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Adaptive Products: Designing for Evolution rough Use - page 7 / 31





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electronics and ubiquity of the Internet. Others include social and economic influences such as the rise of globalization and multinational corporations. Ultimately, products are shaped by a multitude of forces including technological, cultural, market, and legal factors; they affect how products are formed, what they are designed to do, and how we think about and use them. These forces shape the very de inition of a product, and they are constantly changing.

But in what ways have products themselves changed? One of the most fundamental shifts involves the widespread embedding of computation. Today, only the most simplistic products are without some form of electronic circuitry and even common household objects, from toothbrushes, to pictures frames, to running shoes may have a computational component. Electronics are found more often outside of traditional computers than within. The signi icance of this change is not only the use of new materials, but also the way our relationships to these products have changed. Their range of functional possibility is no longer directly observable in their form, taking them apart will not yield an understanding of how they work. These products may be capable of sensing, responding, or acting in unexpected ways. Maybe your toothbrush can count the amount of time you spend brushing, your picture frame can change its own photo, or your running shoes can tell you about your health. The possibilities will only expand as more products embed wireless Internet access along with computational abilities. This decoupling of functional possibility from physical form lets products behave in new and unexpected ways.

Embedded computation augments the possibilities of tangible objects but we also routinely use products without any physical form. Software products signi icantly expand the definition of a product by removing some of the original descriptors. The physical constraint is obviously gone but

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