Future tech views: An iPhone-shaped world

T3 columnist James Wallman gazes into a future gadget life

James believes that the world revolves around his personal likes and dislikes - or it will in a few years time...

It was David Anderson, founder of the CADA Design Group, who prompted me to believe that the world will soon be like an iPhone. “In the future,” he told me over a coffee, “no two people will interact with the built environment in the same way.”

Hold on Dave, I thought, what about objective reality? And can I get a large one of whatever coffee you’re having?

Spend a bit of time with the idea though, and it makes sense. Think of the smartphone in your pocket. Its hardware is the same as the millions of other smartphones out there, but thanks to the background snap of your dog wearing sunglasses, a wah-wah ringtone and a bucketload of very handy apps you never use, yours is unique. So is everyone else’s. That means that no two people interact with their phones in the same way. That’s how we’ll experience the external world in the future.

“The next few years will be about taking personalisation off of our devices and empowering the space around us with our
settings,” Miles Kemp, founder of responsive architecture company Variate Labs in Los Angeles, told me.

There are two major breakthroughs that need to happen to make this possible. The first is our environments have to recognise us and we have to be willing to share our information. Then those environments have to be able to respond to us. Both are on their way.

Foursquare is already making people more receptive to sharing their location and consumer preferences with fellow networkers and apps like Stumble.to, Checkmate and Future Checkin are further promoting this.

“These apps provide an infrastructure around which we can build a more personalised experience,” says interaction designer Paul Miller. A retailer could enhance that personalised experience by making their store respond to a customer’s individual likes, mimicking how Amazon.com currently works.

“Imagine walking into Muji and seeing which of your friends bought what products, or reading reviews about a product just by looking at it,” muses Kemp.

In the future, apps set to each individual’s settings will mean that no two people have the same experience of a store. “It’ll be like having your own personal interpreter or shopper with you at all times,” says Kemp.

A personalised digital experience layered over the top of the physical world: standard hardware and personalised software. The world will be just like your iPhone…

James is editor of The Future Laboratory’s innovation and insight news network