News 02.01.2024

Need to Know

LS:N Global’s exploration of Technology in 2023 explored how everything from AI and robot-led spaces to a new era of metaverse experiences is leading to a future designed for augmented humans.

The Trend: Quiet Mode

Loop, Belgium Loop, Belgium

After the period of solitude, lower volume and Enlightened States of introspection brought on by Covid-19, society is increasing its expectations of in-person activities, from working and socialising to dating.

Many are experiencing a pandemic hangover, and with that an interest in introversion. In Quiet Mode, we explored how, in a noisy world, consumers are looking to turn down the volume on post-Covid expectations from family, friends, work, society and themselves. Online or offline, they have a deepening desire for both focus and freedom. While some seek literal quiet in the physical sense, others are more interested in an attitude of quiet: peacefulness, privacy and the tools to enable personal boundaries around these.

The idea of tuning out the noise reflects a consumer need for better boundaries and compartmentalisation of tasks. Their intentional living marks a meaningful trajectory for the tech industry. New, quiet-driven features and products like Loop give consumers the focus and freedom to do what truly matters to them. By putting consumers in a more solid position of authority, their experience with technology and social media can be more positive and productive.

‘Brands need to consider what quiet means for their consumers and how to give it to them. Otherwise, they may just put you on mute,’ summarises Carly Ettinger, our US foresight analyst.

The Big Idea: Decolonising Data Privacy

Blue Man in a Red Space by Isaac Udogwu, US Blue Man in a Red Space by Isaac Udogwu, US

While trust has always been at the heart of business-consumer relationships, in this new era of heightened concern, maintaining trust around data handling has become a primary factor tying customers to companies. Indigenous communities from New Zealand to Canada and Latin America have implemented strategies to digitise their knowledge and legacy while protecting it from outside interests that could take over their data and profit from it. Businesses around the globe could learn from their focus on ethics and tangible solutions for data privacy.

‘We’ve lost a lot of control over our land, we’ve lost a lot of control over the education that our children get; our own data and our own stories are kind of our last control over ourselves,’ said Te Taka Keegan, an associate professor of computer science at Waikato University, New Zealand.

In Decolonising Data Privacy, we discussed how tech can find inspiration in Indigenous data sovereignty practices. At the heart of these projects lie two fundamental notions: respect for personal information as an integral part of one's identity and the imperative to protect it. By safeguarding their communities’ data, these groups take a respectful and protective approach to privacy while earning community trust.

Indigenous models of data privacy strategies demonstrate that it is possible for companies to return governance and sovereignty to users. If data is the new gold, trust is undoubtedly the new currency.

The Campaign: Edu-verse

Elf Up! Roblox experience by Elf Beauty, UK

Elf Cosmetics has taken a leap into the metaverse with its inaugural Roblox experience Elf Up!, strategically addressing Gen Z’s entrepreneurial inclinations. Elf aims to equip young people with essential skills for the evolving economy, citing BazaarVoice research revealing that 62% of Gen Z identify as current or aspiring entrepreneurs, coupled with World Economic Forum insights highlighting the importance of creative, analytical thinking and coding in today’s workplace.

Steering away from conventional tycoon-style game play, Elf Up! introduces purposeful gamification, incorporating spaces linked to meaningful causes. The virtual landscape is a play on its core offerings and includes a Big Mood recording studio/karaoke bar, a Holy Hydration! marine life charity hub, a Halo Glow jewellery and art gallery, and a Power Grip climbing gym that doubles as a tech start-up. The brand also plans to add a pet adoption centre and expand language options. Elf’s continued interest in the metaverse, particularly within Roblox, reflects how younger audiences are entering brands’ consciousness, as revealed in The Zalpha Reckoning.

The Viewpoint: IBM Quantum

Quantum System One at Cleveland Clinic by IBM Quantum System One at Cleveland Clinic by IBM

In July 2023, we asked IBM Quantum’s global technical ambassador lead Kate Marshall whether quantum computers can build a utopian future in which the technology will be a force for good, supercharging healthcare and data protection.

‘Regulating emerging technologies is an incredibly difficult thing to speak about,’ admits Marshall. ‘There is an opinion across various governments that if you regulate too early, it can inhibit the growth of the emerging tech, and you can limit how it shapes itself.’ While waiting for regulation, she suggests the antidote to avoid hackers using quantum to commit criminal offences is making the technology available to all.

From a consumer perspective, Marshall asserts a cloud service that is accessible online would remain the only point of contact between a regular user and quantum hardware. ‘The model that we’re starting to see forming today has multiple hundreds of thousands of users connecting over the cloud to a fleet of 20 machines based in the US,’ she says. ‘I don’t think there’s going to be a reason for us to have one of these extremely power-intensive systems in our homes.’ For more insights on quantum, read IBM’s Quantum Computing Nirvana and Quantum Futures: How Ready Are You?

The Space: Kernel

Nova Chef and Server, a robot duo created to cater for upcoming space tourism initiatives by Seokoo Yeo and Sun-a Choi, Hongik University, South Korea

Chipotle founder Steve Ells is pioneering Kernel, a new robot-operated restaurant concept aimed at reducing waste. Located in Manhattan, Kernel will specialise in meat alternatives replicating the taste of beef or chicken while placing a strong emphasis on vegetables and legumes.

Ells envisages Kernel as a chain and plans to open 15 restaurants in New York initially and then to expand to other cities. According to investors, the start-up sees Shake Shack, Sweetgreen, Dig, Cava and Ells’ former company Chipotle as its competitors.

Inspired by climate-conscious initiatives outlined in Bill Gates’s book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Ells aims to combat greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging a shift to plant-based diets. The restaurant’s operations are heavily reliant on robots and could function with as few as three employees. Kernel signifies Ells’ commitment to sustainable, futuristic dining experiences, combining innovation and environmental responsibility, a topic we explore in Why the Future of Alt Meats Relies on Tech.

Download the Future Forecast 2024 report

Now that you know what shaped 2023, discover what’s on the horizon. Download our Future Forecast 2024 report comprising 50 new trends across 10 key consumer sectors, insights from our analysts and interviews with global innovators.

Not a member of LS:N Global?

The Future Sessions Bundle, which includes both our Future Forecast 2024 and Future Five 2024 PDF reports, is available to purchase from The Future Laboratory shop. Interested in becoming a member? Learn more here

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