Decoding Next: Five trends you need to know including: Robots, living room-ready VR, pets for hire and the rise of sensory education

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.

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.

Facts:

Fiction:

  • 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’.

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.

Alison Bracegirdle is a creative content strategist at sparks & honey