The other side of what’s hot: Tech trends and counter-innovation in action

December 3, 2018

Perspective

Written by Christopher Matthew Jensen | Sr. Experience Architect at Periscope

The third law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. After spending a few days at the EventTech 2018  conference in Las Vegas, reviewing the latest innovations in experiential marketing, it’s apparent to me that this law governing the physical world often applies to developments in the digital realm as well.

For almost any new technology experience that makes a substantial impact in the world, an alternative development providing an opposing capability seems to emerge. Consider how the global sharing and publicizing of information provided by the World Wide Web eventually led to the formation of the dark web, a bizzaro version where access is intentionally limited. Or how shortly after the dating app Tinder became part of the public consciousness, Bumble arrived, essentially the same thing but with a core feature removed (in Bumble, men cannot message women they’ve matched with until the woman initiates the conversation).

Sometimes these reactionary developments take years to emerge. Other times they follow so fast that they appear to hit the market at the same time. And while it’s difficult to predict which side of the innovation coin will end up having a bigger impact in the world, this only makes it more important to look at emerging trends and analyze what sort of dichotomies they could create.

With this in mind, here’s a rundown of some of the biggest emerging areas in technology and the counter-innovations they’re spurring on already.

Facial Recognition: Facial recognition technology has been around for a few years, and it can provide great value for users — including highly secure authentication (like Apple’s Face ID) and easy-to-navigate experiences (like how Facebook knows which friends to tag in photos you upload). It also has a creepy Black Mirror-esque side: Counter-developments like facial recognition-blocking makeup and glasses have made headlines over the past few years, and recently, researchers at the University of Toronto have been working on an AI-masking tool that could run as a browser add-on to provide protection and peace of mind to users as they navigate the web.

Mixed Reality: While Google Glass ultimately floundered as a product, the idea of mixed-reality glasses is still alive and kicking. Focals by North is just one of many forays into a stylish, wearable digital overlay to the world around us. Meanwhile, others like IRL are working on screen-blocking glasses that would serve an opposite purpose, removing digital visualizations from our field of vision.

Invisible UI: Given the consumer popularity of voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant, it’s no surprise that more and more ideas for screenless or “invisible UI” experiences keep emerging, such as Sturfee’s venture into audio AR. But while the push toward screenless experiences heats up, screens themselves are getting their own radical innovations, such as the ability to bend and fold like the new Samsung Galaxy X.

Holograms: Despite the amazing posthumous stage shows of late music legends like Tupac and Roy Orbison, holograms don’t really exist. Even the super cool HYPERVSN is really just glorified projection mapping with LED lights on propellers and not an actual three-dimensional holographic experience. Still, some have refused to accept the premise that true holographic content is impossible, and while the visual and experiential capability of the technology is in its infancy, several teams have now successfully demonstrated a way to use lasers to ionize air into bursts of light, effectively creating pixels in the air — a breakthrough that could one day lead to real Star Wars-like interactive holograms.

Big Data and Blockchain: As AI and automated services advance in capability, the trend toward gathering user data in order to deliver immediately personalized experiences continues to proliferate. But there’s a backlash occurring as well. The passing of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union was a major development in terms of protecting personal data privacy, and there’s talk from many in the industry about how software design itself will eventually move toward a certification-based model akin to architecture. But even beyond regulation, there’s an opportunity in the market for products and services that help people control the way their personal data is used, which is why companies like Dock and even Kodak are using blockchain to bring online data rights management tools to the public at large.