6 emerging digital trends that we think are exciting

1. Virtual Reality

Whilst it’s been touted for more than 30 years, the commercialization of virtual reality now seems to be coming to fruition. Whether it’s being driven by Moore’s Law or Zuckerburg’s imagination, it’s hard to ignore the momentum that’s building.

What’s more, for everyone that’s had even the briefest of experiences with a Google Cardboard, it’s easy to see how immersive and impressive the new technology is. By being able to look around and explore the scene that unfolds in front of you — whilst still being led through a particular route — gives you the best of both the directed and experiential approaches to story telling.

Rumours abound about major broadcasters developing some of their most valuable commodities into immersive programming. Significant Hollywood production companies are already experimenting with how to build the next generation of movies — based more on how gamers traverse their worlds and the production skills of immersive theatre, than the original sound stages of Tinseltown.

2. Brands, messaging and your Gran

With their introduction of Facebook Messenger for Business, the social media giant has shown that it wants to consolidate functionality sitting in other apps and services, into its own.

Whilst the first generation of mobile software development was all about giving users new experiences using new interfaces they hadn’t seen before, the next generation could be about getting out of the way and allowing people to do what they want from a single place.

Picture the scenario — would your grandmother rather launch OpenTable, CityMapper and then Uber on a Saturday afternoon, fiddling about with their different interfaces and designs? Or would she rather txt “The Facebook” and say, “Can you get me a table at the Harlequin for 5:30pm, tell me the best way to get there and then book me a cab home please?”

3. Facebook, YouTube and 360 degrees

Millions of words have been sacrificed in illustrating how much Facebook want to get in on the digital video act, that up until now has been the sole vestige of Mr Brin and Mr Page.

Realistically, this is a battle that’s only just beginning. Facebook has started to truly compete in the space with its auto play driven impressions of John Lewis ads, Republican debates and Rugby World Cup highlights. It hasn’t got the same video to video discovery that powers YouTube, but you have to wonder whether it needs it given how much time we all spend discovering content within our personal News feeds.

The ace up Facebook’s sleeve though could be the expertise it brought on board with its acquisition of the Oculus Rift team. By getting ahead in terms of adoption for its 360 degree video where you can tilt and rotate your way through the latest content from premium creators — the platform could differentiate itself from YouTube in the minds of publishers and most importantly, advertisers.

4. Crowdfunding all the things

If you are a business that relies on deep customisation or launching innovative products, then by pushing people to pre-order then you can reduce your need for start up cash.

Whilst Kickstarter has long been doing this for big tech projects, soon it will be 100% standard for new SMEs to approach crowdfunding websites rather than the banks when looking to get off the ground.

This is driven by the accessibility of the capital market, but also the fact that it relies on the business owner’s ability to drum up support for their product. This doesn’t cost any actual cash, just their time.

Those that will be successful will be the ones who can communicate a vision whilst also designing quality products and services. At the moment this may be limited to t-shirt companies, pop up restaurants and independent video games, but it won’t be long before local businesses get in on the act.

Whether it’s a local butcher getting in a particularly rare cut of meat, your son’s band trying to produce their first recording or the local pantomime booking a particularly expensive C-list celebrity for this year’s production, there are opportunities all over the place.

5. The end of MVP?

For those in the digital industry, or perhaps more accurately those that are reliant on its outputs, the term MVP often brings a sigh. It is meant to mean the smallest and least risky output that is needed to prove or disprove your assumptions about the digital product you are developing.

However, many people’s experience is that it is the smallest thing the dev team would build for you — with the promises of ongoing work, but that ends up being left to gather dust whilst other more exciting projects are prioritized.

In our mind, there will be a new breed of agency, development team and project. They will take the best bits of waterfall and the ‘certainty’ of quality that it tries to bring and the ability of Agile to flex to new requirements and they will build products that meet not just the needs of the consumer, but also the needs of a business.

6. Self Driving cars, Uber and public transport

Sooner or later, self driving cars will become common place. Sure, it’ll take a while and most likely start with the luxury market first, but eventually it’ll just make sense to take the control of our most deadly weapon out of our hands.

When this happens, various algorithms, companies and future facing local authorities will realise that they can do a better job of mass transit than buses — they can do door to door car-pooling at an industrial scale.

Uber are already making noise about this, and the ability to reduce car ownership by the increasing efficiency that this gives — their estimates put it at $0.15 / mile vs private ownership of $1.60 / mile. The University of Austin has also predicted up to a 65% reduction in cars on the road using this type of approach.

Time will tell, but it seems unlikely that your journey to work will look the same in 20 years time than it does today.