After the Huvr Board hoax, my faith in the future waned. I was quick to believe that once every Michael J Fox-affected teenager lusting after a floating skateboard matured, at least one of them would succeed in turning fiction into fact. And as priorities go it should definitely have skipped the queue before self-driving cars and internet fridges.
Which got me thinking. Can we ever really predict what the future will hold for us? Is there a way of knowing the types of things we’ll desire ten, five or even one year from now?
According to the folks at Future Laboratory, we can.
A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to hear two of these ‘future laboratorists’ give a trend talk that offered an insight into the social discourse shaping the way we behave, consume and interact. And thankfully, they also gave us access to their exclusive website; a treasure trove of trend forecasts. And the perfect place for a Feed into the future.
So setting aside a whole day, I hungrily trawled through reams of future-focused content, where trend analysts had plotted out, neatly packaged and offered up macro and micro trends in digestible chunks that explained just how they would affect our lifestyles and choices.
So here are three of my favourites:
Noel Edmunds was onto something big in the ’90s. Although we all chose to ignore smell-o-vision back then, now it seems the future of entertainment is all about enticing, exciting and evoking as many senses as possible.
Whether it’s cinematic experiences that entwine taste and flavours to spark more impactful emotional connections, scents that enhance buyers’ shopping experiences or immersive theatre that puts the audience in the spotlight, our senses have never before been so stimulated.
Futuretainment is about playing with conventional audience boundaries, bringing in a new level of curiosity, with multiple layers of our own scrutiny. These are new areas of entertainment, spaces where we can explore and even put ourselves into the action.
While the internet can take you one step further into immersion, you just can’t download the visceral nature of real life…
But what does that mean for the future? Well, producers of traditional forms of entertainment need to be on the look out for the multiple dimensions of experience. The future audience wants to do more than passively watch. They want a cacophony of sensations and experiences – like the tasty fireworks of Bompass and Parr, or the immersive theatre of Punch Drunk, (which you can check out in Helen’s Feed.)
It all boils down to the fact that evoking the sensory nature of reality is about bringing more to the experience, and while the internet can take you one step further into immersion, you just can’t download the visceral nature of real life.
In short, we’re all looking out to be astonished.
When you think of our Grandparents’ generation, we tend to picture them with staunch routines, a slight fear of anything out of the ordinary, and perhaps wearing some sort of comfy slack or cardigan. To put it bluntly, they’ve always appeared, well, old.
But for this new generation of elders, being conventionally ‘old’ is not on the cards.
With more disposable income, advancements in medicine and universal design making products that everyone can use, the Flat Agers, (as Future Laboratory coins them) are no longer willing to be defined by their advancing years. Instead, they are defined by their interests, and these are as dynamic and varied as any of their younger counterparts. In fact last year the over 60s were responsible for starting up 15% of new businesses.
This is a generation of people bucking the Werther’s Original stereotype, debunking myths of ageing by retiring conventional narratives. Design and beauty should now work for everyone, because the Flat Agers want to adventure, to explore. But most importantly, they never want to be told to “slow down”. Because the truth is, as we advance in technology and science, they might not need to.
The Polarity Paradox
Apparently moderation is no longer key. With our increasingly busy lifestyles, Future Laboratory has noticed that many of us are living a life of extremes. From abstinence to indulgence, fasting to gorging, saving to spending huge amounts in one fell swoop, in the Polarity Paradox, consumers have everything and they have nothing.
When reading about this macro trend, I came to think of Ben Fogle’s Island dwelling bankers from his television show ‘New Lives in the Wild’. These are the people who’ve chosen to turn their back on the material world for good, having had wild extremes of wealth.
Within the Polarity Paradox, there is a pattern of behaviour that causes us to take the bull by the horns and live actively, rather than sit back and let things happen to us. And paired with an impending sense of our own mortality, we’re ushering ourselves into a position of extreme self-awareness, where we’re all calling out for more of a sense of our own presence. We want to test our limits, push ourselves further and really feel alive.
This trend stems from a place of uncertainty, where dystopia and utopia are played out against one another, and an all-or-nothing mentality exists.
According to Future Laboratory, brands will meet this mentality by challenging consumers, taking them on journeys that push them through a heightened sense of anxiety, and then rewarding them with a sense of relief when it’s all over.
While we can never really know what the future holds, it makes sense to take stock of the moment and take an educated stab in the dark. And as Future Laboratory has shown me, peeking into trends can act as some kind of glimmering nightlight.
Will any of it come true? We’ll have to wait and see.