Bothered by that homeless man? Erase him with augmented reality!

Ericsson Consumer Trends Report 2017
Neal Romanek
January 3rd 2017 at 9:59AM : By Neal Romanek

Ericsson's new survey on consumer tech trends and sees more connectedness, less privacy and a Google University Hospital with Home Security Bolt-on

Ericsson has released a report based on a 2016 survey of urban web-heads from around the globe. Among the tech advanced internet users are looking forward to were the ability to use augmented reality glasses to paint over disturbing elements in the environment and the possibility of an Artificial Intelligence as the head of a company - or even a country.

For "10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2017", Ericsson ConsumerLab quizzed 7138 advanced internet users aged 15-69 in Berlin, Chicago, Jakarta, Johannesburg, London, Mexico City, Moscow, New York, San Francisco, São Paulo, Shanghai, Tokyo and Toronto. The gender distribution of these early adopters was not published in the report.

So what do we have to look forward to?

1. AI everywhere: Almost half of the respondents were concerned about the unemployment promised by increasing use of Artificial Intelligence. Still, 35% said they had no problem with having and AI advisor at work, and one in four would be fine with an AI as their manager. And 20% of the advanced internet users would be willing to have an AI as the leader of their country. Whether this AI would be democratically elected by humans, appointed by an elite council of fellow AI's, or seize power in an algorithmic coup wasn't indicated. 

2. Increased integration with Internet of Things: With smartphones becoming the magic wands with which we control our entire lives, Ericsson's report sees wearables and smartphone apps increasingly integrated into the hardware around us. 75% of respondents believed multiple wearables and sensors will soon be a regular part of their interaction with domestic devices. But almost half of said they spend too much time in front of computer and smartphone screens.

3. Autonomous cars and the pedestrians they miss: No doubt about it, 2016 got people excited by the idea of autonomous cars (or as we like to call them - tiny buses that only you and your friends get to ride on). But while the report agreed that the interest in driverless driving will explode - particularly for deliveries (farewell, Pizza Man), the report suggested that navigation tech used for autonomous cars should also improve pedestrian safety, warning you about obstacles or hazards ahead.

4. Merged reality: Almost four out of five virtual reality users believe VR will be indistinguishable from reality and will be used as commonly as the internet within three years. And you thought transporting 8K video was going to be a challenge? 

5. Bodies out of sync: Our out-of-body future is going to make us feel nauseated. There will be drugs for this however.

6. The smart device safety paradox: More than half of respondents use emergency alarms, tracking or notifications on their smartphones for greater safety. But three in five say their phones enable them to take greater risks - which is what the best technology is for.

7. Social silos: As 2016 made painfully clear, people now get panicked when exposed to viewpoints that they don't already possess. The Ericsson report suggests this isn't going to go away, given the current information ecosystem. The report noted that search and recommendation algorithms have been accused of keeping users from coming across news and information beyond their own interests. Ask your dad to tell you about the days when he accidentally stumbled on a great show on the telly or a new band on the radio. 

8. Augmented personal reality: Over half of people would like to use augmented reality glasses to illuminate dark surroundings and highlight dangers. More than one in three would also like to edit out disturbing elements around them. Rose-colored glasses are one way of solving your problems.

9. The privacy divide: One in three respondents said that privacy is over and that in the future all information about people, organizations and governments will be publicly available. The report didn't detail whether that extended to businesses, but my guess is that the world's tech giants won't be opening up their servers to us for inspection any time soon. 

10. Big tech for all (or the Weyland-Yutani effect): More than two out of five advanced internet users surveyed would like to get all their products from the biggest five IT companies. They see the potential for a Google or Apple to rent housing, provide hospitals and care for the elderly, run schools and universities, and secure your home - also provide you with internet and broadband service. Of those, three in four believe this expansion will happen in five years time.

So no jetpacks yet or trips to Mars - in fact, that's old school, physical world thinking. The future according to Ericsson is one where the whole universe comes to you - virtually and maybe more thrilling than the real thing.

However, the most important trend is missing from Ericsson's list, but we hope it's in the air too:

11. Creativity, wisdom and generosity in technology use

Technologies are tools - their purpose is to empower people. If we see this new tech landscape solely as just a business as usual step in an ever evolving marketplace, we'll never be throwing away a tremendous opportunity. We'll end up with our same old ideas, repackaged for new gear.

We are undergoing a profound leap in how we interact with the world and each other. Get the tools in well-educated hands, encourage new ways of developing and exchanging ideas, and consumers might not just be entertained and distracted (like they need more of that), but empowered in ways we can't yet even imagine.