Your cellphone, as you see it right now, was the first step for us to be fully wired into the internet. Sure, it might still be a separate product from you, but you wouldn’t know it if you look at the people around you. People are keeled over their phones - plugged in. We have companies working to put technology on your body - as close as possible. Smartwatches, google glass, smart shirts. Smart shoes. And now, Virtual Reality. 2016 seems like it will be the year where VR finally arrives to the general consumer space.
You can play out the progression from here - VR will continue to get better and more immersive - more companies will jump into the space offering more and more unique experiences. With the advent and eventual proliferation of self driving cars, we won’t need to look at the road. You can wake up - drink some Soylent get in your Tesla, pop on your latest VR headset (if it hasn’t been integrated into your eyes yet) and go to the office. Or you can just work from home and skip the drive altogether.
In summary - the world is going to be online - more virtual and digital. With increased automation, and increased services - will people appreciate tangible products? Will anyone still appreciate the beauty of an Eames chair when they can just pop on their headset and virtually walk through Paris? Will people spend any time or effort to create beautiful homes if they can just rent a chair and be plugged in all day? Will industrial design and beautiful (tangible, real) products still exist?
I’d argue that physical products will continue to have a relevance in our future for a long time to come - in the same way that books still exist in an increasingly digital world. In the last decade we’ve seen the rise of digital consumption devices, free online services and seen the prices of those services decrease over time. In the same timeframe there’s been a resurgence in print media. Notice how no one is saying that “Print is Dead” anymore? It’s beyond that - Print has adapted to become more meaningful and more relevant. It has adapted to do things that digital just can’t do.
With the next phase of products coming from smaller, more connected brands and the rise of personal brands - I think we’ll see a resurgence in tangible products. It’s already happening if you look for it. Smaller companies are coming back and going local. They’re creating products with meaning - and it’s resonating. The next phase is going to be interesting.
I welcome the next phase. But, VR won’t trump the physical world. There’s too much real to lose. And real is about to get real good.
This series of content is a small experiment. I pledged to create a piece of content on my site for the next 365 days. You can read the opening post here. The posts aren’t limited to thoughts or ideas, they’re really just a way for me to create original content. If you got any feedback/questions, please reach out. Thanks for looking.