May 19, 2023
Sports, Sponsorships, and Events / Feature Story
Sponsorship & Events
FUTURE LIFE FACTORY Using Overseas Exhibits to Explore Relationship Well-Being
“Well-being” is a term that is garnering attention around the world. According to McKinsey, “feeling food” is projected to become a $1.5 trillion market in the future. In the past, well-being was typically associated with physical health, but today it is also linked to mental state and relationships between things and people.
Panasonic Group’s sustainability management policy describes its commitment to “contribute to the global environment and people’s well-being through our business.”
FUTURE LIFE FACTORY (FLF), a design studio belonging to Panasonic’s Design Center specializing in cutting-edge development activity, asks the world to think outside of the box to create the seeds of new businesses and visions for future lifestyles. Examples of FLF’s activities include recent exhibits in the United States exploring relationship well-being between family members and between humans and nature.
Family Relationship Well-Being: HOUSE KEEPING CLUB Exhibits at SXSW
Panasonic’s FUTURE LIFE FACTORY, in collaboration with NIPPON TV R & D Lab, the R&D team at Nippon Television Network Corporation, exhibited a prototype of its HOUSE KEEPING CLUB at SXSW2023 in Austin, Texas. In this age of automation, HOUSE KEEPING CLUB proposes to create an enjoyable living room experience that generates communication, encourages people to participate in household chores, and builds healthy family relationships. By transforming the living room into a club space and allowing families to enjoy household chores as if they were at a dance party, children and adults can actively help each other and promote peaceful family communication.
FLF members Keita Suzuki and Kei Ogawa answered some questions about the experience:
What was the inspiration behind the exhibit?
Suzuki: We were talking about Japanese yokai (spirit) culture. In Japanese folklore, yokai teach children important lessons about society and nature. For example, kappa (reptilian river spirits) appear in folklore to convey the dangers of playing in rivers and ponds. From there, the discussion evolved into how we could move away from scare tactics and take a different approach to educating, disciplining, and communicating with children. We also thought it would be nice if we could come up with something more modern, something with the same fun and enjoyment as entertainment and games.
Ogawa: There was also a discussion about diversity, and although it’s generally accepted that cleaning is always about “making things clean,” we challenged that definition of clean—and the meaning of cleaning—and focused on “making yourself feel good and having fun.”
What is family relationship well-being?
Ogawa: Housework doesn’t really promote mental or physical well-being, and each family member has their own definition of “clean,” leading to arguments. So, if we make the process enjoyable, there will be fewer disagreements. Ultimately, well-being is about having fun together.
Suzuki: Rather than chores that position “clean” as the goal and compel everyone do them the same way, it’s more important to cultivate a well-being that feels good and leaves people feeling refreshed after doing chores as a family.
Why did you want to exhibit at SXSW and appeal to a global audience?
Suzuki: FLF members are all male and live similar lives, and we weren’t sure that the project was of interest to a broader audience. By exhibiting at events with diverse audiences, we could gather meaningful feedback.
Ogawa: We also went to SXSW in search of partners. To date, we’ve tended to look for partners in Japan, but if we expand the scope of our search to include global partners, I think we will be able to come up with new co-creation ideas.
What sort of feedback did you receive?
Suzuki: Many people overseas have pets, and some said it would be fun to have a DJ lint cleaner like the one we exhibited. Others explained that in the US, children sleep in separate rooms from their parents from a very young age, meaning there are fewer chances for family communication, so it would be good to promote communication through shared chores. We found many common issues related to housework, making it easy to expand the project worldwide.
Ogawa: Aside from the fact that children don’t seem to do chores, which appears to be universal, we also made it a point to design the devices to have an overseas flavor. Sounds and colors would be too flashy for Japan, but at SXSW we saw people dancing and enjoying themselves—it really drove home the difference between Japan and other countries when it comes to accepting new things.
Human-Nature Relationship Well-Being: Snow Peak USA Collaboration Results Announced in New York
FLF has been conducting a collaborative project—Future Life with Noasobi—with Snow Peak USA since April 2022, and in March this year announced the results at Snow Peak Brooklyn in New York. At a time when urban lifestyles have led to people losing their appreciation for nature, the project was designed to restore relationship well-being between humans and nature by allowing participants to come into contact with nature, understand its complexity, learn about it, and love it.
What motivated FLF to initiate this collaborative project?
Ogawa: We chose to collaborate with Snow Peak because FLF’s mission of exploring NEXT HUMANITY aligned nicely with Snow Peak’s mission of “restoring our sense of humanity.” In the future, the boundary between the indoors and outdoors is likely to disappear, and Panasonic and Snow Peak, with their respective strengths in indoor and outdoor living, would be able to create a new lifestyle for the future.
How would you describe relationship well-being between humans and nature?
Suzuki: As we become accustomed to urban life, our senses become dull, and we become reliant on numbers and devices—such as reading numbers off a thermometer. We need to restimulate our natural abilities.
Ogawa: Basically, we want people to go outside. So instead of creating an indoor environment where people get a sense of greenery and nature, we designed the project to compel people to go into nature to obtain items and experience the joy of being in a natural environment. The most important outcome is to use the attractive power of nature to increase the number of people willing to focus their attention on environmental and other issues.
Why collaborate with a global company and exhibit in the U.S.?
Ogawa: Reconnecting with nature is important to everyone, but when I’ve shown specific ideas to people overseas, I’ve been told that they’re “very Japanese.” For people in the US and other countries, there is a sense of “conquest” when they go camping or mountain climbing, whereas for Japanese it’s more about relaxing and being in harmony with nature. Our concept names, such as yuragu, hibiku, and kiyomeru, do not have corresponding English terms, so when we exhibited them overseas, they were very fresh and visitors took the Japanese sense of nature very positively. We realized that our ideas resonate well overseas, so we’d like to preserve the Japanese view of nature and show it to the rest of the world.
Suzuki: In discussions with Snow Peak, we noticed a difference in the scale of the “view of nature” between Japan and the United States. For example, in Japan, people see changes in nature in little things—“I felt autumn with the falling leaves”—while the American view of nature is from a much broader perspective. I think the exhibit is also very Japanese, taking a microscopic view of nature and contemplating on the bountiful nature within.
Yuichi Uchida, Chief Brand Officer, Snow Peak USA, had this to say about the exhibit: “The project features several sound-generating concepts. As a camping goods store, we typically don’t think about creating sound, so we were taken by the idea of reproducing or recalling memories and experiences. I found it interesting to learn that nature is worshipped as a deity, that festivals use musical instruments to invite these deities to come down and visit us, and that we can use sound to deepen our relationship with nature. It was exciting to see how the designers and engineers were able to integrate things that we normally wouldn’t think of with the things that we normally interact with.”
Who Are FUTURE LIFE FACTORY?
Panasonic has been creating affluent lifestyles in Japan and around the world for 100 years. Founder Konosuke Matsushita also thought that “our minds, lives and activities are all interconnected to the movements of the world we live in. In this sense, we should all feel responsible for events that incessantly occur and somehow take an interest in them.” FUTURE LIFE FACTORY specializes in advanced development designed to “examine the abundance of the future,” exploring the concept of relationship well-being from Japanese and global perspectives through a variety of activities.
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