In time for the Future Foundation conference on 14 May, we spoke to a couple of emerging tech companies to explore where technology is coming from, where it is heading, and why our modern world is just so ripe for the raft of innovation we’re currently experiencing. Resident tech-head Will explains.
As part of our nVitro research, we are constantly keeping our finger on the pulse of emerging technology and the trends driving it. It’s important to imagine how current trends will evolve in future technological environments, as well as to envisage some of the totally new trends forced upon us by these new technologies.
We began our journey with a trip to London’s Google Campus, where we met a few of their startups-in-residence. We also travelled outside London, meeting international entrepreneurs at the Gadget Show Live in Birmingham and visiting Silicon Fen in Cambridge. From this, we have identified 4 ways that the technology of tomorrow will change everything.
1) Connectivity: we spoke to London-based EVRYTHNG about the future of the internet. If the last ten years have told the story of getting every person online, the next ten years will be about getting every thing online. Their product is an engine designed to allow all manner of objects – from your wristwatch to your steak – to gain a digital identity.
2) Information: why do we want a connected world? Because, with the information generated by every one of our possessions, we will start to gain genuinely useful insights into our lives. This isn’t just about eating enough omega-3, or getting your 30 minutes of exercise – Narrato, at the Google Campus, are building a tool with which to analyse ALL our data in one place. This is about moving from the Quantified Self to totally informed decision making, driven by real-time knowledge of your financial status, your health status and even what influences your mood. There is so much room for brands to enter this real-time data-mood-experience exchange.
3) Wearable Tech: doesn’t all this data-mood-experience sound a bit Brave New World? Maybe, if we were constantly reading our smartphones, trying to interpret our metadata. But we won’t be – in fact, we won’t even notice that we’re being monitored until some fantastically useful insight is revealed to us, such as “alcohol level still too high to drive”, or “before you go through the ticket barrier, have you forgotten that the Piccadilly Line is closed?”. Wearable tech bears our digital identity around smart environments, but also opens up context-sensitive interfaces that are far quicker and easier to use than a touchscreen smartphone: this is one of the reasons behind Hoverkey (also at Campus), an NFC security card developed to physically “log in” to smartphone apps. No to usernames and passwords. Yes to seamless digital environments.
4) New interfaces: every surface has the potential to be interactive. And this doesn’t mean wall-to-wall touchscreens. It means hidden technology that only becomes visible when needed, when actually useful. The Xbox Kinect showed how any space can be made into a control mechanism. Novalia, based in Cambridge, has designed processes that make paper interactive. The best part is that, unlike say, a tablet, when you’re not interacting with these surfaces, they don’t become dead weight – they just go back to being good old useful paper.
The bottom line? A lot of people see Google Glass as another step on the path to Murder by Modernity, bemoaning new tech, constant updates and the demands for instant information. But there is another way out: make the tech better. Pretty soon, kids won’t be checking texts at dinner time or taking phone calls in the cinema: tech will certainly be everywhere, but it won’t be interrupting our lives. In our conversations, we’ve realised that the future will have fewer screens, fewer distractions. Computers are learning human – tomorrow won’t have wires, buttons or charging docks. In fact, we think the future will look more like the past. That’s why we’ve started calling it Yesterday’s World.