AT&T: Ten predictions for the next 25 years

Twenty-five years ago, AT&T created a marketing campaign based on predictions about how communications technology would change our lives. It turns out AT&T was pretty good at making predictions. In 1993, before cellular phones were mainstream, and smartphones put the world at our fingertips, AT&T’s “You Will” marketing campaign envisioned then-revolutionary concepts like streaming movies, wristwatches with integrated phones, and the ability to connect with loved ones wirelessly from the furthest reaches of the earth.

To commemorate the success of its prognostications, AT&T decided to take another look into its crystal ball to see how communications technology might continue to change our lives for the next quarter century. AT&T execs as well as futurists and tech experts are featured in a documentary video published by AT&T Nov. 28. Among the group’s predictions for the future:

1. A world where screens fade into the background and augmented information comes forward to enhance our personal interactions. “We’re going to be talking to each other instead of a device,” said Gray Scott, Futurist and Tech Philosopher.

2. Cities where buildings and office spaces become more virtual. “What if our buildings weren’t just four square walls and we build virtual glass walls that can constantly be computing and constantly taking us someplace else?” asked Hannah Beachler, a Production Designer.

3. Technology that will aid cities in being efficient, where everything is re-used and recycled in processes enabled by technologies like sensors embedded in sidewalks and other structures, said Michaela Rose, a Strategist and Technology Expert.

4. Entertainment will take on different dimensions. “We’re not going to worry about where the camera is, because the camera will be everywhere,” said Wayne Purboo, SVP Product Management, AT&T Entertainment Group.

5. Robots that move beyond routine tasks to create educational experiences and provide caretaking functions with emotional and personalized characteristics.

6. The ability to leave a lasting digital footprint. “I would have loved for my father to be able to teach my son baseball, but he had passed away already when my son was born. If I could use that kind of technology where he could be teaching my son how to pitch, that would be awesome,” said Alicia Abella, AT&T VP of Operational Automation and Program Management.

7. Smart clothing that can monitor your health and dispatch assistance via drones at the first sign of trouble. “That’s a technology that could save hundreds of lives,” said Scott, who also predicted nanobots could be deployed to release medicine or potentially fight disease. “That, to me, is going to change health care forever. It’s going to change the mortality rate in our country.”

8. The expansion of education to be more immersive and experiential through tools like digital contact lenses that could allow a classroom of students to go on field trips not just to the local zoo but to other parts of the world where they can experience wildlife on a virtual safari, for example, with augmented information about everything they see readily available.

9. The ability to shop for groceries from anywhere using tactile technologies that will allow people to virtually touch their produce and select the items they want. Shoppers may be able to try on clothes with a personal avatar loaded with their real-time measurements. “It knows exactly my size and I can see what I look like in those shoes with that outfit and if I like it, boom, it comes to me wherever I am,” said Beachler.

10. Transportation will become safer and less focused on actual driving. “An automobile is the second most expensive purchase households make and for the most part the car sits idle. No one will own a car in 25 years,” said Rashesh Patel, AT&T SEVP, Digital, Retail & Care. Autonomous cars will take over and traffic systems will be controlled by edge networks that could effectively reduce traffic accidents to almost zero.

Ultimately, many of the predictions offered by the group are focused on how technology can improve our health, make our lives better and safer, and create more opportunities for connections and interactions with other people in the real world. “We’ve gotten to a point today where maybe we’ve gone a little too far on the technology side because we are looking down a lot and we aren’t looking at the world around us,” said Abella. “It’s important to look at the world around us because it’s that world that inspires us to create that future technology.”