Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, and touchless interfaces are reinventing the customer experience.

In this changing landscape, designers must now be trailblazers and discover how to apply these emerging technologies to create engaging, impactful experiences.

If you’re thinking about how to incorporate emerging technologies into your business, you’re not alone. We spoke with five design leaders about what’s next in technology and what it means for designers.

Unlock creativity with technology

Designers who embrace new technologies will push the boundaries of the customer experience.

Albert Shum, CVP of Microsoft’s Design, Experiences, and Devices group, sees the present moment as an era of discovery that can inspire amazing design. “It’s like the first time we used a touch screen and discovered a whole world of possibilities,” he says.

Be it voice or augmented reality, we are inventing new ways to communicate, which unlocks a lot of creativity.

Albert Shum, CVP of Microsoft’s Design, Experiences, and Devices group

Emerging technologies are pushing designers at Microsoft to rethink customer experiences. Albert’s team is working on delivering a seamless flow of experiences across the entire ecosystem of customer experiences, creating connections and ease of use not possible even in the past few years.

New technologies will also transform the design process. AI already helps designers work faster and smarter by automating time-consuming tasks, leaving them more time to be creative.

Open up new perspectives with AI

Intelligent algorithms already play a big role in our lives, from virtual assistants to medical diagnostic technology to smart home devices, but the field keeps evolving to unearth more consumer applications.

Uber, for example, is on the front lines of using AI technology. The company’s use of it goes beyond driverless car technology. Uber also sees AI as integral to customer service and data analytics.

AI has the power to shift our perspective, helping us understand the implications of our ideas, highlight our inefficiencies, and even point out glitches in an end product.

Vincent Ramsay-Lemelin, creative director at Sid Lee

“AI is critical to how Uber interacts with the world,” says Michael Gough, Uber’s vice president of product design. “It’s too powerful a tool to not use, especially when we think about all the opportunities to use our data, create better relationships with customers, and build better products.”

For designers at creative agency Sid Lee, AI enhances the creative process to meet rising client expectations.

“AI has the power to shift our perspective, helping us understand the implications of our ideas, highlight our inefficiencies, and even point out glitches in an end product,” says Vincent Ramsay-Lemelin, creative director at Sid Lee. “Our hope is that AI can help us get better ideas to clients faster.”

AI is key to unlocking customer insights and developing better products.

“We’re thinking a lot about how to extract intelligence from our data,” Albert says. “It’s a big part of understanding our customers’ motivations, and then building products to help them achieve their goals.”

Image of colorful buttons that people can interact with.
Photo by Katya Austin

Design new realities

AR and VR have enormous potential to change the way people communicate and understand information. And they create new worlds of possibility for storytellers and creatives.

Designers at Sid Lee use AR and 3D video to spark clients’ imagination. “We can create all sorts of creative augmented realities that help with our narrative to clients, so they can envision our ideas more clearly,” Vincent says. “For us, the enhanced visual communication fuels more work.”

Push industry boundaries

AR and VR are a natural fit for some industries, like real estate. “With virtual reality, we can offer site tours to people who are in the market for a property — without being there in person,” says Becky Mikrut, creative director, Americas region, at JLL, a property consultancy company that specializes in property services and investment management. “Augmented reality can help people envision what a space might look like after it’s built out. These innovations will play a big role in our industry.”

Image by Werner Du Plessis.

Even in industries where the benefits aren’t as obvious, AR and VR have great potential. New authoring tools that make it easier to create these experiences, like Adobe’s Project Aero, are democratizing the creative process to help designers and marketing organizations advance their storytelling with immersive content.

David Kendall, principal of UX design at AT&T, says, “We’re just beginning to understand how these immersive experiences could better serve customers. That’s why Adobe’s Project Aero is exciting — having tools available to create AR and VR experiences can help us visualize and experiment with the technology.”