This article explores the various ways that robotic and connected devices might disrupt the future of day-to-day life for the better.
In our view, envisioning the possible products of the future means envisioning the people who would use them — not as fictitious characters, but as real people with similar problems, dilemmas, emotions, relationships, and challenges to those we have today.
By understanding and seeing hypothetical future customers and employees as people experiencing some of the same universal human dramas that we do today, the future feels a little more relatable.
Below are some examples, from a futurist mind meld, of possible connected and robotic devices that might impact our lives between now and 2040.
Autonomous ambulances with in-vehicle robots could provide immediate first aid, carrying out more complex tasks under the guidance of remote video-linked doctors. Personal drones would extract injured parties from the crowd and transport them to the ambulance. Autonomous food trucks would use drones to deliver the food to the individual wherever they stand without having to leave their spot.
Self-owning independent taxis will earn fares for each ride, sharing revenue with those who manufacture, service, and refuel them. The cars would work in self-managing, self-insuring networks — covering each other in the event of increasingly rare incidents. As autonomous technology grows ever smarter, accidents will only tend to arise when human-driven vehicles are in collision with autonomous cars.
Personal drone security
Small drones may fly around a person’s property, constantly monitoring and guarding against security threats like trespassers or burglars. Additionally, they would alert owners of their guests’ arrivals, and be able to confirm the guests’ identities through video and facial recognition software.
Drones are already available that can target individuals in need of emergency assistance, and either airlifts them to safety or provide them with vital life-saving equipment. These drones will become ever more sophisticated and capable, with the ability to undertake more complex search and rescue missions and perform a growing range of medical procedures on the spot.
Autonomous drones for crowd control and border security
Autonomous drones with AI enabled behaviour recognition and infrared capabilities could patrol border areas and other sensitive security situations when there are risks to safety and the potential for social unrest. On identification of security breaches or potential anti-social behaviour, the appropriate human or automated resources could be mobilised and deployed to counter the risk.
Autonomous drones monitoring and repairing infrastructure
Constant status monitoring via connected sensors and use of autonomous repair-bots may allow for continuous upkeep of physical infrastructure. A step on from pre-planned maintenance routines could be fully autonomous inspection drones. Equipped with AI enabled technology, they would observe and report back on the target infrastructure: power lines, railway lines, hyperloop evacuated tubes, tunnels, and bridges. Links to automated or manual repair and maintenance teams would provide information to enable timely deployment of the correct repair assets.
Our farms may become entirely automated. Intelligent robots will plan, plant, water, weed, fertilise, and harvest entire crops at the perfect time based on a continuous feed of connected sensor information. An apple at a grocery store may never have been touched by a human hand until the moment a customer picks it from the shelf or eats what their robo-assistant has selected.
Continuous monitoring of health indicators would allow your devices to order what you need to prevent you getting sick. Your devices would try to nudge your decision making towards a healthier lifestyle and what’s best for you.
“No strings attached” sex
Future personal pleasure offerings could include customised multi-sensory virtual reality (VR) experiences coupled with sophisticated sex toys to enhance the range of multi-sensory sensations for the user. Over time the technology will advance such that the AI personality of your digital partners could be transferable between different sex robots and devices. Hence your settings will be up to date in whatever interface you would like to use.
After collecting massive amounts of data about a person through connected devices, robots would be able to replicate this person’s behaviour and responses. In fact, your digital twin could attend a meeting for you and comment on your behalf. You twin could also capture and summarise the entire conversation including analysis of the body language and micro-facial expressions of the other participants and then report back.
Artificial intelligence is already changing the way HR operates. Perhaps we are edging toward humanless HR with AI-powered recruitment, selection, appointment, onboarding, performance monitoring, payment (employees, contractors, gig-bots), and offboarding based on automated needs and skills matching. The smart HR could also monitor us via all our devices and detect factors such as stress levels, distraction, the extent of social conversation we engage in, and when we are performing at our peak.
This personal sensor detector and signal blocker would prevent smart toilets from testing urine samples for illegal and/or enhancement drugs. It would also detect and defend against bathroom hackers looking to steal our medical identity.
As more and more sensors are deployed, we can expect environmental monitoring to reach a new high. A person or their autonomous car may receive tailored alerts to avoid certain streets as pollution levels are slightly elevated in those areas. Walkers might be alerted to avoid specific parks as weather conditions have caused weeds to bloom that may trigger their allergies.
The days when you could get off the grid are coming to an end. Although you could be physically alone, your digital footprint, assembled through all the connected devices and sensors on and in your body and around you, could reveal your whereabouts in a microsecond.
Written by Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, April Koury, Alexandra Whittington, and Maria Romero, authors of Beyond Genuine Stupidity and The Future Reinvented