Future Insights: Interconnectedness


Future Insights: Interconnectedness


A conversation with Nathan Pollock about the power of interconnectivity of technology, work disciplines, societies, and generations to move us towards a brighter future.

In this series of short interviews, we ask the HOO KOO E KOO Council to share their hopes, fears, and predictions about the future.

Nathan Pollock

Nathan Pollock - Katapult Designs

0. Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you living right now, who do you live with, and what you are currently working on?

My name is Nathan Pollock, and I’m the founder and CEO of Katapult Design based in Byron Bay, Australia, with studios in Sydney and Melbourne — we have a team of seventeen across our three studios including industrial designers, mechanical engineers, UX/UI designers, brand & packaging designers. We handle pretty much anything associated with new product development. We’ve been around for thirteen years now. My background has been as an industrial designer in consultancies in Australia. I currently live in Byron Bay, which is a small coastal town in northern NSW, and work out of our studio here. I’m married with three kids and spend my spare time surfing. I suppose that’s probably the number one passion in my life apart from family and work.

Fliteboard Series 2 Flite by Katapult Design.

Fliteboard Series 2 Flite by Katapult Design.

1. What are your hopes for the future?

My biggest hope is that, on a personal level, my family and my children grow up to be successful, good people. On a business level, I want Katapult Design to mature into a company that moves well beyond me and my time. I’m now in my early 50s and probably heading towards some sort of retirement in the future where other people will take over.

In terms of societal futures, I think the biggest issue is the environment. Having listened to and read Sir David Attenborough and some of the reports he’s done over his lifetime, I think we’re at a real crisis point. I hope that designers, scientists, and other intelligent people can get together and change the direction, moving it away from a political discussion and into a more social discussion.

For me, I get pretty frustrated with politics. Big businesses and traditional businesses who are the biggest polluters are the ones directing the policies. We see that a lot in Australia — we’re very slow to change. I genuinely think if we don’t change, then the future is pretty bleak for our children. I have underlying confidence we will change, but it really needs to happen now.

active mask

ActiveMask by Katapult Design.

active mask

ActiveMask by Katapult Design.

2. What are your fears about the future?

I think it’s tough to know, isn’t it, when we sit here. I have fears about the climate and what’s happening to the Planet. I also think that geopolitics, terrorism, and nationalism will potentially cause problems in the future. I hope that that’s offset with global immigration and mingling of countries and people — that sort of interrelationship of people from different backgrounds that is becoming a norm now can change the way people think about each other. Hopefully, the online nature of our lives and how we work globally will help us become more tolerant of others, not just in terms of race and cultural background but also sexual orientation, habits, and behaviors — all those things that make up a fantastic society.

I think things have changed since our parents were alive. My grandparents had different attitudes than I do, and my children also have different perspectives from those I had when I was their age. So I’m hoping that those fears that I have will be grabbed by the younger generation and solved. Our parents did the same, we did the same, so hopefully, that can happen as they start to take the reigns of running the world.

NFTI by Katapult
NFTI by Katapult closeup

NIFTI is a Non-Intrusive Flight Test Instrument.

3. What are you most excited about 10 years from now?

I think the world will be very different in 10 years. There have been many attitude shifts. Speaking for Australia, we’ve got things like gay marriage in place now; we’ve certainly got a different attitude to women in the workforce, people with disabilities, etc. All those equality issues are coming forward, so I think they’ll leap further again in the next ten years.

I hope that the interconnectivity of the way we do business will mean that globally, things will open up. It’s interesting with the pandemic and the fact that people have taken to video conferencing in a way that was probably not as prevalent as before. Although I personally hope that it will translate back into face-to-face meetings once we can all travel safely again in the next couple of years. I certainly am missing it, and I think everyone is starting to feel the fatigue about the pandemic.

Once the pandemic ends, we will most likely enter a period of rapid growth and creativity — it’ll be an exciting time as the next generation takes over from us. I look forward to that kicking off new technology, vibrancy, and diversity — it will gain some momentum in the next ten years.

Do you think this will be enhanced by the technologies that are to come?

I think it will. I mean, it remains to be seen. Still, technology is already helping, whether it’s reducing emissions and trying to turn back the environmental clock, making it easier to communicate, making our health better, or making it easier for us to travel. All of these things are tied with each other. It’s changing the way our food is produced. It’s changing the way we generate energy. All of these great, big goals are being solved or starting to be solved. When you look at the changes in just our generation, and what’s on the horizon versus what we’ve done for the last 50 to 100 years, I think there’s a genuine opportunity to change the game.

walking frame
walking frame in use
using walking frame to clim the stairs

Mobilate Roami — modernized walking frame.

4. What trends do you think will form our future?

I think there’s a couple. For me, the connectivity of products and technologies will definitely inform the future. The way products will “talk” to each other and how our data will be integrated into our services will make things easier, faster, more bespoke, and targeted for our individual needs. I think it could be pretty amazing. As a designer, I look at that and think, well, what’s going to change the way we work as designers, and the first thing that comes to mind is AI — just like 3D printing did not so long ago. I think AI will start to spin out some solutions that we couldn’t have achieved before. And whether that’s solving problems that we couldn’t solve, or helping us solve our existing problems differently or faster, or with more variations, or with different materials and processes.

Last week, I read about the idea that AI might help a designer choose a range of complementary colors and finishes for a product they developed. So you might develop a particular product and define the styling, anticipated use of the product, and the further development path. Then you might use an algorithm to help you get a complimentary palette of colors and finishes for that range of products based on your brand, what your demographic is, and all kinds of different determinants. You could do this by yourself as a designer but if you don’t have time or sufficient data, using an algorithm allows you to draw on real-time data more efficiently.

Another intriguing case I’ve been reading about AI is using inputs and restrictions to give an algorithm a problem and then have it come out with some outcome, i.e., designing a lunar lander or designing furniture within constraints. It helps build the structure, looks at the shape, and comes up with the form, which sounds pretty confronting for a designer. Obviously, you don’t want to replace human creativity, but at the same time, there are ways that AI might benefit and compliment us. There are some pretty powerful opportunities there. I guess we have to worry about whether that becomes a negative thing too; now it’s almost the George Orwell-style 1984 environment. For sure, a lot is coming in this area.

A great example is a project we both know pretty well, which is Boom Supersonic. We were developing that supersonic jet in this day and age, which means it’s been possible to build and test the aircraft in a computer environment — very quickly and relatively cheaply. In comparison, when they developed the Concorde, they’d have to build models and scale them up to test — the lead time and the costs associated with that were astronomical. In contrast, in this modern environment, they can do all that testing quickly, iterate fast and get to the final solution quicker and with less cost. I think that’s a big area in which technology is going to change a lot for us.

plane interior
plane sleeping setting
plane working setting
plane interior design
plane seats design

Images come from Katapult’s case study. HOO KOO E KOO participated in this project — our team was responsible for delivering digital assets for their new brand and communications, as well as helping with the interior design and 3D visualizations. Case studies are available on our website and Katapulthttps://katapultdesign.com.au/project/boom-supersonic

Can you see the need for that already in your daily work?

We use 3D CAD, a few contemporary prototyping methods — whether it’s 3D printing or CNC machining, developing prototypes rapidly, and refining that. We’re starting to explore whether AI, VR, and AR can help with our design processes. Again, talking about Boom — we developed the aircraft’s interior, and we used our 3D CAD model to create a VR environment to allow people to go inside the plane. As a result, we got some unexpected insights from crucial stakeholders after they put the goggles on, went inside the model, and gave us feedback. They got to see real-size things that they were concerned about in a 3D environment, which, five years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to do so easily.

You briefly touched on the risk that some people are afraid that technology might replace some of us or our job positions, designers. So how do you see that?

Again, I don’t have all the answers, but I think there will be different jobs. My positive spin on it would be that most of us do jobs that our parents hadn’t imagined. And when our children get into the workforce, and their children get into the workforce, they’ll be doing jobs that we can’t imagine. Yes, computers and AI will do some of the tasks. Still, they’re mostly going to do either dangerous, unsafe, or repetitive tasks to the point where most people won’t want to do them. This way, technology allows people to do other jobs. I know that’s potentially looking at it through rose-colored glasses a little bit, but I think you’ve got to have confidence in people’s ability to be creative and push the boundaries. So people always will be doing things that computers, robots, and artificial intelligence can’t. I guess we’ll have to see, maybe further into the future things will start to merge a little bit like we see in sci-fi films and shows.

splint bath strava
splint bath strava product
splint bath strava detail
splint bath strava concept

plint Bath Strava by Katapult Design — Strava has changed the way practitioners think about splinting, simplifying the process to allow them more time to focus on the patient.

5. Fast forward 30 years. What will be the key changes for humanity?

Well, assuming that it’s 2050, roughly, we have to have the environmental crisis solved, or else, we have to be doing a fair bit to leave Earth to find new environments to live in. I’m hoping that we’ve got the environmental crisis solved. I guess population issues will probably be one of the main things, and everything that’s tied into that, such as living environments, food supply, water supply, energy supply — all of those things will change drastically over the next 30 years. I think the old coal and fossil fuel-based energy systems will be obsolete. So we’ll have renewable energy across the board. I think the way we eat and the food we consume will be significantly different. It’s already changing. We’re seeing what I call traditional foods being replaced in certain areas by artificial foods or specifically grown foods developed in laboratories — I think more of that will come.

Probably one big thing is that we, as humans, will start to be closely monitored in a precise way regarding our health, vital signs, and sleep. We will have data that guides us on what foods we need to eat to give us particular energy, control mood shifts or changes in our metabolic structure to improve our health. We already see it with devices like Apple watches, Oura rings, etc. This kind of technology is highly accessible to the average person. Yet the data that you’re getting out of that it’s pretty interesting — and we’re only just scratching the surface!. I think that will become deeply embedded — we’ll be wearing technology, and have technology embedded in our bodies. It’ll monitor us and likely give us an augmented capacity of various kinds. Elon Musk and Tesla are already looking at chips in our brains and artificial body parts. In 30 years, these kinds of solutions are going to be the norm, not unusual. It’s not that far away. It’ll happen pretty quickly, and there’ll be many more things that we can’t imagine right now.

Yet, in my opinion, one of the biggest challenges will be solving how we will live in terms of population, coping with the massive population growth, mass migration, and loss of living space. I don’t have the answer for that, except that maybe the way we live and the expectations of having the classic Australian dream (in my case) of owning a house, a block of land, and your family lives in that house, and then your friend’s family lives next door, will likely become obsolete. There might be much more of a return to a more communal approach, a higher density of living, sharing spaces and resources.

Thank you for reading!

Interviewer: Justyna Cyrankiewicz, Creative Content Curator and Writer.
Proofreader: Joe Foxton, New Business.

With love, HOO KOO E KOO 💛