3 emerging technology trends from the 2017 Mobile World Congress
A session at the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) took a close look at Fjord’s 2017 Trends Report, which identifies some emerging technology trends that will affect business and social organization. Examining some of these trends, it’s clear how technological innovation shapes human behavior and culture.
We’ve always humanized our tech. That’s why we still even now use little manila folder icons to indicate file folders and why our internet search language has changed from the blocky Boolean language of the ’90s to the plain language queries that dominate today. We tend to demand that the tech keep up.
That’s also why one of Fjord’s emerging technology trends is the demand for more emotionally intelligent AI — especially in chatbots, the consumer-facing front-line AI partners. Several new Android phones announced that they will include Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa, spreading the reach of assistant chatbots into everyone’s pockets, not just in the homes that buy special hardware.
1. Smarter chatbots
Fjord predicted that by 2020, humans will have more conversations with chatbots than with their spouses. Is this depressing or just recognition that businesses will develop context-aware, emotionally responsive chatbots that can serve consumers in a variety of sales, support or advisor roles? It’s worth noting that this smart chatbot could replace the automated phone tree that frustrates many consumers.
In one MWC session, moderator Cliff Raskind of Strategy Analytics asked whether chatbots would overtake apps. As Gummi Hafsteinsson, product management director of Google Assistant, noted, conversation is “the only interface you don’t have to learn.”
Even so, IBM Fellow Rob High said, “We’re not at a point yet where a developer can create a chatbot that’ll run the same way regardless of interface. That’s an area that’ll standardize.”
2. Mixed reality
Another emerging technology trend is the growing prominence of mixed reality (MR), perhaps surpassing the presence and utility of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR). Fjord called this “blurred reality.” Consumers stay in their reality, but just bring a little VR into it instead of stepping into the VR world. MR is distinguished from AR by pulling in entire digital elements people can interact with, rather than overlaying a digital view within a mobile device.
Right now, brands and companies can use AR to improve the in-store experience. At MWC, “Pokémon Go” creator John Hanke told BBC News that MR/AR will overtake VR. Many MWC sessions explored where MR will go in 2017, with a lot of emphasis on gaming and entertainment.
Yet in a world where branding is as much about the experience as design, companies that can build memorable, authentic MR experiences will differentiate themselves and create visceral connections with consumers in ways unavailable to brands that maintain the fourth wall between their content and their market.
3. Automated vehicles
The report also shared a focus on the original mobile device, the automobile, and what the automated vehicle of the future will look like. An MWC highlight was the appearance of the Robocar, a driverless race car designed by Daniel Simon, the chief designer at Roborace. It’s a Formula E project billed as the first driverless AI electric race car.
Four automakers (Ford, Peugeot, BMW and Mercedes-Benz) had booths at MWC showing a range of connected services for snazzy concept cars. All four companies touched on the major cultural shift in how we see our cars. Instead of commutes being wasted downtime, cars will become mobile shelters, where users can enjoy personalized experiences and a range of in-car services. Instead of the commute adding time to the work day, it can become part of it, leaving more leisure time. AVs may even make a long drive to a vacation destination an attractive alternative to the increasingly unpleasant air-travel experience.
In every emerging technology trend, you can see the convergence of technology and the human experience shaping each other. Technological advances in one area, such as hyperpersonalized and customized online experiences, raise demand for similarly personalized experiences in the real world that must be fueled by more sophisticated and subtle technologies. As those technologies come to fruition, they shape new ways of thinking about old ways of doing things, whether it’s what it means to move from Point A to Point B or what sort of humanized interaction we can expect from a machine.