Striving for ‘Invisible’ Technology

A future of seamless human and AI collaboration

A technology that acts seamlessly for us, in essence, becomes invisible. When that technology enables us – to do more, to be better, to be safer – without us perceiving its involvement, then it has achieved a high level of usefulness and invisible integration, a kind of symbiosis with us.

Seamless invisible integration into our lives can be a strong indicator of a successful and useful technology, and is something to strive for when developing the technologies of the future.

An interesting example of this is Toyota’s ‘Guardian’ assistive technology for cars where they’re aiming to create a, “computationally rich and perception rich vehicle”. Essentially, the driver is in control of the vehicle as normal but the guardian angel keeps an eye out for any exceptional events, using artificial intelligence to evaluate perceived risk on the fly, and most importantly, having the power to take over control in an emergency.

In many ways, in terms of technological evolution, this is a direct descendant of ABS – also a responsive technology, that lends a hand seamlessly as we need it, but remains invisible to us even in action.

In this collaboration of technology and human ability, technology functions as a hidden tool to assist us. It enhances our experience and doesn’t get in the way. It is an enabler, for us, of greater things (in this case safer driving) – while, importantly leaving our freedom of choice and level of control intact in all but the most dangerous situations.

This draws our attention to an issue we face increasingly, that of technology taking over or removing choice, and inhibiting our freedom and autonomy. Naturally, we tend to find this prospect quite unsettling . . . However, if we create assistive technology that is situational and context based, and it operates on a variable scale that we can predetermine – this may well be getting the best of both worlds. That is, helping us when we need it (an emergency), or when we choose it (like ‘sport mode’ or cruise control) and then leaving it to us the rest of the time to do as we will.

Toyota is still also exploring fully autonomous vehicles in the longer term alongside ‘Guardian’ with their vehicle, ‘Chauffeur’ – but what they learn from this intermediary step will surely be of great advantage to their business and their customers.

In the broader view, this is another example of how we do better through collaboration with technology – opening new possibilities and creating opportunities for the future by combining existing technologies and human abilities to build something new.

Take a look at Toyota’s Guardian and Chauffeur here: