Future Digest - June
In this Future Digest we explore how AR empowers people to make more informed decisions around privacy and sustainability, Mastercard shows people the carbon footprint of their consumption, Netflix ventures into merch and Peloton becomes a media brand, emotion detection technology is facing serious obstacles and your net zero strategy can be a liability.
SPACE10, the IKEA research and design lab, has released its latest project in their Everyday Experiments series. In it, they focus on how new technologies can help people better manage their privacy and better understand how sustainable their products are. In some of the experiments, Augmented Reality (AR) is used as a UI to help visualise this abstract and complex topic. For example, FIELD.SYSTEMS' Chain of Traceability experiment shows how AR can be used to bring to life a product's components and the associated environmental footprint. In their Digital Buddy experiment, FIELD.SYSTEMS shows how a virtual assistant can help people navigate opaque user agreements to better understand how their privacy might be at risk.
PANGAIA has partnered with connected products innovator EON to create 'digital passports' for its products. Their ambition is to accelerate greater transparency, traceability and circularity in the fashion industry and empower consumers to make responsible choices. Powered by a QR code and a cloud-hosted digital twin, the digital passports bring to life each garment's unique journey and offer customers access to product-level impact reporting in a more interactive way. The digital passports take customers on a journey from the product's origin through to its purchase, transportation and aftercare.
People increasingly want to help make a positive difference to save the climate. Yougov research shows that 54% of people see reducing their carbon footprint as more important now than pre-pandemic. However, it can be difficult to determine the carbon footprint of many of our purchases. Enter payment service providers. Mastercard has partnered with fintech Doconomy to develop a carbon calculator. They share the API with banks, meaning any bank can update their app to give its customers insight into the carbon footprint of their purchases. Klarna is also providing its customers with insight into the CO2 footprint of their purchases in an effort to raise awareness of the impact of our consumption habits.
We have discussed the Netflix effect before, where Netflix content drives culture and consumption. Now the streaming giant is looking to cash in from its clout. They are collaborating with Halston, the American luxury fashion brand, to create a 10-piece capsule collection of gowns priced between $995 and $1,595. This will allow fans of the show to also buy the pieces they have seen and love.
This year's Peloton Homecoming event was the biggest yet. What started as an intimate live event between peloton fans and peloton instructors has grown into a three day online festival. This year's event was packed with panel discussions, celebrities, special classes, fresh features and also introduced new instructors to the more than 175,000 people who had registered for the online festival.
The pandemic has forced many shops to close down their business, leaving a signification portion of the high street vacant. In response, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is currently granting six businesses that started during the pandemic window space in one of the UK’s largest retail destinations. The project is called Side Hustle Heroes and includes start ups in fashion, homeware and beauty as well as a self-care subscription service and a sustainable paint company. Through the project they are bringing digitally native brands into the physical world. People can then connect with the brands through QR codes, thus closing the loop between physical and digital.
AI that can interpret emotions based on facial recognition and voice input has been around for a while, but the adoption of it has been accelerated by the pandemic. The technology is now being used by companies in job interviews or to check in on employees working remotely, by schools to identify which students are struggling, by law enforcement and of course in marketing to understand what customers 'really' think. However, even though adoption of this technology continues to grow, the science behind emotional recognition is still inconclusive. This makes privacy advocates even more concerned and is making governments such as the EU impose strict restrictions on the new technology.
In the last decade, psychedelics have gained recognition in academics as a potential treatment for psychological disorders. Early adopters in Silicon Valley have been quick to follow and advocate the micro-dosing of psychedelics to boost creativity. Even travel companies have started to offer "transformation retreats" that use psychedelics. Now tech companies are trying to get in on the action by developing applications that combine sound and light to elicit a similar neural response. This way people get all the benefits of a psychedelic experience without any of the drawbacks.
Mirelle Phillips, the founder of Studio Elsewhere, is doing the first tests with immersive health. She applies biophilic design and supportive design theory principles to “open-world” game environments to transform ordinary rooms into serene healing spaces. The first results are promising. In the study they found a 60% stress reduction after just 15 minutes in their multi-sensory immersive recharge room.
A recent Oxford University study challenges the commonly held belief that social media use leads to an increase in mental health problems. In the longitudinal study where they looked at young people's behaviours and emotions over a 30 year period they found little to no increase over time in association between their technology engagement and mental health problems.
Young people are taking countries to court over their climate change actions, or lack thereof, and are winning. In Germany a 25-year-old climate activist won her case against the German government. The country's Supreme Court ruled that some provisions of the 2019 climate change act were unconstitutional and "incompatible with fundamental rights," because they lacked a detailed plan for reducing emissions and placed the burden for future climate action on young people. Equally in France, a court in Paris ruled the country is legally responsible for its failure to meet emission cutting targets. In the UK, young people have filed several lawsuits against the government for not taking sufficient action in line with their climate targets. Finally, in Australia, a judge agreed the environment minister had a duty of care to protect young people from the climate crisis, opening the door for further litigation in case the government would choose to continue to invest in fossil fuels.
Shell has been ordered to accelerate its emission cuts by a Dutch court. The judge said Shell’s existing climate strategy was not concrete enough and added there was a human rights obligation on the company to take further action.
Earlier in May Pandora, the world’s biggest jeweller, announced it will stop selling all mined diamonds and switch exclusively to lab-made diamonds. To date, the lab-created diamonds have been grown with more than 60% renewable energy on average. Next year, when Pandora launches the collection globally, the diamonds are expected to be made using 100% renewable energy.
Issues such as privacy, trust, sustainability, health, etc. are increasingly of concern to consumers. However, these topics are very complex and the information around them is often opaque and overwhelming. SPACE10 and their collaborators and Pangaia show how breaking down these topics visually by connecting physical products to a digital twin can help people understand these difficult topics and empower them to make more informed decisions. As RFID technology has become significantly cheaper and powerful and the pandemic has made the humble QR code go mainstream, people are now getting used to interacting with physical products and environments. With AR as an interface this communication becomes more engaging and intuitive. Therefore, businesses should consider how they can leverage these new technologies to help them communicate complex information with their customers.
Mastercard and Klarna intend to give people a breakdown of the environmental impact for every product they buy. For businesses this poses a potentially big challenge as manufacturing decisions around sustainability and health are not always straight-forward and usually involve trade offs. Either because a certain technology is not available yet, because there is not one recognised certificate or strandard, etc. To avoid a scenario where your consumers are surprised by your products' environmental impact, brands should think like Pangaia and proactively engage consumers in their products and the manufacturing process.
Brands are increasingly having to think as media businesses. While Netflix is expanding into tangible products (merch?), Peloton is organising 3-day multi-media events that draw hundred thousands of people. At the core sits the idea of monetising fandom. Moving forward, brands need to think about how they can become creators of culture and connect their audience in a meaningful way to create fandom.
Emotion detection software is on the rise as organisations embrace the software in an attempt to understand people's "real feelings". Not only is the science of emotion detection flawed and do privacy advocated have concerns about the technology, very little research has been done around how people feel about the technology being used on them. Given rising privacy concerns, businesses should first research how people feel about emotion detection technology and how the company intends to use the data before investing in it.
As architecture increasingly designs for health, businesses should explore how they can tap into the principles of Immersive Health or Wellness architecture. Consider how applying this could improve productivity in the workplace or help you connect more intimately with consumers.
Your organisation's net zero strategy could be a liability as people are taking businesses (and countries) to court over their lack of concrete and significant action in their climate mitigation strategies. Additionally, there is a push for recognised standards for reporting on sustainability and climate impact. Both the UK and the EU are seeking to make TCFD mandatory and in France companies even need to report on how they contribute to biodiversity. As such businesses need to evaluate their net zero strategy not only in terms of financial risk but also in terms of the associated reputational risk.