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Trendspotting: what’s caught our eye in technology

The Frameworks

Technology we use every day was once thought of as futuristic. What we see as futuristic now may soon be so normal we don’t notice it.

Technology trends often appear as if out of the blue – and they can disappear just as quickly. At the Frameworks, we make sure our clients get the best out of a fast-evolving technology landscape by keeping an eye on what’s coming up, what’s likely to stay and what’s just a passing fad.

Here are some of the trends our digital team has spotted recently.

Ian Dykes: wearable virtual reality

One of the best places to keep an eye on digital design trends is CES, a yearly global tech event where the latest and greatest new designs are presented.

This year Ant Reality Optics’ Mixed Waveguide AR/VR and MR glasses caught my eye. Unlike the previous boxy iterations of virtual reality headsets, these glasses look like typical glasses and have “perfect see-through” lenses that boast 1080p resolution.

Brands have been using VR in marketing for a while – Patrón Spirits’ Art of Patrón campaign came out in 2015 and our IBM Garage campaign ran in 2019. These experiences were impactful and innovative, so I’m excited to see what designers do with the Ant Reality glasses.

The glasses have the potential to change both B2C and B2B marketing. But a note of caution: without regulation, we could see sci-fi movie plots become a reality. Ready Player One features a cautionary tale about advertisers having unchecked access to our fields of view.

Image credit: Ant Reality

Pierrick Senelaer: AI and the creative industry

Experts are divided on the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the creative industries: some see it as a solution for repetitive tasks, others see it as a threat to the industry.

As with the virtual reality glasses Ian spoke about, regulation is key here. The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee held a Creative Futures inquiry, where cross-sector leaders explored the current uses of AI in the creative industries and weighed the potential risks and benefits.

The meeting featured the robot artist Ai-Da, and her creator Aidan Meller. Ai-Da discussed the differences between her works and those of humans, emphasising her reliance on computer programs and algorithms rather than a subjective experience.

I have a feeling the debate about AI will go on for some time. In the meantime, it’s interesting to see how brands are using AI to create work that may not otherwise have been possible. The viral French Women’s World Cup commercial is a great example.

Image credit: Aidan Meller

Poppy Daniel: is tech rewiring museums?

Art Historian Janet Kraynak said the museum, “rather than being replaced by the internet, increasingly is being reconfigured after it”.

One result of this reconfiguration is the rise of immersive exhibitions. For example, Van Gogh The Immersive Experience, ​​the immersive Mona Lisa digital light show, David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) and Frameless. Some of these have toured the world and some, like Frameless, are permanent. All have been made possible by the way augmented reality (AR) is transforming the art world.

AR allows the viewer to be fully immersed in digital content in the real world. Added capabilities for information sharing and interactive features further enhance the experience for viewers. These exhibitions have evolved from the use of AR in gaming popularised by Pokemon Go and navigation, for example Google Maps Live View. They are also the next step up from large-scale art installations, such as Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room and Olafur Eliasson’s sensory installations.

Immersive exhibitions are a different application of AR to the Ant Reality glasses Ian mentioned, but both speak to the wider adoption of this tech across multiple spheres of life.

Image credit: David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away)

Sergio Agosti: AI on the chess board

I love chess and, like many fans of the game, I often play it online. Online chess is convenient: I can play whenever I like without having to persuade a friend or family member to join me. But it’s missing the key physical element of chess: the board and the pieces.

Chess pieces have a long history: chess is believed to have been invented 1,500 years ago. Over the years they have changed from representations of a battlefield to the standard set we see today, the Staunton Chess Set, which is based on the make-up of a royal court. The Lewis Chessmen are an exquisite example of royal court-inspired pieces.

As much as I love online chess, it doesn’t really compare to the physical game. Until now, a hybrid solution would have been difficult, but AI has made it possible. One such board is Phantom: a physical board powered by AI. You can move your pieces physically, while your opponent plays online or on their own board. Their pieces move across the board as if in real life. If you have no real opponent, AI plays against you at your skill level. Appropriately named, it’s like playing with a ghost.

There are many possibilities for physical-AI hybrids and I’m sure we’ll continue to see more pop up. Especially as we become more certain of the parameters for how AI can positively fit into our lives, as Pierrick mentioned.

Image credit: Phantom

Nicholas Caruana: no more cables

I hate having electricity cables all over my house. They’re ugly and they get in the way. I started dreaming about whether wireless electricity is possible. And it is. Well, nearly. There are several experiments under way to transmit wireless technology over long distances.

The possibilities for this technology are really exciting, especially from an environmental standpoint. Universal wireless charging would reduce preventable waste. The terrible battery life of iPhones, broken charging cords, adaptors and the frustration of needing new cables for different devices would all be confined to the past. Wireless charging would also be fantastic for electric cars. Currently, they can’t cover the same distances that petrol cars can because you’ve always got to stop to charge them. But with wireless charging, nothing would be holding them back.

For marketers, the world would become your canvas. Free from the restrictions of cables or cumbersome batteries, real-world brand interventions would have no limits. There’s a data angle here, too. I see a similarity between wireless electricity and WiFi, which phased out the need for ethernet cables. Accessing free WiFi usually involves handing over some personal data – your name and email – which is useful for marketers. Wireless electricity may enable marketers to employ the same tactic while engaging directly with consumers. Walking into a room powered by a brand, you could be met with a greeting: “wireless charging provided by [your brand]”. Wireless charging is in its infancy, but some exciting examples were showcased at CES 2022.

Time will tell what the impact will be, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on these experiments.

Ready for the future

Have you incorporated AI into your digital process? Could your next campaign have more impact as a virtual experience? With AI rapidly moving from trend to mainstream, what major disruptive force will come next?

Our strategists and digital specialists always have their fingers on the pulse, so we can prepare our clients for the next big thing. Whatever it may be.