Woke Studios brings Elon Musk’s AI to life
Vancouver design studio works in concert with Neuralink's surgical robot
The ascendancy of artificial intelligence is accelerating. Loudly asserted by tech icon Elon Musk, this trend poses existential threat risks to human life. The debate as to whether this progress is worth the inherent risks will continue, and in this article, we introduce an award-winning Vancouver design firm to fuel further debate.
The company is Woke Studios, which designs for Neuralink, Musk’s very own neural technology start-up. Neuralink recently released a presentation on their chip, which Musk described as “a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” that can read or write brain activity. The neural chip is a ‘body ware’ to be inserted surgically by a robot designed to implant the chip and wires with minimal damage to the brain or blood vessels. Musk says that the process only takes hours, and leaves “just a small scar.”
Stand out from crowd
West Coast Report recently had the opportunity to interview Afshin Mehin, CEO and founder of Woke Studios, to find out how they have been able to stand out from the crowd, how they were discovered by Neuralink, and what role AI might play in our future.
As an industrial design studio, Woke helps companies translate visionary technologies into products and services people will fall in love with.
“We are optimists at heart and believe that if new technologies are introduced into people’s lives in the right way, that there is always a huge opportunity to improve quality of life,” says Mehin.
Having won a RedDot design award for its Mio Slice wearable, and after supporting Recon Instrument’s sunglasses, a product that led to Recon’s acquisition by Intel, Woke was introduced by Kindred to the team at Neuralink (learn more about Kindred in EP&T’s March 2017 edition). As a member of the Recon team, Woke had to interface with electrical engineers and mechanical engineers to get their input and help to design the best “experience” product for wearers. All three of these companies were headquartered in Vancouver, which shows how it has helped to be located in BC.
“Vancouver is a hotbed for soft goods companies, from Lululemon to Herschel backpacks. Being part of that ecosystem has always helped us be able to develop best in class close to body technologies,” explains Mehin. “The challenges of having technology that has to be on your body, adapting to your bone and muscle structure, and giving and adjusting based on the human body’s complex movements is something apparel designers have been dealing with for centuries.”
Hacking the brain
So where does this leave Woke with respect to AI? Interestingly, Mehin has a clear perspective.
“What is natural, what is unnatural? Wearing shoes is unnatural. With the Neuralink chip, one might see it as unnatural, see it like we are hacking the brain.” On the other hand, says Mehin, “We might be able to harness this technology for people who can benefit from it, people who are paralyzed, who could not move a single muscle. They could learn to control a robotic arm to move a cup of water to their mouth so that they could drink from a straw.”
This technology can help people, but it is important to be critical to ensure that we remain respectful, and Mehin is confident that technology can be used for good. Woke Studio excels at the thoughtful tailoring of products to end-user needs. Mehin concludes by suggesting to other entrepreneurs to set the bar high for creating a product or service that will leave your customer with a sense of delight and wonder in addition to providing a ton of value.
“Think about how design and design thinking can be applied more broadly across your business, whether it’s designing your go to market strategy or designing your product’s end of life strategy. The process of design is really powerful and can benefit companies well beyond styling a product.”
To learn more about Woke Studios and Neuralink, go to https://woke.co/ and https://neuralink.com/