Christopher Low
Mar 18, 2014

The custom-technology puzzle: SXSW

There is a saying that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. From the way I see it, the best way to predict the future is to customise it.

Christopher Low
Christopher Low

At South by Southwest (SXSW) 2014, developers and makers were picking up on the increasing demand for a customised experience, be it in the form of a product or service. The question for the tech community is moving from that one-size fits all model to a personalised and unique experience for each and every user.

Bonin Bough, VP of media and consumer engagement at Mondelez International, gave us a sneak peek into the world of 3D printed food. The giant food conglomerate also teased the audience of a possibility in the near future for printed candies, pizzas, chocolates and even steaks. It's about customisation; people want a unique and customised approach to what they eat, Bough said. The maker of famous cookie brand Oreo, also allowed us to experience the power of 3D food printing at its Oreo booth, where every person was able to design their own cookie right down to the details of the cream and have it printed and served on the spot, with milk to dip!

Anne Wojcicki, founder of genomics and biotechnology company 23andme, shared the same sentiment on customisation from the healthcare perspective. On the topic of healthcare, Wojcicki pointed out a major flaw in the system, which is counting on people getting sick in order to make money. She believes that prevention is better than treatment, and people should be able to make lifestyle adjustments and choices by becoming educated of their personal health risks and conditions through their genetic information. By helping the individual understand their genetic information, the industry can move away from the blanket approach and instead allow individuals to work with their doctors to personalise treatments and medications depending on their needs.

More from SXSW 2014

Alfred Lui, chief design officer at Seer Labs, who has designed multiple user experience for Jawbone, PayPal and Nokia, also believes that customisation is the success formula for software and user experience (UX) designing. He urged the crowd of software designers and computer engineers to go beyond the surface and look at data collected from users, which could give them greater insights to designing a piece of UX. He cited the Disney Magicband as an exemplary case of incorporating data to create an excellent UX design. Users who wore the Magicband could have a whole new theme park experience each time they visited because Disneyland can now customize a different experience for the same user on a same ride that he had taken in previous visit. Imagine walking into Disneyland and Mickey Mouse greets you by your first name. How cool is that?

Evidently, a customised experience is deemed to have much more value in the eyes of the user than a standard, cookie cutter one. There is also an increasing demand and willingness to pay a premium for this sort of personalisation. To excel in this area, companies need to put their ears to the ground, and listen to what the users are asking and saying, in order to make sense of the data and create that product or service that is highly relevant and relatable to the human experience.

Christopher Low, search and eCommerce executive, Maxus


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