2011 Predictions: Virtual Meets Tangible

I’ve recently come across some really cool concepts that herald the dawn of a new era in technology. I’m billing these as a peek into what we may see a lot more of in 2011, so get used to it. The following concepts are quite simply ways of utilizing virtual technology to affect “real world” objects, and vice versa. The examples here are only a glimpse, but I think that given that way of thinking, we can expect more of the same in the coming year(s).

 

Proverbial Wallets

I’m a terrible spender. I admit that part of the reason I tend to spend money recklessly is that it is incredibly easy to do it. Pick something you want or “need,” and slap down your debit card and don’t wait for the receipt. Next thing you know, your bank account is in the red and you’re left eating shredded documents with expired soymilk. Enter your money’s new babysitter – the Proverbial Wallet: a wallet that physically alters when you spend. That’s right, some whiz-kids at MIT came up with a way to make the cost of spending more than just a number. The wallets come in three concepts so far:

• The Bumblebee – your wallet buzzes and vibrates in your pocket when you spend money. [Insert “or are you just happy to see me?” joke here.]

• The Mother Bear – this billfold becomes harder to open the more you spend. Moral of the story here, don’t be weak AND broke. Also, make sure your mother is not actually a bear.

• The Peacock – as the name implies, this wallet is meant to show off your, um, bulge? You see, dependent on your account balance, your wallet will either shrink or swell. [Insert “direct deposit” joke here.] The wallets work with your cellphone’s Bluetooth attached to your bank account. Not a “social media” product, necessarily, but this is still a fun example of how technology is allowing the virtual world to infiltrate the physical realm.

Tableau

Have you ever wanted to reach out and grab a photo right off the web? Well, this Narnia-esque night stand can help you do just that. Someone tweets you a photo, and the next thing you know, it’s sitting in your nightstand drawer. Want to send someone a photo or hand written love note? Drop it in the drawer and off it goes into the ether! All of this magic is accomplished through a scanner and a photo printer right there in your drawer. As my coworker Ryan pointed out, “what’s the point?” Well, for Ryan and any other smartypantses, there really IS no point, except for the fact that it “makes digital things physical and physical things digital.“ (Mike Teevee from Willy Wonka, anybody?) These two examples are just concepts right now, but I think they illustrate the way we’re headed when it comes to the virtual world getting back to its physical roots.

The Future!

There are examples that are inherently more social, however, such as the waterpark that allows you to “like” the rides just by waving a wristband over an RFID reader. Or there’s the health benefit of making video games more physically demanding, as is the case with this interactive exercise bike. You can update your progress to your Facebook friends and Twitter followers automatically, and you can even challenge your pals to beat your time.

There is definitely room for social media marketing when it comes to making the digital world tangible, as social actions could result in real world rewards. For instance, a soft drink machine could Tweet a photo of the purchaser when someone buys a drink from it. There are plenty of possibilities, but I don’t want to give away all my great ideas just yet. 😉 As technology improves, we will surely find new, exciting, and pointless ways to use it. I, for one, would love to give a real world high five to anyone who shares this article. Until that day arrives, I will high five strangers assuming that they are you.

-Jeremy S. Griffin

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