From analog to digital and back again.

Mark Minelli

My daughter brought this home recently as part of her back-to-school goodies. I thought it was fascinating to see an iPod like interface applied to a mechanical lock set. Instead of numbers, directional movements define the lock sequence. It’s nice looking and incredibly easy to use. It’s not often that you see an innovation in something as established as the combination lock. It’s kind of like seeing new versions of the clothespin or paper clip.

What I find more interesting than innovation creeping into an old-school object is the increasing interplay between the digital and the physical world. I was fortunate to be able to speak at the end of last year at the World Brand Congress in Mumbai. One of the other speakers, Yukio Nakayama, gave a fascinating presentation of work being done in Japan that explores marrying digital thinking to beautifully crafted physical objects. One example he provided was the melody road in which a precisely defined sequence of cuts into the pavement produce a song when driven over. It becomes a tactile experience in the real world otherwise impossible without the impact of technology. Closer to home, The Center for Arts and Technology at MIT is doing fascinating experiments along these lines as they relate to architecture and fabrication.

Using technology to enhance “real” world experiences is potentially a much more intriguing future than giving us more ways to spend more time on our various glowing screens.