For those of us who are passionate about how humans relate to the built environment—the Jane Jacobs readers, the biophilia believers, the airplane window gazers—something fascinating just happened. Millions of young (and not-so-young) people around the world walked out of their homes and into their communities, and just kept walking. Instead of creating cities inside their phones, they explored the real world. I’ve heard stories of neighbors meeting each other, kids getting exercise who’ve previously refused to, people seeing parts of their communities they’d never seen.
Over the past 10 years, the arrival of pervasive technology means that we’ve collectively shifted our gaze from the physical world to the digital screen. But over the past few weeks, augmented reality via the likes of Pokémon Go has busted into our lives and lifted that collective gaze. This thin layer of information, instigation, and curation between us and the physical world is a form of technology that we really haven’t seen adopted en masse before. But now we know how to create it, and my hope is that we harness this form of technology to improve how we interact with each other and our physical environment.
There are so many exciting possibilities to improve our lives and our world via this type of technology. Helping us see our neighborhoods is just the beginning, next up is the workplace, where we spend the majority of our days, from augmented reality helping us visualize a space before construction to enhanced 3D hologram video conferencing (someday, maybe?).
This new paradigm resonates with our work in a profound way. Comfy is a technology that is fundamentally about rebuilding the relationship between people and buildings. Just like the building of a human relationship, it’s about trust and transparency, where we learn both the constraints and opportunities of our physical world, and it learns about us. And, at the end of the day, it’s also wrapped up in a cute interface with colorful animations.
We have a growing movement of technologists whose mission is to help you fall in love with your surroundings again—to understand your world as it understands you. I’m delighted to know that the visionaries who created Pokémon Go, Niantic Labs, share a core value with us: technology is at its best when it focuses not on itself, but on human relationships and our physical lives. Matt Rogers from Nest (who recently professed to “not loving computers”) also often says that they aren’t interested in smart homes, they are interested in the experience of homes and how they can become more thoughtful. At Comfy, though we are interested in smart buildings, we are even more interested in how we can make the experience in buildings more thoughtful, inspiring, and productive.