Last week’s REMIX summit in London brought together again a huge variety of pioneers from different industries to explore the future of culture, creative cities and the creative economy.

We heard about new opportunities coming with Augmented, Mixed and Virtual reality from various developers including Google Cultural Institute, learned about managing innovation and inclusion from the Royal College of Art, could fully immerse into audio at Antenna’s “Listening Tent” and were inspired by outstanding personalities like Sir Tim Smit performing how we can make all our dreams come true like he did with his dream of the cradle of life known as the Eden project.

But there was one presentation which could be seen as the red line of all the narratives: UK based Mindshare Futures shared their understanding of Trends 2018 in digital, which is based on intense market research, numerous focus groups and heavy data analysis – an impressive piece of work. Here is a snapshot:

The Exploration Game

When trying to understand what’s new, what may interest us, where to go, what to do and what to buy, many of us traditionally turn to friends and family to get their recommendations. But algorithms, virtual assistants, smart mirrors and AR apps are beginning to take over this role, making it easier than ever to explore and make decisions. With the help of those tools, we are able to visualise new products from the comfort of our own homes without even having to move. Terms like 'discovery', inspiration', 'imagination' and 'visualisation' are being applied to the technology, which in fact means that it is our own behaviour will drive our future experiences.

From my point of view, in limiting the choice through digital, there is a high risk of restricting people to what they have always known, and giving them more of the same. Unless they become smart enough to inspire us with the new and unexpected, bridging the gap between us and the unfamiliar other, digital algorithms could limit instead of empower us.   

Access all Areas

Historically, we had one device for each particular purpose (phone, camera etc.), but mobile phones have changed the notion of a device. Today, information, products, services and people are just a few taps or swipes away.

New technologies are now going one step further. Speech assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo are emancipating our fingers and positioning voice as the primary initiator of our many needs. And soon they will no longer be limited to Google and Amazon’s own hardware, but become part of the 'internet-of-things', all interacting with each other, including wearables and hearables. Easy access to 'everything everywhere' will be the result.

Of course, this requires full and fast internet connections all around us. Also, the battle between ecosystems is yet to be decided. But the idea of being constantly connected opens a completely new way of interacting with information, products, services and people, that goes far beyond handheld devices.

Automation for the People

We are on the brink of a wave of automation of consumer services. This is becoming apparent on the physical works where technology is enabling customers to self-serve (e.g. air travel baggage drop and self-check in or ordering screens at McDonald’s). But now automation is also coming to intangible services like robo-advisors managing investment portfolios, chatbots challenging parking fines and issuing lawsuits. Although this isn't a new development, the sophistication of the AI is making people begin thinking more about the promise of greater convenience versus the loss of human interaction.

In fact, even in my company (dedicated to storytelling and interpretation in the cultural space) we’ve been seeing an increasing demand over the last decade for self-serving issuing desks and returning points for mobile devices in order to speed up operations. However, we’ve also always been fully committed to the importance of connecting with and being served by real people in a cultural environment where it’s all about experience and not about consuming. So is it time to rethink this concept before there's no turning back?

Get Snappy!

Based on a culture that has become more and more visual with all the photos and videos that dominate our communication, Mindshare Futures'  trend analysis predicts that we will be increasingly using images to help us access information and knowledge – helping us to find, record, unlock, activate, identify, match, buy and much more. A big player in this business is of course Google Lens, which enables your smartphone camera to understand what it is looking at and overlay relevant information. In general, facial and image recognition, scanning codes and visual search seem to become the main tools we'll use to access content in the future – certainly a trend to consider in the field of mobile interpretation as well.

What adds to this trend from our perspective, based on visitor surveys, is that it’s not about just easing the interaction with a device but reducing this interaction to the minimum possible. Although visitors prefer putting their devices in their pockets, they long to dive deep into the experience, for example through immersive audio. New technologies around 3D sound are yet to become known to a broader public, but will certainly revolutionize the way how we experience music and audio in general. Another example of how the future looks to be a more engaging, immersive and exciting time for all of us.