Three transformative trends to watch in digital

Darcy Mangan DM

The digital sector has been evolving and adapting since its inception. Often these changes are driven by users, and have flow on effects to many other industries and sectors. It’s the nature of our industry. Disruptive innovation continues to make an impact on the way we all live our lives. Here are some of the trends that are on our radar…

1. Anticipatory design

There is no doubt that anticipatory design and artificial intelligence will have a huge impact in transforming the digital sector. Anticipatory design has its origins with the author Aaron Shapiro. He believes it is up to creators of products or systems to simplify processes and choices by anticipating needs, thus solving problems before they appear. Often technology has made life easier but the trade off is decision fatigue. This trend aims to address that. Real life examples are apps like Waze or Google now, both of which utilises pooled data from people or data from past behaviour to anticipate problems. Other examples include supermarkets that save your past order and use past behaviour to predict future orders, or projects like Google’s driverless car or Tesla’s autopilot feature. A UK startup called FiveAI is even working on a car that is capable of learning by collecting information from specific situations and using this knowledge for future events. Anticipatory design throws away traditional notions of interacting with a product. The best interface may be no interface and decisions have already been made for you based on previous behaviour. No instructions are needed. In order to achieve this, data needs to be constantly collected and analysed to shape how we interact with things and how they interact with us. Being able to anticipate what users want creates a connection and empathy, something that is proving valuable in the fields of interactive journalism and digital storytelling.

2. Virtual Reality

Increasingly we are seeing the use of virtual reality technology in storytelling and journalism or to create empathy. Studies have shown that virtual reality encounters increased empathy to those that are being depicted on screen, a point not lost on many organisations. The UN has commissioned and released several 360 degree films and virtual reality experiences to cover the ebola crisis and the effects of war on civilians. With Facebook acquiring VR pioneers Oculus Rift, all signs point to this trend as one to watch. The US based emblematic group has produced immersive journalism pieces focusing on subjects such as Syria’s civil war, the death of Trayvon Martin and what it is like to go hungry in the United States. More mainstream media organisations such as the New York Times have distributed cardboard virtual reality viewers and released an app, NYTVR to give an immersive experience. VR has been used to explore treatments for PTSD and prototypes have been created for training those working in dangerous environments in a safe space. Health care professionals have been trained in this manner before coming into contact with infectious patients. Similarly to VR, augmented reality has proven recently very successful in gaining followers. Augmented reality gives an extra experience on top of the real world often by employing algorithms or sensors such as gyroscopes and accelerometers. Augmented reality often applies elements of gamification to create hugely popular experiences.

“Increasingly we are seeing the use of virtual reality technology in storytelling and journalism or to create empathy”

3. Gamification

This trend applies elements of game experiences, often building on ideas of achievement, competition, cooperation or status in a scenario typically unrelated to games. The earliest examples of gamification include credit card point systems or frequent flyer programs. Incentives to gain status are often employed, such as badges, leaderboards, and unlocking of levels or skins. Apps such as Strava, Nike Plus, and Fitocracy all use gamification to encourage fitness. People are given points corresponding to completed exercise or activities and can compare their results with others. Large organisations such as Starbucks, Mcdonalds and Coca-Cola have all employed gamification to market to people and encourage loyalty. The US army has employed gamification by releasing a free game to drive recruitment. There are countless other popular examples, such as the e-mail game, which rewards users for responding to emails within a time limit, or Zombie Run, which uses augmented reality to guide people through fitness challenges while participating in a narrative involving apocalyptic zombies. Perhaps the most successful and well known is the ubiquitous augmented reality based Pokemon Go. This game surpassed many established apps in an amazingly short period of time, such as tinder in terms of size, and apps like WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat in terms of time spent on the application.

So keep an eye out for these trends, you’ll likely experience one or all of them soon if you haven't already, or maybe they are just what you’ll need for your next project to become a success.

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