Foreseeing future technology (markets)

Trying to forecast how the iPhone 84รถ will look like? Or when Earth will be like Pandora? And how to bring these magic devices to market? Just think about yourself. And allow for a little laughter.

With the CES just recently behind us, digital media was covered with all sorts of uuhs and aahs regarding the latest technology break-thoughs. Whereas in the gadgetry department, we all love to be surprised by things no one ever thought were in any demand at all, it always amazes me how much some people are fascinated by pretty obvious inventions. In a world of twitter trending and youtube, it is sometimes not that simple to spot an underlying pattern. But when it comes to human beings, why would we think we are so different from the naked ape, or say our parents. And therefore, why would we not be able to outline pretty easily where technology is going.

Here’s the train of thought: humans have some fundamental requirements. Food, shelter, social interaction, sleep, etc. At the same time, they rely on a pretty stable set of senses and mechanics: smelling, seeing, hands, feet, you get the point. Every technology will always seek to merge as seamlessly with these given parameters as possible. So instead of creating a vision of the future by improving a technology bottom-up (think Windows 7), why not start thinking top down: how would the perfect mobile companion work? Brain interface? Nothing to carry at all? Maybe more on LINUX? Then if you match this with the existing technology, trying to come as closely as possible, you get the most realistic path ahead (brain interfaces are limited, yet, so try a portable input device and glasses to put an image on).

Of course this does not tell you anything about the business model required to bring such a device to the masses. And it is probably true that in a post-modern world, this is where the real creativity comes in. Because despite everything being possible in theory, only a small path does usually lead to it being possible in reality.

Whilst the ultimate business model for every invention is driven by a lot of factors, we have one last suggestion for the target market: benefit > risk of being ridiculed. Think Segway for shopping vs. for carrying mail. Or shaking for using your iPhone in the office vs. for making that one phone call after your car broke down. Wearables’s computing first consumer breakthrough market? Sports. As looking strange/innovative has always been a plus in say, Snowboarding, Triathlon, or American Football.

So to understand where all that iStuff is ultimately going, just think of the perfect solution, then scale it down. And to understand how to get it to market, ask yourself who would actually benefit from looking a little silly.

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