I made up a work title for my new book: Pamper Planet. This book describes what the world will look like in 2050. After we have gone through a tumultuous time, we will get a period of rest, peace and safety being the worldwide standard. Pamper Planet describes a very soft, friendly world in which basically everything seems to be in balance. A world in which every resident will be completely pampered. A world which has elements of paradise. That world we are building now. Daily we take small steps in this direction. And 2015, the year I write about regularly, is just an intermediate stage (like 2050 will be as well).
That world is partly visualized in some Science Fiction films. It is a combination of The Matrix, A Space Odyssey, West World, The Game, Minority Report, 1948, and Demolition Man. I don’t watch movies so often, but there must be many more movies showing elements we can expect in 2050. All things to be researched after the summer. The question now is of course: do you think ‘Pamper Planet’ is an appealing title? I already registered the domain name, just in case . Let me know!
This mirror shows incoming text messages as soon as somebody approaches it (tip christian). This way we get more and more interactive displays in our lives, through which we can enter the virtual world. Now we receive text messages, later we will see all possible text, audio and video messages. And we’ll be able to react directly. Through speech. And our brand agents will appear in the mirror like they have always been here. This is a small step in that direction.
Dutch film specialist MrMovie can now also be reached through Skype. If you add mrmovie.nl as a Skype buddy, you can directly ask questions about TV, movies or cinemas. Brands start dialogues through all media. A dialogue is a dialogue. In the future we can ask a spoken question through our mobile phone, 1 second later get an overview of facts about a movie on a bigger display, and finally get a preview on a third screen. Everything is interconnected. And MrMovie is just the assistant, available for us any time and anywhere. He doesn’t care what display we want to use. This is a small step in that direction.
Chinese actress Xu Jinglei nowadays is the most read blogger in the world with more than a hundred million page views per month. Chinese author Han Han takes the second place of world’s most read bloggers. Analysts expect his web log to exceed the hundred million page views very soon (em, Dutch). China and India slowly but surely start dominating the world (without being dominant by the way). Even the greatest celebrities will come from China in the future. This is a small step in that development.
The 10 inches high, two-legged robot Runbot learns through trial and error. By just trying a different movement, the robot learns to adapt to new surroundings (ns). We keep developing artificial life. Through text in chat bots, in images through artificial avatars in virtual worlds, or in the physical world by building robots like these. In the end these robots will represent brands as well. They then won’t just have a first name to address them, but also a family name: a brand name. This way the concept ‘brand family’ gets a totally different meaning. This will still take a long time, I would say about twenty years. The developments in this area go slow. In 1993 I did research for exactly this subject (I then called that ‘stochastic learning’). Even so, there is constant progress. Earlier or later, robots will be all around us. This new finding adds to that development.
Dutch newspaper concern De Telegraaf makes automatized follow-up calls to customers who have complained about not receiving their newspaper in the morning. These customers are called at night, and they are asked if they did receive the newspaper in second instance. If this is not the case, these subscribers are with high priority routed to a call center agent (tc, Dutch). Brands automatize the dialogues with their customers, and the initiative to the dialogue can come from either side. In this case, the brand calls the client. Now sometimes real people are still needed, but this becomes more and more rare. In the end the majority of contacts with a brand will be completely automatized, and only in a very rare case we will encounter a real person. This person then will be a super specialist. This is a small step in that direction.
Postbank introduces the Postbank Buddy for Windows Live Messenger (earlier MSN Messenger). With this the Postbank customer can check his or her own balance and recent account activities, and the buddy also answers questions to the customer service department like it is completely normal.
After several other banks, among others ABN Amro (Saldo-bot) and Rabobank (Yvette), and an earlier pilot by Postbank for students, Postbank now also has a real Buddy. This buddy however is much more intelligent then earlier buddy’s from its competitors. If you are a Postbank client, you add “firstname.lastname@example.org” to your Messenger friends list, and you activate the buddy in your mijnpostbank.nl (the personal Postbank surroundings), you can directly chat with the buddy. You can check your balance, see the latest activities on your account, and ask questions to the customer service department. In a normal dialogue. Some examples:
In Rabobank’s new TV program on RTL, My First Home, digital television viewers can react directly through the red button. When they do that, a page with more information about the products and services of Rabobank appears. It is the first time in the Netherlands that the red button is used in a TV program (rb, Dutch). Television, internet and gaming integrate little by little. With that, interactive worlds come into being, to which people like to come. Brand worlds which people experience from the couch, the office, or on the bus. And of course from every other place in the world. This is a small step in that direction.
At Internet Service Provider @Home‘s customer service clients now can ask their questions to Maud, a virtual employee. At the moment Maud isn’t very smart yet: for a question like ’ is @home available in Leiden?’, I was referred to a different page on the website. In a next step she will directly say: ‘yes, it’s available in certain parts of Leiden, but not in other parts; what is your zip code?’ Brand agents, like I call them, more and more often represent the brand. Now on the PC, later also on the mobile phone and TV. Now in a typed dialogue, later also complete in speech. Earlier or later we won’t realize that we are talking to an artificial character any more. This is a small step in that direction.
News company Skoeps helps Africans register local news items through their mobile phones, and share them with the world. Through the fast growth of mobile internet, Africans can use Voices of Africa to report local happenings through text, photo and video without a computer with internet connection. This is now possible in four countries, and other countries will follow (an, Dutch). This is an ultimate example of social responsible entrepreneurship: you keep doing the same thing, but now also for the poor, unhealthy, or threatened people in the world. You use your core competences to help people. Normally you will let people pay for this - after all, you need to live off something - but every now and then you do it for free. Skoeps does exactly what it did before, but now also in Africa. Probably without earning much money, but as a long term investment in the people. A beautiful example. And at the same time, more developments become apparent in this action.
The biggest web log service in the Netherlands, Web-log.nl starts to structurally show advertisements on its web logs. For bloggers with a free subscription that is. Paying subscribers keep an advertising-free blog (em). A personal web log is part of the human identity. Unwanted advertising disturbs that identity. It is as if your back, your mobile or your cap is sponsored by a company you can’t choose. And if you do want to choose, you will start paying. This will happen on a large scale. First we might need some more extra value (ever-lasting photo and video storage for example) to justify a monthly price. In the end we will more and more pay for all kinds of services, among others web log services. This step is part of that development.
Through Dutch website Ilse Reizen (Ilse Travel) consumers now have all travel options available at once. Based on criteria like a golf course, the climate, or total travel time, you will get a list of potential destinations. Then you check the price and the availability, and when you’re satisfied, you book it. Now this works for flights, hotels, travel packages, car rental and a combination of these. Later holiday homes, campings and related travel products will follow. You book with the organization offering the trip, and Ilse Reizen earns money through CPS deals (mf, Dutch; ilse reizen can be tested through login: ilse, and password: bloggerpreview). This way travel coaching brands slowly come into being. Now Ilse Reizen is complete. Later she will ask all customers for their reviews about their experiences. And they will connect with social networks, so that Ilse Reizen will be able to say: John has been here last year and really loved it. This way, publishers change into coaching brands. With huge added value in the lives of consumers. This is a great example.
Fashion brand Levi’s introduces its own mobile phone (mc, Dutch). Brands with a symbolic function (all brands carried on the body) will introduce brand extensions with products having a comparable function in the lives of consumers. For consumers who are satisfied with the standard functions of today’s mobile phone, this is a great opportunity to express themselves. Levi’s understands this. In the future, they will probably bring many more design products with relatively new technologies, like ear phones, rings, and watches.
At the end of July, 2007 there will be 3 billion people who use a mobile phone. This means there has been a clear shift in adoption of the device. It took twenty years for the first billion people to start calling mobile. Then 40 months for the second billion, and now only 24 months for the third billion (mc, Dutch). Theoretically, at the end of 2009 every person at this planet should have a mobile phone: a portable device that provides entrance to a virtual world in which they can meet everybody over the whole world. It won’t go this fast, but this is the direction we’re going. In 2015 we will be pretty far in this. A world in which everybody is continuously connected, in which everybody can see what anybody does anywhere, and what prevailing standards people have in other parts of the world. It will first give a big shock, and after that there will be total quietness.
With a simple extra program, telekinesis, it is possible to wirelessly copy images from PC to iPhone (mc, Dutch). This way ONE virtual world evolves, which we can watch in various ways. In the future when we watch live TV (soccer for example), we bring our mobile phone, which automatically turns on the moment we walk out the door to the bathroom. If we then decide to watch the rest of the game in a different room, we only have to move our phone, and the screen in that room will continue where we were. Everything will be connected. This is a development in that direction.