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Alexey Kulakov

Hybrids Time

Not all technologies meet the expectations assigned to them. But when they do, they are able to change our world beyond all recognition. About what trends determine the interaction between humans and the digital world, whether refrigerators will disappear and when programs will learn to predict human behavior tells Alexey Kulakov, well-known UX designer, general director of digital production JetStyle and product director for publishing services Ridero.

Ecosystems of the digital world

There are several ecosystems in the digital world, the development dynamics of which affect the interface environment.

  1. Ecology of a search engine. Any website lies in the search pool. To the website, like with a flow of a river, a search engine brings a user. An important point — when we think about the Internet, we represent it as a “territory”. In my opinion, a “flow” is a much more relevant metaphor.
  2. Social networks. They are more encapsulated, concentrated inward and tend to be a closed world. All flows of interactions in them are implemented by built-in tools.
  3. Messengers. They have their own specifics, their impact and their infrastructure, which is created for them mainly by Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and also Xiaomi and Samsung.
What happens to these ecosystems? What changes in the digital landscape are ahead and how do they affect our lives?

Trend #1. Ecology competition for IT giants

A lot in IT life is determined by competition for the user among the major market players. Once Microsoft was almost a monopolist. Practically everything that existed at that time functioned on their operating system, and we accessed the Internet through their browser. Since then, many more layers have appeared. Today, the main control points are approximately the following:

  • those who make a device,
  • those who develop an operating system,
  • those who own the program in which we make more interactions,
  • those who deliver material objects to us.

Each major player seeks to contain the client within its ecology (so that, getting into interaction at one of the levels, he would remain there) and uses different models:

  • Google’s model is built on its own search engine. In Russia, a similar model is implemented by Yandex;
  • Amazon model is based on the store, while Amazon is actively entering the territory of search engines;
  • Apple model, which is based on devices and operating system;
  • WeChat model, in which the browser plays the role of a super application and in fact it is the main infrastructure for all interactions.

Competition will remain sharp, the number of layers will increase and the structure of their elements will become more complicated. For example, 15 years ago it was enough to control only the operating system. And after, let's say, 5 years, the fleet of devices per user will include:

  • home terminal (and not necessarily it will be a desktop),
  • phone,
  • wearable electronics devices,
  • VR and MR devices,
  • smart home,
  • personal vehicle.
And this is only if you do not take into account healthcare. And each of these devices is important not in itself, but as part of a holistic experience for the person using them.

There is a separate trend here connected with the struggle of three forces — states, corporations and communities of IT developers. Legislative practice and network protocols will mainly determine what data can be recorded and who will manage it. But it’s still difficult to predict the outcome.

Trend #2. The integration of people and global retail, that is changing our lifestyle

In connection with the development of personal electric transport, the logistics of the “last mile” changed a lot, the problem of traffic jams was partially solved and it became possible to deliver goods within 15 minutes in big cities.This quick shipping was actively used by companies such as Amazon, Yandex, etc.

The speed factor can significantly affect many living habits of people in the near future — since the right product can be delivered to you quickly and it does not need to be stored or cooked at home. When people finally get used to this lifestyle, refrigerators and even kitchens may disappear from their apartments. In a couple of decades, the concept of a home can change dramatically thanks to reliable, fast and predictable delivery.

Against this background, stores will increasingly penetrate the daily lives of people, so there will be an integration of people with global retail. This is a fairly large trend that is already observed in megacities, for example, in Moscow.

Trend #3. Drones: everything is ready, except habits and laws

The idea of personal electric transport and the human mobility concept, in general, will change in the next 10 years. It is still unclear whether personal aerial drones will appear in the pedestrian zone and when self-driving machines will become a common thing. Nowadays, there is a lot of scepticism on this subject because these changes will require not only a technological leapfrogging but also a revision of human habits, culture and legislation.

Most likely in 5 years technologies will be ready for this, but it is not clear whether society will be ready and whether governments will allow it. A lot of ethical, economic and social problems await us in this industry, because there is a lot of hinging on the transfer.

Trend #4. Strengthening the interpenetration of the education system and business

To meet the demand in the personnel market, universities will integrate more with business in educational practice, because business is interested in university graduates who have already interacted with its usual work environment. But in order to teach a student something in practice, he needs to be provided with an adequate project environment, but more importantly, access to qualified feedback. In the university, this role is called the “project mentor”, and today it is an enormous deficit.

At the same time, the more the university is interacting with business, the better it copes with this barrier — because it can attract business experts as mentors for students and adopt best practices. For example, we at JetStyle have close relations with the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science of the University of Tyumen and Institute of Radioelectronics and Information Technologies of the Ural Federal University, since these departments produce developers.

On the other hand, the business also will have to transform its processes into an educational environment. In order to retain a specialist, a company must become educational in its structure and constantly develop employee skills. This is essential for companies that work in the field of innovation.

Trend #5. Replacing custom digital product development with a turnkey product maintenance

New services replace entire types of industries. For example, programmers are no longer needed to create corporate websites — there are special solutions like Tilda. Today, the production of a simple website is a creation of relevant content first of all, because all the technical part has already been solved with the prepared solution. One competent UX designer is enough. Replacing custom development with cheaper turnkey solutions is a constant trend in almost any technological field. An individual development at the beginning requires large resources, but after a while the number of roles required for the implementation of the project decreases.

On the other hand, the technological landscape is constantly changing — and engineers have to develop new individual integration solutions. This constantly requires maintaining a high level of technological expertise in the areas that have just appeared.

To do this, have a look at the Gartner curve, which reflects the current market expectations. Here I must warn you to not to rely on it as a forecasting tool, but this is a good digest for starting an autonomous study of trends.

Trend #6. The appearance of mixed reality

VR and AR technologies, as well as the emergence of mixed reality at their intersection, are another global trend. At the moment, VR is a location based technology, which means “anchored to the place”. Most often you will have to come to a specific place to use it, where helmets, full body VR devices, etc., are at your disposal.

For example, at JetStyle we have VR simulators for installers of 5G networks and Huawei logisticians. In this particular case, VR-technology allows you to significantly save on renting towers and organizing business trips, but in order to use it, you need to come to the office where the equipment is installed. By the way, we now have several contracts for transferring this experience to home use.

If you want to try the VR experience yourself, buy Oculus Quest. This device has already changed a lot in the market. Firstly, it doesn’t need a computer — it is worn on the head. Secondly, to move around, you do not need a controller, you can walk with your feet, and not with the joystick, so there is practically no sensory gap. Thirdly, it has four cameras and the tracker works very accurately, so the helmet can use your fingers as an input device. And finally, it is almost half the price of the iPhone flagship. All this makes it one of the most promising devices for home use.

There is only one question left — how fast will these devices penetrate households? Many experts believed that during the outbreak, VR would gain accelerated development. An additional local trigger was the release of Half-life: Alyx. However, this product increased sales of VR-helmets only by 2%, which is much less than market expectations.

There are some challenges for VR technology that have yet to be overcome. For example, modern serial devices do not have a tactile response (that’s why there are so few combat games in VR. You can feel how you were hit, but nothing will stop your hand when you strike back). A further leap in this direction will occur when a cheap stand-alone device appears that can be worn on the street without any inconvenience. And most importantly — get the opportunity to dynamically build 3D-models of objects in sight. When this happens, we will really face mixed reality — and then the familiar environment for working with information will change as radically as our experience has changed with the advent of the Internet. But, as always, culture and laws will lag behind technology.

Trend #7. Predictive Input development

I think that after 10 years the prevailing input method will be the machine prediction about what the person is going to do. This is already happening, just these predictions are used for very specific situations and affect very short time periods, as for example autosuggest. But the prospects of the machine predictive capabilities are much wider — from marketing solutions to security systems, etc.

Today when you give a command to a machine, you almost always do it consciously — typing on the keyboard or speaking out loud. In a world where the machine has learned to analyze gestures, facial expressions, voice tones and the history of interaction with a person, the fastest input method is to predict the next step of the user — before the user starts to take this step. This by the way leads us to a difficult moral question. If we can predict human behavior, then we can also control it. Therefore, there might be many regulation questions and the culture perception of such a symbiosis.

Instead of conclusion

The 21st century is one of blurring borders, and not only state ones. The line between online and offline is being diluted. The boundaries of organizations and the media are blurring. And even more, the boundaries of what we consider a personality are also getting blurred. Before we could confidently say that the border of a person runs along his skin or, at least, his clothes. And now it is not clear where our “self ends”. Because, for example, there is my profile on the social network — is it not me at all or just a little bit of me? And when I need to get my bearings, I use Google maps. Does this mean that Google is part of my memory? I have a thesis that we are all cyborgs already, we just have not noticed it yet — “non-invasive” cyborgs. And we will have more and more these “hybrid instincts”. This trend arose a long time ago and will only accelerate.