Research Challenges

The hybrid products challenge: 


The hybrid products challenge will innovate new kinds of data-driven product, production processes and enabling technologies that combine the physical and digital aspects of products, to create new value propositions for consumers. 

How do we combine the physical and digital materials into hybrid products? We will establish computational concepts and technologies to enable deeper physical-digital hybridity. Conventionally, the digital is seen either as layered over the physical (Augmented Reality) or embedded into it (Tangible Computing). In contrast, we will extend approaches such as computational composites‘textures and our own research into multiple ‘wrappings in which consumers digitally wrap conventional goods with their own stories 

How will consumers experience hybrid products? We will innovate the interaction techniques that deepen consumers engagement with hybrid products, extending our work on voice interaction, brain-computer interfaces, and face and emotion detection.  

How do we accrue value from hybrid products? We will extend contemporary notions of product-service systems, value chains and value networks from business and marketing to produce new concepts that express how different stakeholders – manufacturers, distributers, retailers, prosumers and consumers – derive value from hybridity.  

Example projects


The Trusted Products challenge: 


Trust is complex issue that is critical to the success of all products. Continual data breaches by hackers, revelations around data sharing practices and unknown consequences of inferences from personal data, all serve to undermine consumer trust in the digital.  

How can we empower developers to use the latest trust technologies? Data breaches are a constant source of erosion of trust. Poor development methods and security practice are still prevalent, and the uptake of emerging security hardware limited.  We will engage with and understand developer’s needs to construct tools and interventions to help drive widespread adoption. We will drive forward developer-centred securityundertake research to reveal developer practices around trust and address new hardware opportunities to improve the motivation, culture and tools of the community of developers. 

How can new computational paradigms practically contribute to trusted productsWe will address trust issues by undertaking research to improve underlying systems architectures for privacy enhancing technologies.  We will introduce novel combinations of statistics and computing to bear on understanding how everyday algorithms can be mapped onto computation infrastructures and simultaneously we will consider legal complexities. 

How can we engage diverse consumers in policy and regulation? The challenge regulators face is how to ensure protection for all rather than favouring those already best placed to understand and manage their data. It is critical that regulation addresses key challenges of legibility, agency and negotiability in a way that protects the whole population, with particular emphasis on those that are least engaged and most vulnerable. 

We will extend our innovative methods of engaging diverse stakeholders with the complexities of the law, regulation and rights concerning their data and apply them in partnership with policy makers, regulators and industry to build a strong evidence base to inform policy development to enable better decisions and influence practice. 

Example projects


 The Social Products challenge: 

While social media has successfully leveraged human sociality, the same cannot be said of other data-driven products, especially those that connect to the physical world. Smart appliances, vehicles and other digitally augmented goods are currently designed for individual use, largely ignoring the presence of bystanders or likelihood of shared ownership. Underlying data architectures and the regulatory environment fail to recognise the complexities of human social relationships, for example how to manage an individual’s data when they are children, elders, or even after they die.  

How do we deliver social products?  For consumers to exercise choice and control, data-driven products will need to be constructed in a manner that promotes understanding about how they fit into everyday life. We will explore how to make this new generation of data-driven products socially intelligible and move from a focus on single users to social groups, so that members can understand the implications of collective data capture and use. We will enable group members to manage the accountabilities and risks of exposure created by shared data-driven products, including those practices within complex social environments such as the home.  

How can smarter products collaborate with humans? Beyond accountability, we will demonstrate new ways in which groups of humans and increasingly smart products can effectively work together, from carrying out everyday tasks to recognising complex issues surrounding human behaviour and well-beingWe will focus on how future products can best support rather than constrain or replace the flexibility, adaptability and social norms inherent in collaboration.  

How can groups co-create data-driven products? As with social media, consumers will become the co-creators of the data-driven products they use by contributing content or data derived from use. We will establish a new social approach and supporting platform for co-creating products, in which the stakeholders involved in the creation of a hybrid product can evolve it (physically and digitally) during all stages of its lifecycle –  from design, manufacture and active use, through to recycling or re-appropriation. Our focus on lifelong co-creation will particularly address sustainability as part of a more circular economy. 

Example projects