Over Christmas, I finally finished binge-watching the TV series Black Mirror, which got me thinking about what magic new technologies might surface in 2017, and what the next few years will hold for us in terms of IT and its impact on society.
2020 was historically labelled a ‘futuristic year’ where technology would be so advanced that robots will have replaced some people, and the rest of us will be living like the Jetson family. It’s easy to predict dystopian technology outcomes for 2020 – forget 1984, the movie Blade Runner was set in the far future of 2019, and much of Black Mirror could be a reality by then.
The true reality is 2020 is fast approaching and I doubt that many of predictions of the movie-making futurists will happen within the next three years, especially if we look at the somewhat lacklustre outcomes from last month’s CES Conference in Las Vegas.
While there is great potential for change in the tech space, the nature of technology-driven change has in fact not changed much at all. 45 years ago, I begged my father for a black and white TV, and my father rationally responded with “it’s too expensive, there’s nothing on it, it’s bad for your eyes, it’s never going to be useful, and we already have a perfectly good radio.” Fair points!
I heard an echo of those words in 2007 with the introduction of the Apple iPhone, and then again in 2008 with the release of the first iPad, which was declared as ‘Hagrid’s iPhone’ by one of the smartest technologists I knew.
I’m now hearing myself think similar thoughts for my own son, who is pretty keen for the latest virtual reality headset.
Look where smartphones and tablets have got us by 2017. You can do most of your banking on them, it’s a mobile wallet, you can plan a holiday, watch movies and even buy a home. Mobile devices account for 70% of the traffic to our site, realestate.com.au in Australia, and the average Australian looks at their mobile phone more than 120 times a day.
So what will the modern-day consumer life look like in 2020? Here are five technologies you can expect to see a change in the next three years:
Driverless cars will be on our roads
The last generation of serious car owners is now being born, with more people realising that cars are an expensive asset to only be utilised 5% of the time. There is already a driverless bus trial in Adelaide, another in Brisbane, and by 2020 our government will likely see the value of car-sharing to our economy (and environment), implementing a change in policy to accept trials of driverless cars in some Australian cities.
Virtual reality headsets will be the norm
By 2020 we should see advancements in virtual reality performance, better content, and new ‘blended reality’ technology like the Microsoft Hololens which will reduce the isolation (inside a headset) of today’s VR experience.
Social media in VR and AR
Good virtual and augmented reality performance will inevitably lead to an immersive social media experience. This will include 360 degree photos and videos, a stronger focus on a ‘messenger system’ where your avatar can talk to other avatars in a VR headset, and the 2016 release of Snap’s ‘video glasses’ will likely morph into AR glasses, leading to a culture of production and consumption of micro-videos from a face-to-face perspective.
Home automation will work
Talking to your refrigerator right now takes some considerable patience. By 2020 manufacturers will have worked out the jigsaw puzzle of robotic technologies inside appliances to best meet consumer demands.
Robots will be answering the majority of our questions
As the science of natural language processing proceeds a pace led by Google, there is no doubt you will start to question if you are talking to a human or a machine. Every bit of information will be retrievable with four plain English sentences: two questions, two answers.
Will life ever truly be similar to an episode of Black Mirror? Potentially, but I’m optimistic that it won’t be the demise of society as we know it today. Yes, we will continue to be shocked at the loss of privacy and personal data, but I also believe we’re in good hands. It’s already completely natural for an 11-year-old to walk around a virtual environment; I see this at our annual REA Group Family Day and it constantly fascinates me seeing just how quickly younger generations can adapt to the acceleration of technology.
While 2020 may not be the futuristic year we predicted it to be, my advice is to remain optimistic and adaptable. The moment you have a fear of technology, you freeze. The moment you freeze, you put off the decision to experiment.