Moments of discovery are often a summation of micro events. We will remember the large macro events that shaped 2020, but perhaps it will be the way in which we experienced it that will leave the most resonating impact on our individual and collective memory bank. Technology seamlessly weaves its way into our experiences — the information we receive and the way it’s delivered, the devices in our home and the way they adjust to our habits, and the subtle machines that have become as much a part of our landscape as the trees, hedges, and parks. Tech wearables answer calls and monitor our vital health signs, learning thermostats respond to voice commands, and internet and cloud storage capabilities run enterprises from anywhere in the world.
This year has become so much more than what we expected and we have also evolved at an extraordinary rate, navigating a world that is mitigated by constant trial-and-error adjustments. The word “metamorphoses” is amplified with renewed significance.
The theme of metamorphic design, identified by Trend Watching as one of the top five trends of 2020, addresses how technology personalizes everything to our individual preferences so that the way we interact with surroundings is continuously adjusted to be more useful and relevant. Metamorphic design emphasizes relevance as a service, which impacts how we behave as consumers and as leaders. It is an opportunity to create new products and services to be in-step with the expectation of constant adaptation. “This trend is founded on an eternal human truth: people are always in a state of flux. For that reason, there can never be one perfect product, service or solution for any given person. Rather, a true perfect fit means constant adaptation around the changing individual,” reports Trend Watching researchers.
Globalization, mobility, and necessary flexibility have influenced more advanced technology trends and new devices. Flexible and responsive, examples of this new wave of design and technology include kinetic architecture that achieves specific performance attributes; skin cream from Shiseido that analyzes the user’s skin via selfie and then utilizes an algorithm to fine tune daily skin cream to accommodate temperature and humidity levels; Baze supplements that use the data from a small amount of the consumer’s blood to fine tune their monthly vitamin subscription. “Facial recognition, sensors, and smart objects are turning the world into a landscape that shifts and changes around consumers,” says Trend Watching. “The result is ever-heightening expectations for responsive personalization. No wonder 39% of global businesses say they have started to deliver personalized experiences in real-time.”
The rapid evolution of technology goes hand-in-hand with accessibility and our own wellbeing. Technological progress correlates with a decrease in costs and an increase in accessibility, says Our World in Data — an increase in product quality and computing efficiency for less cost, and a decrease in the prices of consumer durables, computer storage, and digital cameras. All of this creates more outfitted consumers that are confidently participating in digital markets and landscapes. Metamorphic design has changed our perception and experience through key innovation categories:
In the realm of relevance as a service, AI is a preeminent tool in creating personalized experiences. Deloitte researchers, Beena Ammanath, David Jarvis, and Susanne Hupfer, say that most AI technology currently in-play falls into one of three categories: 1.) Robotics and cognitive automation; 2.) Cognitive insight; and 3.) Cognitive engagement. “We have seen AI deployed across a wide spectrum of use cases to solve business problems—from managing and automating IT infrastructure, to gleaning new insights about customers, to identifying and responding to cyber threats, to helping guide medical decisions, to improving the hiring process. AI is increasingly being integrated into the fabric of business.”
AI is also one of the main drivers of workplace productivity and efficiency across industries from assembly lines to sorting data collected through office platforms. AI is a common fixture in both B2B and B2C worlds with tech giants like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple further embedding it into core functions around machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and machine reasoning.
How does this morph our landscape and reality? Emerging into consumers’ mainstream, it gathers and reads data in Apple watches, talks back via Alexa, suggests movies on Amazon, and reports fraud in the case of a lost or stolen credit card. Every service gains more relevance through AI, where our world becomes uncannily connected by the seamless experience devoted to relevance.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (or Extended Reality)
Virtual Reality (VR) enables the user to fully shift into a different time and space by replacing what is in the field of vision. Examples of this include realty companies offering VR showings of homes or VR headsets used for immersive gaming experiences.
Augmented Reality (AR) is the experience of having something artificial, like words, text, or graphics, layered over what is in your vision. For example: “smartglasses” or Microsoft’s HoloLens. These offer exciting potential for navigation and recognizing surroundings.
While VR and AR are more mainstream around gaming, investment and R&D in the field is rapidly developing around enterprise solutions. According to a VR Intelligence report, 65% of AR Companies are developing industrial applications, which can be used to accomplish productivity and safety measures in dangerous or high-risk environments and used by engineers, technicians, and maintenance staff.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is an infinite field of possibility — the mundane has become a renaissance. Using AI’s natural language learning, data, and algorithms, wearables and devices that are commonly found in the home and office and in our accessories (shoes, watches, health-sensory workout apparel, and more) has been replaced with smarter counterparts. The things that surround us have quietly been collecting data and adjusting to offer a more in-tune environment.
Technologists, scientists, and researchers all agree that the information exchange with the cloud and internet will collectively make us more connected and healthy than ever before. “Fifty years from now today’s notions of privacy will feel as out of date as horse and buggy transportation feels to us. Our homes, transportation, appliances, communication devices and even our clothes will be constantly communicating as part of a digital network. We have enough pieces of this today that we can somewhat imagine what it will be like. Through our clothes, doctors can monitor in real time our vital signs, metabolic condition and markers relevant to specific diseases. Parents will have real-time information about young children. The difference in the future will be the constant sharing of information, data updates and responses of all these interconnected devices. The things we create will interact with us to protect us. Our notions of privacy and even liability will be redefined. Lowering the cost and increasing the effectiveness of health care will require sharing information about how our bodies are functioning. Those who opt out may have to accept palliative hospice care over active treatment. Not keeping track of children real-time may be considered a form of child neglect. Digital will do more than connect our things to each other – it will invade our bodies. Advances in prosthetics, replacement organs and implants will turn our bodies into digital devices. This will create a host of new issues, including defining ‘human’ and where the line exists between that human and the digital universe – if people are always connected, always on are humans now part of the internet?” futurist and founding author of The Algorithmic Society blog, Kenneth Grady, said in a Pew Research interview.
The flying cars that propelled the Jetsons around are probably not parked in your garage (yet), but the devices that we interface with on a daily basis and the metamorphic design factors that are driving the personalization of your experience is much more significant in your evolution. Where will you place your purchasing power? How will this innovation shape your vision and corporate strategy? Limits of time, space, and knowledge fall away as the micro adjustments made throughout the day add up to a transformation on a collective level. And frankly, that seems like a trade up.
Via Unsplash by Alexander Sinn.