In recent news, a California man staring into his phone accidentally walked over the edge of a cliff and fell to his death. A week later, a woman in China staring into her phone fell into a canal and drowned. There is also a disturbing video making the rounds on social media that's a supercut of people staring into their phones, walking directly into speeding traffic and being violently run over.
That people stare into their phones and devices and stop paying attention to their immediate surroundings is not in question. Neither is the fact that they will continue to do it. The genie's out of the bottle. So my question to you is, should people design objects to fulfill unmet needs in these device-starer's lives? That's what I thought when I came across this Kickstarter:
To be clear, I think this product is horrific. (And at press time would-be backers seemed to agree, with just $424 pledged on a $2,500 goal with 35 days to go.) Perhaps I'm clumsier than most of you, but if you've ever fallen down a flight of stairs while carrying something—raise your hand, don't be ashamed, no one can see you—you know that you don't want that thing you're carrying attached to your neck by what appears to be a garrote.
But those are my personal biases. There's no question that this device solves some kind of ergonomic issue for device-starers, no matter how ridiculous it looks. And as difficult as it is for me to imagine, there are probably some folks that want to walk around a library—a library—while yapping on their phone and having a book float in front of them. So the question is, ought we design devices that suits people's behavior, even if we consider that behavior asinine? Is it our job as designers to steer things towards our own personal ideals, or are we merely here to serve and produce?