Future gadgets will do things such as enhanced cognitive assistance and collaborative filtering. And that gadget is probably your phone.
Japan is always the best place for new inspirations. My rental phone also acts as a translator and all I need is to point the built-in camera to any Japanese characters. It exchanges personal information that works like business cards. It also reads 3D barcode and gets me all the information that I need as long as they provide them. It is so popular here, from real estate agents to consumer package goods – even the Louis Vuitton store has them for their special collections. But what works here usually won’t work elsewhere and vice versa in most cases. But one universal truth holds for the Japanese market as well as Europe or North Americas, people are simply not buying new gadgets, but actually trying to do things with them or getting jobs done. As technology advances as if there are no limits of they can do, there are tremendous gap exist between the potential of these gadgets (whether they are converging into cell phones of diverging into separate devices) versus the limited ways we use them today. We have yet to see how these gadgets will change the way we live, work and socialize.
Marketers are jumping into the bandwagon. MasterCard just launched their first corporate iPhone app. Using the theme of its well-known “Priceless” campaign Priceless Picks pairs GPS and 3D maps to show you local deals, dining, and other points of interest in your immediate vicinity. It allows you to soar around the map in quasi-street view or bird’s-eye view, identifying locations as the color-coordinated bubble pops up. Red for dining, blue for shopping, orange for “Priceless” items, and so on. It is supposed to point you to interesting sources for wine sampling via vending machine or a local jazz club, etc. It is a cool app.
Best Buy understands the power of gadgets beyond gadgets. Shari Ballard EVP/Retail channel believes individual gadgets don’t mean as much as marketers think they do. Instead, “we see tremendous opportunity around how those devices work with each other, and with content people already own,” says Ballard, “People are trying to do things with their technology products, not just acquire them.” Best Buy is looking at many ways it can bring those connections to the center of the store, in formats that are easy for consumers to see and touch. “There is major work to do in helping customers see what today is mostly invisible. Now, we describe these products with a lot of hand motions and ‘imagine this.’ We need a physical way for people to interact with invisible solutions.”
The question is how we untangle the future of consumer (and social) technologies to uncover unarticulated, unmet or yet-to-exist customer needs? And in the process of untangling the future we will become more tangled up with more technologies driving new behavior that we cannot even imagine? What are the next practices to imagine these new behaviors? And how do we know if some of these behaviors will be ending up mainstream?
The future is not more gadgets, but more integrated and modular designs. We will see a wide variety of innovative tools and apps that will emerge to help us leverage the information glut to our benefit. These new devices, systems, and services will enable us to alleviate the symptoms of cognitive overload and compensate errors and weaknesses in everyday life human decision-making. Much like a pilot relies more and more on computers to fly planes, technologies will allow us all to become smarter.
They will come in all forms and functions including enhanced cognitive assistance and collaborative filtering, surface-based three dimensional data visualization and display, reputation-based recommendation systems, personal productivity improvement software, affordable context-aware devices, social software tools, and systems that leverage social intelligence.
This is a future that is happening fast. It is not something that will only happen in Japan, but around the world. Tens of billions of economic value will be created, are you in for it?
Idris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.