Thursday, February 21, 2013

20-20 vision. 20 years back. 20 years forward. AT&T's amazingly accurate foresighting videos from '93.

Have you ever seen these visionary AT&T videos from 1993? No. Take a look at this page and you will.

In reality, the AT&T that brought us these commercials back in 1993 no longer exists. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be impressed with their foresighting. In fact, the only thing they got wrong was the company that brought us these technologies.

Yup, it's been 20 years since these commercials ran in the U.S. It was an interesting and accurate brand-building campaign by AT&T at a time when the concept of competition was just being introduced in the American telecoms market.

On-demand movies? Check. Books online? Check. Video chat? Check. GPS directions? Check. EZ toll payment? Check. Biometric locks? Check. Distance live video courses? Check. Sending a fax from the beach using a touch-based tablet? Well, I suppose that's a check as well. Yes, AT&T has an impressive checkered past when it comes to envisioning the future.

So, how did they do it? How did AT&T's technology foresighting team get everything so right? It's so impressive that it's almost spooky science at a distance. But this stuff doesn't develop in a vacuum. AT&T did their foresighting homework. They knew about technologies in the labs, both their own R&D labs as well as labs all around the world. The internet, GPS, touch-screens, mobile computing, digital content. The enablers were there as an embryonic technical stew.

So, what basic ingredients are simmering now which might enable some amazing "you wills" in 20 years from now? If you had to make a similar set of visionary commercials today to show the world in 2033, what basic technologies would you include. Here's a list that comes to my mind right now:

1] You will be enjoying the internet of things.
2] Move over smartphones and get ready for smart homes.
3] Your devices will be touched by nanotechnology in several ways.
4] Home robotics will move beyond vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers.
5] Wearable computing will be the norm.
6] Sensors of all kinds become will keep you very well informed about your body and your direct environment.
7] User interfaces will become very natural thanks to biometrics, BCI, and contextual information.
8] Cash is a thing of the past. And Americans won't be using checks any longer either. Or pennies.
9] Big proactive data will be used for good instead of evil to gather healthcare info.
10] And the semantic web is a reality.

OH] You won't be using a quantum computer, yet. But it will be a hot research topic.

And the company that will bring it to you? Well, if I knew that, I'd be doing something else right now.

AT&T's impressive visionary television commercials ca. 1993.


Elina said...

Hi Peter,
You are my favorite :)
Thanks for this interesting post !


Peter Bryer: Mobile Foresighter said...

Hi Elina,
It would have been fun making commercials like these. Maybe next time.