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Five Not-Too-Distant Technologies that Might Change Social Media

Ryan Sweeney.

It is no secret that technology is evolving at an ever-increasing pace and producing some really cool products.  It really wasn’t that long ago that I was slowly connecting to the Internet using AOL to chat with my friends on Instant Messenger.  Now, I can stream movies to my television instantly (a feat that would have taken the video ten years to load on dial-up) and video chat with my friends.  At this rate of technological evolution we cannot expect with full complacency that how we currently communicate will be the same in ten years, maybe even shorter than that.  I’m not saying certain things will die off – people will still read printed books, listen to the radio, and watch television – I’m saying we should always be on the lookout for the next big thing. One of the many beautiful things about the evolution of technology is that something is invented for one purpose, and then the use of that invention is furthered by another purpose.  In celebration of this ever-changing landscape, here are five technologies that could lead to the next big thing in human communication, interaction, and – of course – social media.


Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is becoming quite popular with advances in smartphones and tablets.  The concept is different from virtual reality in that the user is not being placed in a virtual world, but virtual elements are brought into the user’s physical world. With most of the major social networks, a user can tag friends in pictures and tag pictures and updates with geo-coordinates, but with an augmented reality app, users could tag a location for their friends and add a picture or video or maybe even virtual graffiti of sorts.  Brands could create a virtual coupon or exclusive content that would appear if a user viewed a store through their augmented reality app.   A popular app is Layar:

Layar is really helpful for traveling in a city you’ve never been to, but what if you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language?  That’s where Word Lens comes in:

Smartphones and tablets are cool and all, but let’s take it a few more years into the future.  Since we don’t want to look like weirdo tourists – when the technology is ready – how about some glasses?  Imagine walking around wearing glasses with augmented reality tech.  Potentially, popular augmented reality apps (for the super glasses of course) could sell advertising space in which a virtual billboard for your brand will be displayed in the world as viewed through the user’s glasses.  You also wouldn’t be limited to looking through a handheld screen, allowing for friends you’re with to experience the augmented reality without having to look over your shoulder. Additionally, you could get updates from your friends without having to rely on a desktop or mobile device – which you’ll need to turn off while you’re driving of course.  Ever go to a concert and you’re in the nosebleed seats so you have to watch the huge screens?  Put on those glasses instead to get a better view to cure you of your Bieber Fever.  Oops! I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s move on!


Wearable Technology

There is a defined line between physical world and digital world.  That line – as you saw with augmented reality and will see with other items on this list – is getting very blurry.  Wearable tech allows the user to carry the digital world with them so it can interact with the physical world.  Thought-leader Pranav Mistry created the SixthSense device to merge data with the physical world.

Instead of sitting in a world looking through a screen, you’re looking at a screen on the world around you.  Forgot someone’s name? That’s okay, your device could broadcast the person’s name and any tags surrounding that person.  In the video example, Pranav demonstrates the device with a book, displaying reviews and other information.  Similar to augmented reality, imagine reading a book and turning the page only to find a friend wrote a note about that chapter.  Brands could have extended product information that, when the device senses the product, is projected onto the box without any need to follow a QR code.


Brain-Computer Interface a.k.a. Mind Control (sort of)!

Touch control is so last year.  I want to be able to make things happen with my mind!   Sure, like most of the concepts on this list, the technology is in its infancy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not coming!  I just hope that people don’t wear something like this around and connect Twitter to automatically pick up their thoughts. That could be bad; take note Anthony Weiner.

The video above features NeuroSky as an educational tool used to measure attention. From a media research perspective, this could be a great tool to test commercials, TV shows or movies.  Imagine all that glorious data that could be acquired in an attempt to make the most interesting movie ever!  YouTube already has an “attention” score for videos, but imagine the actual data that could be collected by logged in users wearing this device!  Okay, that’s awesome for data nerds like me, but what about people who want to use NeuroSky’s technology for fun? What if you were able to change the outcome of a movie based on your mood? Oh wait…

I’ve never been great at actually writing music but I’ve always been able to compose songs in my mind.  Think of how awesome it would be if I could train a program to read the songs I’ve imagined and translate them from my brainwaves to sheet music.

NeuroSky relies on developers to create apps, so instead of building an iPhone or Android app, a company might create a brain-computer interface (BCI) apps.  Instead of designs shifting to favor mobile touch surfaces, they might need to shift to something optimized for what I will creepily dub “mind touch.”


Holographic Projection

Help me Obi-Wan, my favorite band isn’t touring in my city! But wait, there is a local venue broadcasting the show on stage? Sure, why not? Enter: holographic projection.

Holographic projection is a very popular sci-fi concept on its way to becoming a sci-non-fi concept. Imagine giving a talk but, for that talk, you are broadcast throughout the world in numerous venues.  Twitter and Facebook currently provide a more personalized level of interaction, but holographic projection could take it one step further by bringing in more dimensions. Google Plus Hangouts would get a slightly more-literal upgrade.  Now, I’m not really sure you want a virtual Ashton Kutcher stepping into your living room to tell you things, but think about it: A new communication platform in which people can virtually be present in your home and talk to you.  The State of the Union would become a bit more personal if the president appeared to be standing in your living room.


Omnipresent Interactive Surfaces

Brushing your teeth is a good idea – but multitasking is better!  Why break out your tablet and get sticky toothpaste all over it?  Just turn on the mirror screen and catch up on your News Feed or Twitter stream while cleaning those pearly whites.  For brands: earlier this year Starbucks ran a campaign in which they installed interactive storefronts on which customers could play a game.

For all of you green-minded people, a Samsung LCD screen powered by ambient light also created buzz earlier this year. Bus stops are boring; why not install a screen to display ads, video, breaking news, and a constantly updating bus schedule.

And here’s a transparent LCD:

Pictures say 1,000 words but this video probably tells the story of this blog post best.  So, here’s the kicker:


In Summary:

Okay, so all of these are probably 5-10 years out and, admittedly, I have a large imagination. But, the purpose of this post was to share some cool technology while brainstorming concepts of the future.  However whacky or crazy as some of these concepts might be we’re in store for a really exciting future and – at the current pace technology is evolving - it’s very important to stay on top of emerging trends and how they will change social media.

If you’re interested in futurism and would like to further immerse yourself in imagining the future of technology, here’s some further reading/watching:

Future Timeline
Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence
World Future Society
Transcendent Man

And, if you're feeling adventurous, check this "speculative timeline of future history".

Since I’m sure technology will have changed in the time it took you to read this blog post, I would love to hear about some of your favorite looming technological breakthroughs, how you think the concepts I listed might be used, or if there is something I didn’t list that should be called out.


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