Down the personalized wormholes and individualized realities -coming evolution of consumerism
At the heart of the shift enacted by digital is a powerful truth. A digital world explodes the old calculus around consumerism’s two ruling imperatives, mass-produced and cheap or unique and expensive. Because online, where the cost of one more is zero, you can have it both ways. You can have cheap and unique to you. And that’s a revolution.
In a 20th-century world of scarcity and physical consumption intended to serve material needs, the primary goal was to be mass-produced. But in a 21st-century world of abundance, and dematerialized consumption intended to serve higher-order needs, it tends to be personalized.
Some great examples of personalization here:
Tonal is a connected workout station that collects physiological data and adjusts exercise difficultly accordingly. SHOT is a smoothie mixer that uses a built-in camera and AI to analyse skin health and then create a personalised recipe for a skin-enhancing smoothie.
Last year, Japanese beauty giant Shiseido launched a new skincare service called Optune: users take a selfie each day, and data on their skin health is put alongside that on sleep and environmental factors and crunched by an algorithm. The output is a recipe for a personalized skin cream, which is then mixed each day by a special device.
Kia Motors are developing in-car interiors that leverage facial recognition to respond to driver attention and mood. Meanwhile, beauty brand SK-II made headlines when they trialed a facial recognition-fuelled concept store that provides a personalized experience to shoppers, including touchscreens that display personalized product recommendations.
This year Amazon announced the new Halo device, which will give personalised communication advice based on physiological and voice data that allows a real-time picture of your mood.
The next step? Back in 2007 it cost over $1 million to sequence a human genome; today it costs a few hundred dollars. A new era of DNA-personalised consumerism is coming.
The world’s largest food brand, Nestlé, is already embracing that future. It’s running a huge trial of DNA-personalised food supplements with over 100,000 consumers in Japan.
What is the end game here?
In 2020, the boundaries between physical and digital are blurring in a new and even more powerful way. And that has profound implications for the journey outlined in this essay.
At the heart of this shift are a new generation of augmented reality technologies. They allow a large-scale, persistent, and shareable digital layer – in effect, a new digital reality – to be built on top of the physical environment. One of the most powerful examples of this evolution was launched this year by Snapchat, who call their technology Local Lenses.
5G networks will make possible far more complex and immersive shared AR worlds. Fast-forward to a device that brings AR to your eyeballs rather than your phone screen – basically Google Glass but executed well – and the possibilities are astounding.
While all this sounds exciting, the real problem is this - "It pushes us down personalized wormholes, and into individualized realities, from which our access to one another is diminished."
Via emerging technologies – from connected objects to genome sequencing, to AR – it will become an increasingly important part of our consumerism in the years ahead.
This is the coming evolution of consumerism.