frog Voices
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frog Voices

Trends 2021: Views from Across the frog Pond

Over the last decade, our annual Trends Report has identified some of the most innovative, disruptive and socially impactful technological advances of the year and projected them forward, providing a glimpse into the immediate future of technology, business and design as seen by frogs from around the world. While some of our narrower predictions from across the decade have yet to be realized, many of the reports’ recurrent themes are undeniably reshaping our world — from the rise of deeply immersive consumer tech and experiences to the growing role of AI in industries as diverse as finance, medicine and transportation.

With COVID-19, however, the world has changed in ways that would have seemed unthinkable only a year ago. The pandemic shattered some technological trend lines, strengthened others, and struck at many of the most fundamental pre-pandemic assumptions of our collective social and economic reality. That’s why, for our tenth annual Trends report, we asked frogs to embrace speculation and gaze more deeply through the looking glass. Instead of merely anticipating technologies, we asked them to articulate a larger vision of how they might define our uncertain future.

frogs took up the challenge, submitting dozens of ideas about what our personal, professional and public lives might look like in 2021 and beyond. Ultimately, Trends 2021 featured a combination of concepts that together envisioned the social and technological evolution of three fundamental forces of life during the coronavirus pandemic: remote technology, individualized realities and the ethical foundations of our economy.

Designs submitted by frogs across the globe for the 2021 Trends Report

While the final report was only able to feature a small percentage of the submissions, there were five larger themes among the responses that speak to other possible trends frogs are watching in 2021 and beyond.

Changing values

While the growth of the global economy over the course of the 20th century has produced greater prosperity than the world has ever seen, it has also produced some of our most intractable social and environmental challenges. Many submissions imagined fundamental shifts in the way we measure economic productivity and success in order to incentivize long-term sustainability over short-term growth. Others predict the growth of values-based businesses and consumer banking will drive the global financial system toward more sustainable instruments and investments, while metrics such as a “personal sustainability score” and new consumer transparency tools will help individuals make more ecological choices in their daily lives.

The future of work

The coronavirus pandemic forced a reckoning on the issue of remote work, and now there’s no turning back. Many of this year’s submissions conceptualized products and systems that make remote collaboration more seamless and efficient, or experiences to help support team culture and morale when everyone is working in physical isolation.

In response to the corporate world’s unprecedented statements of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, frog New York’s Amanda Villareal imagines powerful new data and visualization platforms to help measure and hold organizations accountable to their DEI goals. Such platforms could serve to “increase transparency and trust across their organization and brand” while providing leaders “clear pictures of their employee demographics and the overall DEI ‘health’ of an organization.”

Responding to COVID

The coronavirus pandemic shaped nearly every facet of our lives in 2020, but in 2021 we may see advances that help us regain some of what we’ve lost, or create new social systems altogether. At the most basic level, it is easy to imagine businesses beyond restaurants providing their normal services outdoors, or the implementation of devices and software to more closely monitor, track, and exchange biometric and viral data, enabling safer social interactions and more efficient contact tracing and outbreak mapping.

The longer it takes to bring the pandemic under control, however, the more likely we are to see radical shifts in technology, such as expressive full-face “masks using neural cell network[s] to map and replicate what is under them…that can be worn as fashion, be used for creative expression and to project fluid identities.”

Immersive experiences

Consumer technologies and experiences were on the path toward deep immersion long before COVID, but with the additional push toward remote capabilities and platforms they’re likely to make a giant leap forward. Some of this immersion might happen in connected physical spaces, where we control integrated smart appliances and devices entirely through movement and gesture. But some submissions also imagined the possibility of immersing ourselves more deeply in augmented or alternate realities, either by projecting our virtual lives onto the physical world, or through the increasingly plausible sci-fi technology of direct computer-neural interfaces.

The new mobility

Personal electric scooters are already commonplace in many major cities, and more durable, efficient, and design-forward iterations are surely on the horizon. Alongside and above them, armies of drones will be deployed to solve the problem of “final foot” delivery for residents of high rises and apartment complexes. In a future of ongoing remote work and social restrictions, we could also see the marriage of wireless, solar and autonomous vehicle technologies to enable a new nomadic era through next-generation eco-RVs.

Follow the trends

These are just some of the revolutionary ideas and designs frogs are keeping their eyes on in 2021 and beyond. To stay up to date on the latest trends in the world of design and technology, subscribe to the Design Mind frogcast, available everywhere you get your podcasts. In the latest episode, frog VP of Sales, Marketing and Strategy Patrick Kalaher discusses the Trends 2021 report and how frog aims to predict the future by design.

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