A speculative probe into the future of our digital/physical, 'Mixed Reality' world
Oppo x RCA: Designing the New Extraordinary
Side Project • Collaboration with Max Sirtl • 2021
Remote, COVID-19 Project ⚠️
Speculative Design
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We live in a world where our data is constantly harvested by both private and public organisations.

Our time, attention and therefore behaviour are being tuned and directed by algorithms at a rate that far outpaces the ability for genuine human oversight.

Digital models are constructed from our personal data

This raises a number of questions:

  • What happens when our digital and physical worlds fuse?
  • What if our data is harvested not just through indirect measures (like our time on certain websites, or location throughout the day), but from all our daily interactions?
  • What happens when we let companies into the most intimate and thrilling aspects of our lives, not just the more mundane ones?
  • Where will the algorithms take us?
How will these data be used to understand and control us?

These adverts are artefacts from the near future which explore the intersection of the intimate and the digital. They offer a lens to explore the latent possibilities of a near, highly plausible future.

trailr is a dating app which bases its recommendations on individuals' complementary behaviours, letting you meet up in person or via digital replicas. This way, you can trial and practice your dates, really (?) getting to know them.

Data-driven matchmaking is already enabled through data-based models of our selves, with apps like Hinge prompting 'most compatible' matches.

  • Do we want to live in a world that connects us through the digital gaze of hard data, or are we missing out on the messiness and warmth of real human relationships?
  • How do we feel about allowing these algorithms into the most intimate aspects of our lives?
  • How does this gaze change the way we represent ourselves and interact through the digital domain?
  • Does it help us live our lives authentically?
  • How does it (dis)connect us?
What experiences truly connect us, and what kinds of data are we willing to share?
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This side project explored speculative artefacts as 'boundary objects' that let us probe and discuss possible futures; provoking different narrative tangents and stimulating awareness of the mindsets and environment we inhabit today. 'Speculative Design' like this seeks to create critical tools that put our reality in perspective, helping us react and prototype a more preferable future.

Ads today scarcely touch on actual product/service functions and experiences; more often alluding to desirable lifestyles, socio-economic modes and ways of being.

These artefacts aim to depict trailr's socio-technical reality as self-explanatory; taking our understanding for granted, as ads for well-established brands tend to. By extrapolating from the typical experiences and emerging technology of today, they offer a snapshot of the future that holds up a mirror to the world we inhabit now.

We sought to represent trailr as nothing too shocking and implausible, but instead just incremental change and iteration on pre-existing phenomena. trailr combines a number of today's socio-technical signals, including: behavioural profiling and 'social credit systems’, computer vision and surveillance, digital twins, and relationship recommendation algorithms.

We tried to depict this snapshot of 'business-as-usual' in a neutral way: encouraging the audience to critically reflect and work out for themselves whether it represents a desirable socio-technical reality. As a result, we hoped to provide a compelling, critical perspective or 'anti-environment' to consider the agency we give up in a data-driven, persuasively-designed world: prompting us to question where this could take us in the not-so-distant future.


trailr was a quick side project that I'd love to revisit and make more polished, compelling and informative; improving the user interfaces, visual effects, storyboard and footage. I'd also love to prototype some alternative adverts based on different socio-technical landscapes: offering visions that illustrate multiple directions — rather than potentially contributing to a sense of paralysis in the face of the ostensible status quo.

It was shortlisted as part of Oppo x RCA: Designing the New Extraordinary and exhibited at the London Design Festival, 2021.

Want to find out more?
After Effects
Premiere Pro
Desk Research
Visual Communication
Max Sirtl
Concept Design, Storyboarding + Filming
Algy Falconer
Concept Design, Visual Effects + Editing
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