I was recently asked to contribute a article to Creative – a forecast on technology in the year 2027 – along with Ben Cooper, Digital Strategist at Host, and Tim Beusing, Lead Creative at NetX. Only about half of what I wrote was published (damn word limits). Below is the “director’s cut” of my article – “The Seamless Life”.
THE SEAMLESS LIFE
It’s 7.59am. The year is 2027. I inject some coffee, scratch my implant and get to thinking. Twenty years ago you asked me to write about the future. Back then, technology was complicated; there were gadgets for all kinds of things. Despite its complexity, technology was empowering “Average Joes” and it was making the bean counters jitter. It was as if an air raid siren was sounding – a dire warning to marketers and advertisers – “consumers will have the upper hand”. It wasn’t until somewhere around the year 2012 that consumers really did find an upper hand in their interaction with the goods and services advertisers were peddling. Off the back of web 2.0 markets crumbled and merged. Some markets were seeing the light of day for the very first time; niche enclaves of consumers, connecting at a global level and demanding personal attention. Of course, I knew it was all heading in this direction but I’ll save that secret for the end of our story. Suffice to say, all those years ago I was imagining a world were technology would finally take a back seat and enable us to live and enjoy the connections of a seamless life. So grab some milk and cookies, get comfortable and lend me your ears…
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, without further adieu, I give you the gift of a simple, technologically enabled “Seamless Life”. Imagine living ‘in’ the web or, to put it more succinctly, overlaying the huge breadth of web-based information onto everyday life. Add to that an expanse of networked “everything” where the words “logging in” will lose their meaning because we are, quite simply, always connected. How will this be possible? What impact will it have on consumers and will it spell the end of advertising as we know it?
Technology evangelist, blogger and all ’round good guy Tom van Aardt is already joining the dots in a way that could answer the “how” question. In a recent blog post Tom outlined three examples of technology (Semacodes, MyVu Glasses and D’Fusion), that combined, would create a seamless experience, or as he put it, a “sema-life”.
Put simply, Semacodes are machine-readable codes that contain URLs. Think “cooler barcode” and you’re on the right track. Almost all advertising will carry Semacodes, enabling consumers to photograph them to connect to information instantly via a mobile device.
The second piece of technology Tom highlights in his blog is MyVu; “funky Robocop-style sunnies” that are already available at apple.com. MyVu glasses plug into your video iPod to create a virtual big-screen within the “real space” in front of you.
The third piece of Tom’s technology pie is something called d’fusion (no, it’s not a fancy French hair product). D’fusion is a software that will allow you to create “augmented reality”. Put simply, a merging of real time, 3D objects/characters with live video.
Each of these technologies are very cool in their own right, but they don’t connect. They could, and if they did, this is what you might experience as a consumer:
You may see a poster for a concert that has a Semacode embedded in it. By taking a picture of the poster with your camera phone, you are automatically connected to the website in your mobile browser where you can buy a ticket.
You will be able to compare ticket prices across a couple of websites, bid for tickets in an auction and check whose sitting next to you. You might choose to communicate with that person before the concert, in the real or virtual world. You can also watch a couple of the band’s video clips, listen to some reviews from fans who’ve been to the concert and download a T-shirt for your avatar.
And what of advertisers and marketers? What will a semalife mean for them? The media channels they rely on today will dry up, that is a given. Consumers will no longer passively consume media. Consumers will crave interaction and engagement. They will want to connect, create and destroy. Consumers will own brands. The challenge for marketers will be in easing their grip and sharing. The challenge for marketers will be in finding creative ways to use technology to reach their markets, however large or small. Imagine the kind of treasure hunt that could be staged using Semacodes for instance. Each code could act as a clue to the next product, the next experience, the next location. If you took that concept and evolved it, imagine the direct marketing opportunities if everyone was chipped. Consumers would carry “inside themselves” what would essentially be a portable MySpace profile; a record of everything they like, what they’re reading, what music they’re listening to, who their friends are, their latest blog entries, etc.
This kind of technology would create realtime profiling and an instant, personalised and direct dialogue.
It’s 10.34pm. The year is 2027. I inject another coffee, continue to scratch my implant and conclude my recounting of how I imagined the future would be all those years ago. When we began, you asked me how I knew all of this would happen. My secret. It’s simple – I read Snow Crash. Every geek should. But there are some things I haven’t told you that I didn’t predict that are far more interesting. Those things I won’t divulge. “Why” I hear you ask. Why I don’t want to spoil the surprise of course!