designers, we must embrace AI as a powerful tool for innovation. Consider it as a way to build a more collaborative, creative, and sustainable future for industrial design while also staying mindful of the potential risks and ethical implications.

Tomorrow you will either use AI or you won’t, our job will evolve toward more writing and prompting our idea to a computer, sure. But we will still have to process the idea in our mind first. In order to thrive in the age of AI, designers must be willing to learn new skills, collaborate with AI experts, learn how to integrate them into our design processes and focus on high-level design thinking. By doing so, we can harness the full potential of AI and not be left behind by the train of technology.

« Let us therefore work hard to think: here is the principle of morality. » Blaise Pascal

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