What’s trending in 2023?
frogs around the world imagine what’s next
It’s Trends time! We’ve tapped into our collective imagination to give an insight into the ways frogs across the pond see 2023 and beyond developing. Each of the trends we’ll be sharing has inspired vigorous, productive and lively debate. What they all have in common is that they inspire not just passion amongst our frogs, but a clear sense of where the newest opportunity areas lie for our partners, for people and for the planet.
Read on to explore the trends that we see coming into the fore in 2023:
Spotted by Anne Greenberg (Senior Consultant, London), Ben Ellsworth (Interaction Designer II, Austin), Ed Bolton (Creative Director, London) and David Zemanek (NA Head of Go-to-Market, San Francisco)
Over the last several decades, we’ve become more and more comfortable offloading certain tasks to AI. As a result, AI has been steadily emerging across endless applications, making its way into our homes, vehicles and workplaces: from customer service chatbots, talking virtual assistants and autonomous vehicles to machine learning embedded into digital services and even clinical diagnosis. And it shows no sign of stopping, projected to grow at a rate of 31.9% over the next five years. Yet, however sophisticated, it’s long been assumed that AI will always lack one precious ability that can never be trained: creativity.
Enter the newest evolution of Creative AI. From text to image to video to music to 3D virtual environments, the use of AI for explicitly creative purposes is accelerating fast. DALL–E, an OpenAI platform that generates digital images from prompts written in natural language, became open to the public in 2022 and is giving any interested party a taste for generative AI. In fact, throughout this Trends takeover, you’ll see how we’ve used DALL-E to create custom images — and get a look behind the scenes to see the text prompts we used to inspire its one-of-a-kind creations.
Suddenly, AI-generated images from the likes of DALL-E, Stable Diffusion and Midjourney are finding their way everywhere, from magazine covers to memes, both celebrating its successes and critiquing some of its wildest creations. But it’s not only images that are having an AI-powered renaissance. Chat-based interfaces are becoming increasingly convincing. A growing catalog of new AI video generators are interpreting text prompts, audio and other recordings to create completely new video outputs.
Rather than replacing creative workers, designers, artists, writers, technologists and world-builders of all types are increasingly augmenting their outputs with Creative AI. In a business context, this means scaling creativity into all parts of the organization. Gone will soon be the days when creative agencies are slowed down by the time-intensive process of creating multiple variations of assets. Instead, creative workers will be able to deploy AI at scale, freeing them to focus on ideation as well as novel formats and experiences.
Creative expression is core to what makes us human. It’s the ability to be inspired, imagine, experiment and realize a vision. While more innate or particularly nurtured in some, creativity as a skillset is a tool to be sharpened by all humans. It requires the willingness to be bold, curious and at times even vulnerable — all traits not commonly considered in machines. However, today’s generative AI will democratize creative skillsets in a powerful way, aiding even the least creatively inclined professionals to bring a completely new idea to digital life. As more companies begin to offer these tools to their staff, it will have big implications on the current state of creative processes and practices.
Like any emergent tech application, there’s both a bright and dark side to the introduction of AI into creative spheres. On the one hand, generative AI can improve communication, enable more personalized experiences, speed up production and encourage more experimental expression. On the other hand, people could easily use this technology to deceive others, whether in lying about “natural” abilities, creating so-called “deepfakes” to falsify real moments in time or otherwise using these tools to completely misrepresent themselves. Of course, somewhere in the murky middle are all the nuances and questions that come with challenging traditional notions of value, identity and digital ownership. No matter what side overshadows the other, in this newest evolution of Creative AI, it will be up to the humans to determine what machines are truly qualified — and trusted — to do.
Spotted by Megan Nesbeth (Associate Strategy Director, New York) and Luke Hopkinson (Associate Consultant, London)
More of us are working from home than ever before, and it is predicted that 22% of the U.S. workforce will be remote by 2025. The growth of home-as-workplace has raised questions around the future of work — but something that hasn’t been fully considered is what this will mean for the future of the home.
The dust of the pandemic is settling, and people are now making choices about what learnings and new habits they’ll integrate into their new normal. Negotiations between employers and employees are ongoing over the conditions surrounding hybrid working. Those who relocated during the pandemic must decide whether to make it a permanent move.
The WFH trend is converging with virtual reality tech to reposition the domestic realm as a portal to other dimensions of our lives. In a recent survey of virtual entertainment users, the most cited benefit of online experiences was the “ability to stay at home,” by 45% of those surveyed. The second most common answer, by 41% of respondents, was to “be able to experience things in faraway places.” Metaverse has become “shorthand for a more immersive internet where we’ll be able to work, play and socialize on a persistent platform.”
Hype is growing around Apple’s AR/VR headset, which is expected to launch in the first half of 2023. With AR/VR wearables poised for the mainstream, our homes will become core access sites and HQs for virtual realities, making our living spaces unrecognizable.
IoT (Internet of Things) already populates our houses. There are predicted to be nearly 500 million smart homes globally by 2025. Next-gen IoT will be metaverse-embedded, encompassing more embodied and immersive experiences. AR wearables will enable the individual to open worlds, fictional characters and social interactions within any room in the home. Someone wishing to see a Taylor Swift concert in London could use VR tech to join millions all around the world in an immersive experience.
Archetypes of engagement with the homes of the future are yet to emerge — understanding the new ways we’ll think about, and engage with, our homes will be fundamental and instructive for what’s to come. Mark Zuckerberg claims that one day we will all “live” in the metaverse. But, in reality, where we’ll actually live (and increasingly work, play and explore) is in our homes.
Spotted by Samara Watkiss (Associate Design Director and Sustainability Lead, Austin) and Alan Luna (frog Alum, Mexico City)
With the growth of virtual health spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, mental wellness and technology have become increasingly intertwined. This comes at a time when existential threats like public health, war and the climate crisis are dominating headlines worldwide — and causing psychological distress. To fight feelings of powerlessness and promote overall wellbeing, people are seeking experiences that leave them feeling empowered to take positive action.
A key focus for the intersection of technology and wellness will be on creating an immersive environment that encompasses sound, light and visual design — augmenting the realm of the senses into a brand-new dimension: Sense X. The new super-sensory world will help soothe, inspire, motivate and heal people at the various stages of their respective wellness journeys. By merging therapy with a well-designed UI and sensory stimuli (such as calming sounds and visuals), the lives of millions could be improved.
One key part of this shift will be the utilization of sensory processing, defined as the way the body receives and interprets incoming stimuli via the senses, within mental health treatment. This is where digital tools can add unprecedented new depth through virtual reality and other immersive techniques.
We’ll also see the continued emergence of alternative mental health therapies inspired by nature, such as with the use of psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in certain mushrooms. Companies like COMPASS Pathways are performing clinical trials using psilocybin that conduct sensory-driven sessions in guided, digitally aided environments.
Outside of the clinical sphere, media organizations are already taking full advantage of the digital shift that COVID-19 has accelerated. Apps like Calm use audio storytelling to help calm and soothe its customers, whereas Headspace uses meditation practice in time-controlled blocks to help users with their wellness journeys. Smaller apps such as Bearable help users track their moods to gain insights about their conditions. In the physical sphere, art exhibits across the globe are seeking immersive tech to inform and entertain, as well as to create an ambiance that stimulates a sense of wellness.
Sensory processing is a field still in development, as is therapy transmitted via wellness brands and in a non-medical setting. What’s present here is a movement to unlock something that can be revolutionary for people of all ages with mental health issues, or anyone who is feeling fatigued by the overwhelming challenges facing our world. Sense X is so close we can almost feel it.
Spotted by Kuldeep Jangid (Lead Experience Designer, Melbourne) and Stephanie Costa (Associate Strategy Director, San Francisco)
We humans are increasingly becoming tired of the noise that defines the algorithm-based social media microcosm. Instead of simulating the splendor of rich IRL experiences, today’s popular social media platforms are still shaped from remnants of Web2’s heyday, which has involved routinely engaging users in experiences that now are considered by many to be too loud, too polarizing and too difficult to trust.
Web3’s decentralization model is currently tearing through the tech spectrum, directly influencing this social media shift and taking us back to experiences that encourage deeper human-to-human interaction. This shift will be marked by the decline of social networking as a public broadcast. Instead, we’ll see the rise of online micro communities — many that will be centered around bringing people together in physical spaces for IRL connections.
The need for authentic, interactive and human-centered experiences will dominate. Open-source, community-driven social platforms, such as Mastodon, are already having a moment in the wake of Elon Musk’s recent acquisition of Twitter — with one million-plus monthly active users, and inspiring new tools to ease the transition from one platform to another.
A 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that “with the exception of YouTube and Reddit, most [social media] platforms have shown little growth since 2019.” This outcome points to the fact that tastes and needs are changing, and platforms are struggling to keep up. It’s also possible that spaces like Reddit have been able to grow because they are actively monitored by engaged, communicative and community-driven moderators, unlike other forums that put all content moderation behind the scenes.
Web3 emerges just in time. Our desire for private, human-centered experiences is burrowing the path for a new social media interaction that offers the heightened human involvement we seek. Expect Web3 builders and designers to craft the bells and whistles destined to revolutionize social media and bring extraordinary transformative experiences to users, creators and brands. We see the great social media shift back to smaller communities happening already, especially seen in the context of NFTs.
Web2 brought us social media as a means for sharing content with billions of people. In the realm of Web3, however, the media in social media evolves beyond the “public square.” In Web3, pockets of people will engage in more intimate, human-centered, meaningful communities devoid of the inauthentic, shallow connections that typify today’s social media orbit.
Spotted by Ryan Starling (Design Director, San Francisco)
At long last, market penetration and usability of consumer 3D printers is rapidly growing. Open-source repositories of downloadable part designs for tools, repairs and objects are easy to find — not to mention the extensive libraries of free, self-learning videos with plenty of help in finding inspiration and troubleshooting the subject. Meanwhile, consumer brands like IKEA and LEGO are already getting into the game by offering official 3D-printable products, enabling customers to engage with these brands in new, more ownable ways.
For decades, 3D printing has been primarily used for prototyping in industrial environments, but printers are increasingly finding their way into homes. This is bringing a revolution in materials and inspiring more “out there” use cases, such as the first 3D-printed house made entirely with bio-based materials and a 3D-printed hybrid cargo ebike-city car. We are nearing the tipping point where 3D printing tech is sufficiently accessible for consumers to customize, print and assemble their own products. This year, Black Friday deals abounded with discounts on 3D printers — it costs less than ever to get into 3D printing, with printers available for under $200.
With a 21% CAGR, the 3D printing market is predicted to be worth over $70 billion USD by 2030. 3D printing has been described by GE as the “Uberization of manufacturing, where supply can be accessed anywhere in the world to produce goods at the click of button.” 3D printing will lead to a D2C manufacturing boom that could find physical stores reserved for generic goods, with customized 3D-printed options shipped directly to homes as a kit of parts.
The rise of 3D printing will bring the new DIY wave: decentralized, democratized micro production on a mass scale. This could theoretically endow users with the ability to manufacture anything from a single brick to an entire city block through sophisticated yet accessible 3D printers.
Spotted by Liam Ahern (Senior Service Designer, London)
So-called “superapps” are set to become either more super or more dangerous, depending on who you ask. To some, integrating services into one ecosystem is the height of convenience. To others, the threat of turning over all digital services into a single ecosystem prioritizes profits for big internet giants over building out a diverse marketplace. Whichever camp you fall into, let’s take a tour of the planet of the superapps.
Despite brand transparency becoming more important than ever, an increasing amount of superapp ecosystems are becoming “walled gardens” — that is to say, once you’re in, you can only access the app’s tools inside of the ecosystem. For other tools that aren’t native to the app, you can always leave and seek out the competition. But why do so when everything you need is right there?
This goes beyond one app and one set of features. This is about entire industries and sectors building walled gardens meant to keep their users inside. Apps such as WeChat in China and Line in Japan have very specific goals on this front: to be a huge part of customers’ daily lives. WeChat founder Allen Zheng claims that he wants his app to be “a lifestyle,” while Line’s mission claims upfront that it wants to become the ever-present “life infrastructure” for its users. Beyond China and Japan, Cobee looks to be a superapp for employee benefits in Spain and Facebook is looking to keep US users in its ecosystem when they shop.
While it’s clear why at least a select group of companies want this, do the customers they hope to attract do as well? Studies show that 72% of global consumers are indeed ready for superapps. This growing phenomenon will have larger ethical implications far beyond the utilization of one single app’s feature versus another. It’s important to ask ourselves a key question here: how much control do we want to give one app, one developer or one company over our lives? Apps like these provide such conveniences at a cost, including monitoring your location and exploiting personal data.
So, will the planet of the superapps be a utopia or dystopia? Whether or not superapps can strike the balance of convenience versus customer privacy remains to be seen.