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FutureScapes ideas revealed: a product, a place, a platform, a philosophy – the concepts that might help shape our future

Press release   •   Jun 28, 2012 01:01 CEST

FutureScapes, an open collaboration project from Sony Europe and sustainability non-profit organisation Forum for the Future that sets out to explore the potential of technology and entertainment to create a better, more sustainable future, has today unveiled a first look at four technology concepts that might help us live more sustainable lives. The suite of concept ideas includes Wandular - a device that evolves with you for a lifetime; Hyper Village - exploring a rural ‘high tech and high nature’ lifestyle; the Internet of Things Academy - making coding and data accessible to everyone; and The Shift - a technology design philosophy that enhances wellbeing and is aligned with human needs.

The FutureScapes project has brought together an eclectic mix of people from across Europe - ranging from Forum for the Future and Sony technologists - to external experts including designers, NGOs, futurologists, ecologists, artists and authors. FutureScapes engaged with people in a range of creative and unusual ways, hosting a mass brainstorm, commissioning vloggers, holding an entrepreneurs breakfast and staging concepting workshops.

“With collaboration at its core FutureScapes sought to shake up the way people think about sustainability and technology. It’s not about predicting the future; instead it’s about getting better at imagining the possibilities. And that means putting people rather than isolated technologies or scientific data in the foreground, creating new connections to jolt us out of conventional ways of thinking. We’re really excited about the potential of these concepts and have set about connecting with others already working in these areas, in order to explore how FutureScapes can continue to evolve.” said Esther Maughan McLachlan, General Manager Sustainability, Sony Europe.

The four concepts to emerge include:

1) How can we sustainably feed our insatiable desire for more ‘stuff’, which constantly needs to be updated, renewed and replaced?

Wandular – a multi-functional, modular device that evolves with you for your life time (Development partner - Engage by Design)

Instead of constantly upgrading your communications and computing technology, the Wandular concept is an exploration of how to promote device longevity in a move towards cyclical service-based business models. The idea is that you would have a single device for life that would increase in emotional and personal value over time – like a well-loved watch.

“Wandular is an exploration of how we can relate in a different way to artifacts and services in the future and also hopefully reduce the amount of disposable electronics. The aim is to encourage people to attach more meaning to a technological device, and develop a long term relationship with it. Wandular is about making technology more human and mitigating consumer behaviour for wanting “new stuff” through the use of emotionally durable design and cloud service trends. The idea is for Wandular to be magical, grow old gracefully with its host and be upgradable as a service.” said Rodrigo Bautista, Founder Engage by Design and the concept lead for Wandular.

2) Is there potential for rural environments to emulate the buzz of the city?

Hyper Village – living a hi-tech, hi-nature life (Development partner – The Pipeline Project)

The Hyper Village provides an antidote to emerging mega-cities by creating an alternative vision – that of a thriving, self-reliant, but globally connected rural community – in the developing, or developed world. The village will be underpinned by the highest-spec software and hardware and enjoy the best hybrid experiences nature and technology have to offer. In this context technology actually creates stronger links with nature and enhances the ability of rural communities to live more sustainably. For example technology can be applied to improve stewardship of natural resources, connect virtual classrooms and enable the delivery of immersive entertainment events.

“Hyper Village is about exploring ways to create more equity between rural and urban communities in the pursuit of a more sustainable future. It's about realising the enormous value in remote and rural areas, not just for the communities that live there, but for urban communities as well. This is beyond just physical experiences and materials; it’s also about the transfer and sharing of knowledge and intelligence. We're excited about creating better connections and relationships within the whole system of life that exists between rural and urban. We believe this will be critical for a healthy and flourishing society in 2025.” said Dan Burgess, The Pipeline Project, the concept lead for Hyper Village.

3) Can we create an accessible multi-purpose platform for anyone to experiment with data to create tools they want and need?

Internet of Things Academy – making coding and data accessible to everyone (Development partner - Superflux)

This concept makes the “Internet of Things Academy” widely accessible beyond the expert coding community, bridging the growing technological literacy divide. The Internet of Things Academy (IOTA) is used to describe how in the future the internet will be widely connected to everyday objects. As more information is made available online a digital divide could emerge between those who can access and use the data and those that can’t. IOTA provides a central platform which facilitates the “mixing and matching” of hardware, software and data sets easily. IOTA projects will take many forms, from the simplest of environmental sensors to complex cures for disease; from works of art to experimental economic models.

“IOTA is an initial attempt to visualise a thriving community of people involved in imagining, building, and testing projects at the intersection of the physical and the digital. We wanted to propose a single, unifying platform that provides a space for play and experimentation, empowering people from a variety of backgrounds and with various skills to build something bigger.” said Anab Jain, founder of Superflux and concept lead for IOTA.

4) How can we embrace the benefits of an ‘always on’ society without losing focus?

The Shift – a technology design philosophy that enhances wellbeing and is well aligned with human needs (Development partner – Forum for the Future)

“The Shift” explores the idea of how to use technology in a “proportionate” manner so that a balance is achieved between being increasingly connected to technology and ensuring it boosts productivity and creativity. There is the exciting potential for technology to amplify emotional experiences and create an even stronger connection to nature.

“FutureScapes has been a very thought provoking project – challenging people to think differently about sustainability and technology. One theme that has emerged time and time again throughout the project has been what we are calling “The Shift”. Can our relationship with information and communication technology really continue on its current trajectory, and what might the impacts be by 2025? How do we embrace the benefits of an ‘always on’ society without being driven to distraction? Greater connectivity does not always mean greater productivity or better relationships and how can we explore the idea a more proportionate approach to technology?

Inspired by this idea, Forum for the Future is going to start experimenting and work with like-minded organisations to experiment with improving our relationship with technology and trying to answer some of these questions but this idea is also explored in some way in all the concepts.” Said Hugh Knowles, Forum for the Futures, the concept lead for The Shift.

The suite of four concepts was selected from a range of ideas that emerged from the FutureScapes project. Other ideas included bioluminescent trees in the centre of cities visualizing communal energy consumption, reputation management systems for the safe sharing of goods and services, and augmented reality contact lenses which provide extreme encounters with nature without having to leave the home.

The four concept ideas will be further evolved over the coming months in collaboration with the project partners. For further information on the FutureScapes project and to find out how you can get involved, please visit the FutureScapes site (English)