Everyone has them at home – high-tech devices hidden behind metal boxes and touchscreens that are supposed to simplify our everyday lives and be constant companions. They seem to be omnipresent and are constantly visible, be it the smartphone in our hand, the computer on the living room table, or the TV integrated into the living room wall. In the meantime, a new high-tech generation is on the march: shy tech is currently influencing product design trends in a wide variety of areas and, in contrast to high-tech devices, is demonstrating a certain restraint.
Simple elegance, smooth surfaces, and minimalism – this style has already re-established itself in many respects, as a reflective response to the colorful and loud era of our late-capitalist society. Now technology with its increasing complexity in recent years is also striving for a return to minimalist user interfaces and self-explanatory operating patterns without sacrificing functionality. The desire for technical devices that do not consist of numerous switches and buttons puts the aspect of usability back in the foreground and thus creates the challenge for manufacturers to simplify highly complicated technology to the maximum in its external appearance. With the help of voice control or gestures, this desire is already being met, and in the future, even mental control processes could further facilitate the operation of minimalist shy tech.
Many devices in our everyday lives come from different manufacturers and therefore have different operating patterns. This diversity makes it difficult to transfer data between different operating systems, for example. The solution is to combine various existing technologies into an all-encompassing network so that there is no need to constantly switch between devices, and learning new ways of working becomes obsolete. This also means that less hardware is needed, and shy tech can unfold its full potential.
Intelligent technologies like Amazon’s Alexa were not developed to dominate everyday life, but to move time-consuming activities into the background and to carry them out discreetly. Voice assistance technologies like Siri and Alexa or tracking algorithms adapt to the needs of their target groups, learn from their behavior, observe interests, and respond with the appropriate answers or display user-defined virtual content. Shy tech is thus barely perceptible; it operates completely in the background and is intended to offer users maximum relief.
If you search on the internet for “Shy Tech”, you will notice that the automotive industry, in particular BMW, is associated with the term. The discussion here revolves around minimalist car cockpits that, that with the help of shy tech, will in the future consist only of smooth surfaces, made out of a wide variety of materials instead of the usual switches and buttons. For example, wood could also function as a touchscreen, and invisible buttons will be hidden behind fabric and leather. The ultimate goal is to use projections to turn any kind of surface into an interactive control panel, thus keeping the car cockpit sleek and clean. Physical hardware makes space for virtual wonders.
The query in pressrelations’ SearchPool shows that the topic of shy tech is booming in this industry, but so far only in the online sector. Shy tech does not yet seem to play a major role in society, as evident by the low volume of posts on social media, where there are hardly any discussions or opinions on the topic. There is still hardly any desire to make technology visually disappear from our everyday lives. This is not least due to the fact that shy tech has only recently appeared on the web but certainly has the potential to develop into a major digital trend beyond the automotive industry. It’s worth taking a look at China here: the topic of shy tech is far more present there than in many other countries. China’s technical innovations and innovative digitization concepts are currently far ahead of our digital reality, and since many digital innovations can also be expected from China in the future, new impulses in the area of shy tech will certainly find their origin there.
So people no longer have to adapt to technology, but the other way around: technology disappears into the background to meet the human desire for minimalism, and thus integrates itself ever more seamlessly into our everyday lives.