Digital Buzzwords 2017

After a month of still writing ’16 on anything that requires the date, I’ve finally switched over to ’17. 2017. Holy shit. It’s basically the future. And while we still don’t have flying cars, we do have self-driving cars, super-hero mobile connections and we’re not just interacting with each other, we’re interacting with things.
virtual reality flying experience
Me flying over NYC like a bird – from Paris, of course
Who could have pictured the world we live in? When my parents looked down at me in the days after my birth, wondering what would become of me, they could never have pictured that I would make my living creating digital strategy. There was no “digital.”

 

Technology and digital capabilities move so fast, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of the buzzwords driving everything forward.

 

Here is a breakdown of what you’ll be hearing a lot about in 2017, so you can chime in to conversations and not look like a total nube!

 

Live Streaming

Instagram Live, Snapchat glasses, Facebook Live

What’s better than following every little detail of everyone you care about? Being with them in the moment they are living. Seeing their true instantaneous reaction. Witnessing the authenticity of the present.

 

A couple of years ago when the battle was on between Periscope and Meerkat, geeks revelled in the promise of live streaming. Now that data connections are pushing into the 5Gs, live streaming has made its way from its niche to the platforms that are ubiquitous enough to make live streaming go big.

 

In the never ending quest for authenticity, look for brands and marketers to leverage live streaming capabilities to bring consumers into experiences that were previously closed off. Fashion shows, VIP concerts, maybe the hospital where Beyoncé will give birth to twins? Authentic is about to become intimate.

 

Chatbots

Artificial Intelligence 

 

If you don’t know what chatbots are, that’s ok. But when you see the stats you will wonder where the hell you have been.

 

“I spend all day on my phone, How have I never seen a chatbot?”

 

Probably because you’re not in Asia. Chatbots are the new app, programmed interactions that let people complete tasks or find information within the messaging apps that they are using all day long. Order an Uber in Facebook messenger. Ask for beauty tips on your look in WeChat. Buy your Christmas presents from the gift guru in Whatsapp? The dynamic of brand-customer is about to tilt from directive to conversational, and behind it all is the ever-improving, machine-learning artificial intelligence that will one day take over the world and make us all its subjects.

 

WeChat

 

It deserves to be a buzzword in itself. With its billion active users, WeChat is an Asian force ready to conquer the Western Hemisphere. How will another messaging platform muscle its way in?

 

Because it’s way more than just a messaging platform. It’s an all-in-one digital infrastructure that’s becoming the access point for internet services. Think of it like replacing your browser and other apps with one interface and a conversation-based dynamic. Layer in the social aspect and it’s much more comprehensive than Facebook. Plus it features a plethora of filters for photos a la Instagram. It’s so far along that once you start using it, there is no reason to use anything else.

 

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Two words: social commerce.

 

With WeChat’s integrated wallet, merchants are building stores and Chatbots where people can buy products immediately over the platform, without having to pull out their credit card.

 

How far along are they? Some estimates say that there are more Chatbots launched each day on WeChat than new websites on the internet. Time to wake up.

 

Smart cars

Autonomous vehicles 

 

If you were following the CES news you couldn’t help but notice the major car companies all jockeying for attention. We could call it a race, but that would be lazy humor. Let’s call it a free-for-all. And it’s a free-for-all that resembles a dating site matching car companies with big tech actors. Audi + Nvidia, BMW + Microsoft, Chrysler + Google,

 

Because car companies that have lived through the economic crisis less than a decade ago understand that they can either be the new playground of innovation, keeping their brands relevant and progressive, or they can wait for self-driving Ubers to make car ownership irrelevant.

 

Cars need to be electric, they need to be connected, and they need to be safe, otherwise people will look at their old Ford Taurus and wonder why they even need a car anymore. The American Age of car ownership that fueled the growth of suburbia can either evolve into the digital era or be left behind along with stereo CD players and landlines. How do they do this? By surrounding you with new features and integrations that conform to the norms of UX and provide pleasant surprises. And if they can also drive you home after a night out, all the better.

 

Digital Experiences

360 Video, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality

 

Have you put a virtual reality headset on? Have you used Google Cardboard? Have you spun around with your phone on a 360 video on Facebook? All of these technologies form the basis for the same fundamental idea: content consumption is transitioning from a passive to active experience.

 

Historically, a photo was taken by a device pointed in one direction. A film is shot through one lens at a time. The photographer or director controls every element that the viewer sees. There was no interaction with the content other than the act of consuming it.

 

Now advances in cameras and rendering make it possible for the viewer to look around in 360 video. The position is still fixed (or moving, depending on the content) but the point of view is determined by the viewer. What does this mean for storytelling? It means the rules of the game are about to change drastically.

 

Take it up a notch and give people the ability to move around and interact with their environments and you have virtual reality. Either in real, filmed environments or in fully programmed 3D worlds, the viewer becomes the hero. Gaming is about to get turned on its head. “Arizona Sunrise” is a zombie thriller that could double as an extra season of The Walking Dead. At the MK2 Bibliothèque in Paris you can fly as a bird over NYC. I did it 3 times in a row, loving every sensation that it provided. My wife tried it and threw up a little bit later. Not for the faint of heart.

 

Personally the biggest opportunity that I see is in combining VR with exercise. Rowing amongst icebergs in Antartica? Biking in the sands of the Gobi desert? Boxing Mike Tyson? All of these things are possible, and they are exhausting. The effect of VR takes your mind off of the physical exertion. I wouldn’t be surprised if all gyms feature VR classes within a few years. Gamers might well shed their overweight, pizza-eating stereotypes and emerge the fittest of all of us.

 

But the true Holy Grail is Augmented Reality. AR is the ability to map your actual environment and insert virual elements into that space. Think of Pokemon Go, which is a sort of fake augmented reality. Imagine the Pikachu that you just found is not floating in space but is really the right size and is hiding underneath your colleague’s desk? And when you get close to it, it sees you and runs away, leading you on a chase through your office and out to the parking lot before you finally catch it?

 

Gaming will clearly be a driver, but the industrial use of augmented reality will be even more lucrative. Imagine an oil refinery with its maze of pipes, through an AR headset a technician can see which pipes lead where, what the status of each pipe is, and by connecting the headset to other computers they can know the flow of oil at each step.

 

Now let’s dream even bigger. Imagine your AR glasses look just like some Brooklyn hipster and not the Microsoft Hololens of today. You run into an acquaintance, next to their face you see their name, their occupation, and the subject that you talked about last time with them. An awkward “Hey…. you,” turns into just picking up exactly where you left off.

 

Creepy? Maybe. But we are hurtling towards the future so quickly that you could be forgiven for thinking that we live in it already.
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