Academy Xi Blog

Six emerging technologies straight out of science fiction

By Academy Xi

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Many technologies that are commonplace today were first conceived of by Science fiction writers: Ipads, automatic doors, the Internet, submarines, space travel, 3D printers, credit cards and video calls. Here are six examples of newly emerging tech applications that are making sci-fi dreams a reality.

These six technologies have some exciting applications.

1. Holographic displays

The 1977 Star Wars release enthralled audiences – you may remember: ‘Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope’. There have been a number of attempts to create holograms, but we are only just now seeing high-quality holograms like those in Star Wars inching closer to reality. Researchers at Swinburne University discovered how to create a wide-angle, full-colour holographic display; playing around with Graphene to create light-bending pixels. Graphene is versatile 2D material with some exciting properties – it is biocompatible, by weight it is stronger than steel, it’s almost transparent, thin and light-weight and an amazing conductor of heat and light. We’re excited to see Graphene’s other applications develop.

2. Earbuds that translate language

Remember the small, yellow Babel fish that Arthur Dent (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) places in his ear to understand any incoming language? Waverly Labs has recently released a Pilot set of earbuds that do just that. Even more exciting than these little earbuds though, are recent reports that Google Translate’s AI has taught itself a new ‘language’ that enables it to translate between language pairs it wasn’t taught to. This interlingua is quite remarkable – another example of Google’s AI advancing at a quickening pace. These capabilities, combined with Google Translate approaching human-level accuracy, means a lot for the future of how we communicate.

3. Grow-your-own materials

Something materialising from nothing, like Star Trek’s replicator, is indeed a scary and exciting technology. Though 3D printing has become accessible and has potential (3D printed food!), we wanted to talk about biotech and synbio. The need for sustainable materials is increasing and growing sustainable materials from bacteria seems like a pretty good solution. This year’s Biofabricate Conference brought together a number of speakers in the area of bacteria-grown materials – exploring ethical concerns as well as emerging applications.

4. Fast-learning robots

We can’t really isolate human-like, fast-learning robots into a single sci-fi example – they’ve featured in Her, The Terminator, The Jetsons, WestWorld and Ex Machina to name a few. AI has been developing for a while now, but we’re now seeing it reach consumers faster than expected – the technology moving in leaps and bounds. We have AI Art Curators, AI that brew craft beer, AI lawyers that repeal parking fines, Google Translate’s AI mentioned above and chatbots that give due dates the cold shoulder (read an extensive list of consumer-facing AI here). Deep learning is largely responsible for this rapid development; equipping AI with big data and organic learning processes modelled off human-learning,

5. Flying Cars

We have autonomous cars well under way, and a lot of hype surrounding Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, but flying cars are the typical sci-fi archetype that hasn’t garnered as much attention.  Earlier this year Toyota was granted patents for flying car technology. Featured in Blade Runner, Back to the Future, Futurama and The Jetsons, flying cars are a fun, but perhaps not entirely practical mode of future transport. According to Marc Andreesen, co-founder of Andreesen Horowitz, the one thing holding us back from readily available flying cars are sufficient battery solutions.  Which brings us back to Graphene – a material that scientists are currently working with as a way to create better, more efficient batteries.

6. Biometrics

Fingerprint technology and Iris scanners have been around for a long time now. Biometric recognition seen in most spy movies, Back to the Future and Gattaca. Mainstream use of fingerprint recognition in our Smartphones, and now in payment systems like Apple Pay (think Biff from Back to the Future paying for his cab via fingerprint). Newer forms of biometric security is in demand Iris Biometrics are expected to become massively popular by 2021, with Visa aiming to replace passwords with fingerprint biometrics.

The main takeaway:

It’s exciting to see these sci-fi ideas become reality! It’s a good reminder that technology is progressing at an unrelenting pace. With each area of technological development comes a need for thoughtful discussion surrounding its implicationsensuring that new tech is sustainable, useful, and keeps its users (us) at the fore.

Learn design courses that let you influence the way we use these new technologies. Explore our short courses in design: User Experience Design, and Service Design.

Academy Xi Blog

How a Jobs To Be Done Framework Can Help

By Academy Xi

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Every product or service bought or consumed has a need, a purpose or a ‘job’ that it is ‘hired’ to fulfil. Even a milkshake has a ‘job to be done’. The ‘jobs to be done’ framework is a Service Design tool that helps uncover a customer’s functional, social, personal, and emotional needs that a product or service can fulfil.

The ‘jobs to be done’ framework:

In his book, Competing Against Luck, Clayton Christensen explains the concept of ‘jobs to be done’ with the example of a McDonald’s store that was looking to improve their milkshake sales. After testing various components of the recipe and store experience, milkshake sales remained unchanged. Christensen’s team observed the lifestyle, interactions and consumption choices of every consumer that purchased a milkshake, and discovered:

  • Over half of all milkshakes were purchased before 8:30 am
  • Consumers who purchased milkshakes were alone
  • Consumers always got into a car and drove off after a milkshake purchase

After customer interviews, Christensen’s team uncovered that people who purchased milkshakes did so to keep them occupied during a long morning commute to work, or to keep full until lunchtime.

This simple insight was a game changer. Christensen explains that the milkshake had a specific ‘job to be done’: cure boredom and provide sustenance during a mundane morning commute. It was for this reason that customers ‘hired’ a McDonald’s milkshake and from the customer’s point of view, it was a job that a bagel, banana or other alternatives could not fulfil.  

There is a job out there that arises in people’s life on occasion, that causes them to need to buy a milkshake, and we need to understand this job,” explained Christensen.

You can only understand how to improve the marketing of a product or service when you understand the job that needs to be done.

What are the benefits of jobs to be done?  

Ultimately, the goal of uncovering a user’s ‘job to be done’ is to create, promote or innovative a product or service to fulfil a ‘job’ for a customer. The benefits of understanding a customer’s job to be done include:

  • Delivering true customer value: By identifying a customer’s ‘job to be done’, Service Designers are better placed to deliver value. For example, the desire to eat healthier is often inhibited by convenience and a time-poor environment, meaning more people are likely to get takeout. Making healthier food more convenient and cheaper to access has huge appeal and solves multiple pain points. By exploring a customer’s job to be done, Service Designers are able to adopt a needs-first approach and tailor the best solution that addresses customer pain points.
  • Prioritisation of tasks: With an understanding of a customer’s needs, the ‘jobs to be done’ framework can help prioritise the tasks that deliver the greatest value, such as through the creation of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
  • Reducing waste: Rather than creating ‘perfect’ features, identifying a customer’s ‘job to be done’ removes the production of anything that does not align to a customer’s core needs, and is therefore wastage. 
  • Aligning business functions to a single cause: A customer’s ‘job to be done’ forms a product roadmap that can be used to align the marketing, development, and research into building these solutions to systematically create value, as you tackle customer’s needs.

Understanding a customer’s ‘job to done’ is extremely valuable for Service Designers to understand the true function of a product or service. Expand your toolkit and learn more about Service Design here.

Academy Xi Blog

From Architect to Service Designer at Qantas

By Academy Xi

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Students of Xi: Meet Tobias

Tobias Robinson decided to leave the comfort of his job as an Architect to enter the world of Service Design — an industry that had only recently popped up on his radar.

“When I found Service Design, I started asking questions as I didn’t know what it was. The more I delved into that world, the more excited I became,” recalls Tobias.

Before Tobias found Service Design, he felt trapped in the slow pace of Architecture. “Most Architects will say they’re the most highly skilled, underpaid people. And it’s true, but for me, money wasn’t the chief motivator — it was also the pace of the industry.”

Instead of staying in a job that failed to satisfy and bring him fulfillment, Tobias went out in search of a new field, industry, and career. He landed at Academy Xi and took both the part-time Service Design (SD) course and the full-time User Experience Design (UX) course.

At first, Tobias replaced his nine-to-five job as an Architect with a full-time UX course — essentially comprising the same hours as a full-time job for 10 weeks. Throughout the course, students were exposed to other fields of design that utilise the skills of UX. One of these fields was Service Design. Tobias became interested in learning more about this field and delved straight into the SD part-time course, two evenings a week, at the same time as continuing the UX Transform full-time course!

The exposure of two different fields, the overlap of skills, and the insights of multiple instructors created the perfect storm of experience. This experience, led by a determined motivation to learn and dive into new industries, would lead Tobias down the path needed to meet the right employer.

During the Service Design course, Tobias worked on a real-life project with Qantas. All of the students in the course focused on the service design of baggage handling: a project that was both complex and intensive, providing the perfect learning environment for deploying Service Design skills.

While working with designers at Qantas, Tobias was headhunted for a newly launched airline project. Qantas was on the lookout for someone with skills in Service Design and problem-solving to help them launch their in-flight connectivity service — essentially their new Wi-Fi offering, and Tobias seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Tobias had always dreamed of working in the airline industry; it’s not only a glamourous industry, but it’s customer-centric at its core. “Airlines have a way of fostering skills and staff, which is not something that many corporations get right. There’s a lot of business-to-business work that goes on in Qantas, but at the end of the day, the touch point is the customer,” he explains. He started working officially for Qantas after [the UX/SD course ended] and was thrilled at the immediate opportunity available ahead of him.

In his new role as Service Design Business Analyst at Qantas, Tobias spends more than half of his time talking to people, whether they be customers trialing the MVP or engineers working on the service.

“It’s engaging with people, it’s coordinating people, and it’s knowing the right questions to ask,” explains Tobias.

On explaining the what-if scenarios, Tobias admits that if he didn’t have the courage to make the leap into Service Design, he would be stuck in an industry that just wasn’t for him.

“I would be very slowly chugging away at a career in architecture that presented a much narrower scope. There are a lot of amazing architects who really enjoy doing very particular things, but that was never me.”

And all of his hard work has led here: to a new job in his new industry, almost immediately after his investment of hard work and dedicated learning time. Reflecting back on his journey, Tobias smiles: “Working on real industry projects at Academy Xi has set me up for working as a Service Designer at Qantas.”


If you’re like Tobias and are stuck in a career that’s not the right fit, make the change today and transition into a role that’s challenging, exciting, ever-changing. Learn more about our Service Design course and how you can transform your career.

Academy Xi Blog

Creating Global Experiences with Service Design

By Academy Xi

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Taylor Thompson shares her experience

Tayla Thompson’s passion for helping others has always led her to find creative ways to solve problems. Her current role at a leading bank in South Africa focuses on creating exceptional customer experiences.  

“I wake up at 5 am to drive to work at the dingiest and slightly unsafe part of Johannesburg because I’m passionate about what I do. It’s been crazy because the learning curve has been huge. In the first few months of my job, I was exposed to Design Thinking, User Experience (UX) Design, and Customer Experience (CX) Design. I feel like there’s still so much for me to learn.” says Tayla.


In her day-to-day job, Tayla recognised that it was difficult to produce exceptional end-to-end service experiences because the banking systems used were clunky, archaic, and did not integrate well together.

Tayla sought to uncover the tools and capabilities that would enable the creation of exceptional services, and in doing so, she began learning about Service Design.

“What I was doing was great, but I wanted to take my knowledge one step further. By understanding the elements of Service Design and how it’s used in practice, customers will be able to benefit from what I deliver in my role. What I’ve learnt about Service Design so far has barely scratched the surface as the concept of Service Design is relatively new in South Africa.”

Over other disciplines such as UX, or Agile project management, Tayla felt that it was imperative to study Service Design in order to understand the entire ecosystem of a service experience.

“I know that every part of the customer experience matters — and by having targeted experiences, you can create customised, user-friendly solutions. As with everything, however, there are always constraints. In my daily work, I have to constantly ask whether what I’m creating serves the customer, and is fit for purpose. Through Service Design, I am able to identify a customer’s pain points and address problems by creating a service that is desirable, feasible, and viable.”

Despite being separated by the Indian Ocean and never having been to Australia, Tayla came across Academy Xi’s Service Design Online course and decided to undertake the course with her work colleague.

“The onboarding experience was so easy and the team have been super helpful. Academy Xi is always responsive to any of my questions. I’ve really enjoyed the video content to support my learning and the reading recommendations are so insightful. I’m really excited for what’s to come, and hope to visit Australia one day soon!”

Before starting her role at the bank, Tayla completed her undergraduate degree in Commerce but wasn’t sure if she wanted to pursue a career in her area of study. Deciding against a traditional pathway in Accounting, Tayla chose to study a post-grad in Marketing and Advertising at Red and Yellow; a creative business school in Cape Town.

Beyond banking, Tayla’s passion for Design Thinking and user-centric solutions comes from a desire to create social impact. “If money, time, or resources were no object, I would solve world poverty” notes Tayla. “No one should be cold or hungry on a Winter’s night. The solution to this problem is still pending!”.


Want to harness the power of Service Design to create human-friendly solutions? Access our Service Design Online course from anywhere in the world and study at your own pace.