Sparks & Honey tracks trends by drawing on dozens of data sources, hundreds of scouts and cultural strategists in our London, New York and Los Angeles offices. In June alone, we covered over 1200 signals. Here are the top five trends we observed.
1. The rebellion will be supervised
Privacy is increasingly becoming a finite thing as governments, and brands, are harvesting more data in more creative ways, with or without our knowledge. Yes, George Orwell warned us, but I think even he might be impressed with this month’s juvenile tactics. For us, these changes represent a tension between two trends: ‘Moral Imperative,’ or expectation of monitoring behaviour, and ‘Data Divinity', or the power data holds over every part of our life.
In South Korea, children’s digital and physical behaviour, search history and typing are being recorded and watched through a mandatory app promoted by schools for parents to install on kids’ phones.
Back home, the UK government didn’t have a band on the main stage of the Download festival, but it did set up cameras and scanned all 90,000 guests’ faces without consent instead. Images were scanned to match ‘known criminals,’ and later deleted, but hey.
You could look at all of this quite negatively, or you could see the opportunity, from a brand perspective, to exhibit, enable and explore the new options for rebellious Gen Z youth. Fight the data, man!
2. Living room-ready VR
Most people have heard of virtual reality, but it’s been stuck in unrealistic reality for years… until two weeks ago. A clear signal that VR is about to go mass surfaced at E3 tech festival, which saw a 350 per cent rise in A/R & VR exhibitors compared to none in 2013. The ability for brands to tell immersive stories with virtual reality is no longer a fantasy: it’s coming to a phone, piece of cardboard, YouTube video or living room near you.
- Always dreamed of fighting Darth Vader with your light saber? On guard!
- Wondering how to solve a mystery with an interactive film? Try chasing the criminal down an alley in this 360 degree YouTube video that becomes interactive on mobile.
- Feeling fat? Strap on that Oculus Rift. Wait. Climb on your aerial flying machine first, then put on your Oculus Rift, and the machine will work your body as you fly around a virtual world like a bird. Cuh ca those calories away.
3. Robot fact and fiction
We track a trend called ‘Robots Everywhere’ because robots are rapidly evolving from novelty helpers to androids rather quickly. This month, we’ve seen a host of robot-human interactions that say more about our psychological strengths/dependencies of our species than the robots themselves.
- While some people were having sex on the red carpet at Cannes or receiving awards, Dentsu was showing off its celebrity android based on Japan's popular cross-dressing TV host Matsuko Deluxe called Matsuko-Roid. At only $100,000 to build, these androids could solve a lot of paparazzi problems. Or create some splendid entertainment.
- More from Japan: the first robot wedding occurred complete with a kiss, kind of. And funerals are being held for Sony Aibo pet robots that are so old now, Sony is refusing to repair them. Their owners are freaking out as their poor, adorable circuits short circuit for good.
- Drone robots have been busy too. Supervising exams in China and delivering abortion medication from the safety of Germany to Poland, where it’s illegal to take it.
- In the UK, another thrilling Channel 4 science fiction show called Humans launched with a mockumentary website and film about its stars: Persona Synthetics Androids.
4. Pets for hire
Next time you’re looking for a new job, watch out because a pet might be trying to get it too. Cats, and yes dogs, have been taking on a variety of human roles this month… all for our pleasure. As we see more and more animals take on human tasks, we are expanding our definition of ‘Modern Family’ to include personified hairy beasts whilst ‘Flattening’ our workforce all at once. How they perform, of course, is an experiment in our ever-growing appetite for ‘Absurdism’.
- A world first: a cat was hired as the communications director of catbox.ro, a Romanian gift website. Bossy likes to wear suits and even has secretaries but his power grows every day with hilarious Instagram posts detailing his benevolence and numerous responsibilities.
- Tired of your local newsreader? In Japan, 7-11 started a bank and naturally hired a dog named Shibao Inuyama to host the business show, tie and all. Sensing a tie theme here.
- Is all this too much for you? Do you need an old fashioned game of chess? Well Yoko Ono just made a chess game for iOS where the pieces are different breeds of dogs and 20 per cent of the net purchase price for Doggie Chess will be donated animal rescue organisations.
5. Sensory education on the rise
Learning has never been so… sensual. This month, world technology leaders, and a few brands, have been going out of their way to make learning more stimulating. Through a combination of extrasensory experiments, students, and the rest of us, are getting opportunities to truly experience something foreign with all our senses.
When Thalys Trains wanted to encourage travel between the European cities of Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels, it started documenting each city, sonically. Thousands of sounds were captured per city and stored in special interactive billboards where you could listen to every sound from canal boats to French intimacy.
If you’re a teacher, there are three very cool tools now at your disposal for training curious young minds.
- The digital DIY lego-type video game called Minecraft is now offering teacher tutorials to help educators use it explain mathematics, social studies, history and architecture.
- Google Cardboard, the fold-together , phone-powered VR devices, are helping children learn about other cultures by traveling to them in virtual reality. It won the Cannes Grand Prix in mobile.
- And finally, Apple U is releasing features for teachers to communicate with students, handle homework and incorporate educational apps into their course materials. Hurray, more borderless, after hours homework!
Alison Bracegirdle is a creative content strategist at sparks & honey