27 New Ways We’ll Live, Work and Play in 20 Years
Will we have flying cars and take leisurely spaceflights to Mars in 2040? Will we be eating out of “Star Trek”-like food replicators and teleporting to the office? Well, no. Some things will remain science fiction, or will be realized imperceptibly far into the future. But in 20 years, many of us will enjoy new technological innovations — although some will suffer from changing industries.
We looked into a plethora of ways the way we live, work and play will change in 20 years. These predictions are more conservative than flying cars and cities in the sky, but they’re grounded in an optimistic reality. It’s not easy to predict the future, but it sure is fun.
Our Homes Will Be Safer
A doorbell camera only records what’s happening; it doesn’t react to it. Machine learning and facial recognition software in future smart homes will be able to detect a home’s occupants and their schedules.
Conversely, it will be able to decipher potentially unwanted guests and things that happen outside of our normal routine — like someone rummaging around the backyard when no one’s home. Perhaps future robots will call the police for us, or just go full HAL 9000.
We’ll Be Able to Feel in Virtual Reality
VR headsets can only be so immersive on their own. Haptic feedback gloves will be used in hundreds of different applications, from entertainment to business and industrial uses. Take for example Haptx Gloves, which are currently under development. Here’s how a Venture Beat writer described them:
“I could touch the grains of wheat and feel how each rubbed against my fingers. I touched the clouds and felt rain droplets hit my open hand. It was creepy when a spider crawled across my hand and I felt it.”
But gloves are just the most basic experience. Teslasuit is designing a full-body haptic feedback suit with temperature control abilities. Imagine taking a swim in the Antarctic or a windy ride through the Bermuda Triangle without any of the danger. And we imagine there will be some more, ahem, risqué features from other manufacturers as well.
Drones Will Hover Overhead
Drones will have widespread usage in a number of industries. Mail is the go-to example, and Amazon is developing Prime Air, which is designed to get packages from clicking that “order” button to your doorstep in 30 minutes (Amazon is still seeking FAA clearance). France is already using drones in its postal system while in America, UPS has applied for drone patent.
Other future drone usages will include emergency assistance (like medication drop-offs in hospitals or emergency kits for stranded civilians in emergencies), weather forecasting, urban planning and disease control.
We’ll Have Better Package Theft Protection
About 26 million Americans have had a package stolen from their porch or doorstep during the holidays, according to a 2017 Insurance Quotes study. But package thieves may have to look for another line of nefarious work in the future, when our smart homes can detect when we’re home. Then, a signal is sent to an automated delivery service — in drones or driverless cars — which safely transports our package to our doorstep, according to a future prediction report by Euromonitor International.
We Won’t Need Keys Or Keypads
We won’t need keys and locks for our smart homes. Biometric scanners — biometric being a catch-all term for things like fingerprints, facial features, eye patterns, vocal patterns — will confirm our identity and let us in, according to Euromonitor.
Personal Assistants Will Be Roombas on Steroids
Imagine a Roomba, only these are supercharged. Euromonitor predicts that robot assistants will be here by 2040, and they’ll be able to pick up and store items, prepare veggies, greet people at the door and even use video surveillance to spot threats. Maybe their thermal imaging will be able to spot a chimney fire waiting to happen.
Our Kids Will Befriend Robots
Robots won’t just help around the house, they’ll also be our children’s friends. There was Jibo, a social and personal assistant robot with an LED face that coos when you pet it. It looks like something out of the “WALL-E” universe. But that technology was spotty, and Jibo Inc. died in 2018. As tech improves and the robot business becomes more stable, expect to see lots of cute little robots at retailers in the future.
Each Room Will Have User-Defined, Custom Settings
As you walk into the kitchen in the morning, the lights turn on to 85 percent of their output and the television tunes to the morning news. In the bathroom, the mirror adjusts four inches up. After you’ve left for your office job, your spouse wakes up for their work-at-home job. The lights adjust to their preference, the television changes its channel and the drapes are drawn, all thanks to “pre-configured profiles,” according to Euromonitor.
Our Pets Will Live Longer
Twenty to 30 years ago, if your pet was diagnosed with cancer, most vets could only say, “Sorry.” But now, pet oncology is a common and expanding industry, with the market for pet cancer therapeutics growing at 10.8 percent annually, reports CNBC. And the entire pet care industry is growing, with a market value of $269 billion predicted by 2025.
As we treat our pets with higher quality food and more advanced medical services, they’re living longer. According to a study by the State of Pet Health, the average the average dog’s lifespan has increased from 11.8 years in 2016 from 10.5 years in 2002, Reuters reported. More cats are living past the age of 11 than ever before. And if a pet loses a limb? No problem! We have prosthetic legs for your furry family member.
When it comes to pet health, it can only get better.
Storefronts Will Display Custom Ads
Imagine that you have a vacation to a tropical paradise coming up. This data has been sold to a host of different marketers. When you pass by a clothing storefront, the glass turns to a model wearing swim wear and beachy clothes, via your augmented reality glasses. A message pops up, asking if you would like to try on some new clothes for your upcoming trip. Creepy? Yes. Possible? Also yes, says Euromonitor.
Some IRL Shopping Experiences Will Be More Personal
Facial scanning is inevitable, and retailers will use it to their advantage. Euromonitor predicts that a personal profile made by you and shared with the store — or a private file made about you by the store — could be used to tailor your shopping experience. If a shoe store knows you’re a runner that needs ankle support, the salesman will already have a selection of high-top sneakers on hand.
Retail Stores Will Have Virtual Dressing Rooms
Augmented reality in retail testing areas, like virtual dressing rooms, will virtually impose new surroundings around yourself wearing a new piece of clothing so you can envision yourself at the desired location, says Euromonitor. How would that dress look at a cocktail party? And if you wanted to try on a selection of makeup to go with that outfit, do it virtually.
And We’ll Dress Virtually at Home
We won’t try on virtual clothing just at retail. At home, smart mirrors will show us how certain outfits will look on us. And this future is much closer than you might think — Amazon patented a “blended reality” mirror in 2018. A VR headset isn’t required. The mirror will use cameras to figure out where our face is and how our body is shaped to superimpose snazzy new clothes over it.
The Job Interview Might Get a Bit Tougher
How well do you respond to stress? Do you panic, or stay calm? In some jobs that could be a deciding factor in whether you’re hired — and employers will be able to check for it. And not just for high-stress jobs like police officers or firefighters.
A BBC article details how biometric feedback can help employers how stock brokers will perform during market highs and lows. In turn, it may let them weed out the underperformers long before they’ve even been given a chance to do some actual trading.
You Visited the Watercooler 127 Times Last Quarter…
Imagine if Jim from “The Office” had been tracked every single time he went to the receptionist’s desk to flirt with Pam. Not only would the two not have gotten married, but Jim would have been fired. And that kind of data collection is going to be easier than ever in the future, with employers being able to monitor your every movement at the office, from the number of keystrokes you perform per day to how much time you spend at the toilet. Amazon warehouse workers already carry devices that monitor their every move.
This could be done in a host of different ways, the most extreme possibly being an under-the-skin microchip. There’s already some precedent.
In 2017, the Wisconsin-based tech company Three Square Market microchipped the majority of its workforce (they volunteered). The chip allows employees to sign into computers, pay for snacks and open doors by just a wave of the hand. It’s not GPS-enabled, at least not currently — but what will the future bring?
We Will Drive Less, and Not Really At All
Car sales are on the decline in many countries, including the U.S. and the U.K. Ridesharing apps are easy and convenient, and Lyft founders believe automated driverless transport is the way of the future, according to Business Insider. And as personal, autonomous cars slowly take over the market from outdated vehicles that require a driver, we won’t really be driving at all.
Expect to Be Noticed, Everywhere
Unless lawmakers curtail the use of facial recognition in public, can you envision a future where police don’t use that technology on city streets? Facial recognition, which is already in widespread use in China, will allow police and government entities to track where you are in public.
The FBI and ICE are already searching through millions of American faces via their state-issued driver’s licenses to look for criminal suspects for crimes as low as petty theft, the Washington Post reported.
Businesses Will Have an Easy Time Banning People
Facial recognition will also allow private business to keep people out, with ease. Casinos are already using the technology to keep tabs on their patrons. In the future, will people be blacklisted from cashier-less shops if they were convicted of shoplifting in the past?
Machines Will Take Jobs
Factory jobs are already in danger, and they will be scarce or highly specialized in 20 years. By 2030, up to 20 million factory jobs will be replaced by robots, according to an Oxford Economics study cited by BBC News. Another study by the McKinsey Global Institute says 400 to 800 million people worldwide could lose jobs across all industries due to automation, from fast food workers to mortgage brokers and machine operators.
There Will Be Fewer Cashiers
This concept is already a reality, albeit not a widespread one. Cashier-less stores are the new, faceless face of retail, and Amazon has pioneered the way. Its Amazon Go stores, currently only available in four major U.S. cities, have no cashiers and instead rely on sensor tracking and linked Amazon accounts to pay for items taken from their stores.
Retailers in China are also rolling out various forms of cashier-less shops. At the F5 Future Store in Guangzhou, customers order via touch panel food, which then rolls out form a back room. Nothing is perfected yet — Amazon Go’s shops are still in beta — but in 20 years, cashiers may only be needed for specific types of stores which require customer interaction.
We’ll Be Able to ‘Cast’ Ourselves
Teleportation a la “Star Trek” is probably impossible, but high-tech military research is attempting to do the next best thing: casting a holograph of ourselves to another part of the world. A 2018 Wired article says the U.S. government is “developing devices like augmented reality lens to allow surgeons to collaborate via hologram-like visuals in real time from afar, AI-imbued robots to assist doctors in operations, and even top-secret tools that will allow surgeons to communicate with each other from across the globe using all five senses.”
While this technology may currently be for health care, there’s no reason why it can’t be applied elsewhere. Allowing people to virtually ‘teleport’ around the world in an instant for for various forms of work and communication will be an incredibly useful and convenient tool.
Holographic Concerts Won’t Be a Novelty
At 2012 Coachella, the resurrection of Tupac as a hologram for two songs was an interesting, albeit weird, novelty. In the future, they’ll be a mainstay. In America, BASE Hologram is a company touring the holographic likes of Buddy Holly and plans to produce a Whitney Houston hologram as well.
But those concerts aren’t 100-percent virtual; they use real people and real props as well. Meanwhile, full-fledged hologram concerts are popular in South Korea, where cheap tickets and consistently running shows draw teens to holographic K-pop concerts (with holographs of bands that are still alive and touring).
In the future, attending “live” concerts at whatever venue has the technology to project images of dead and still-living celebrities on stage will be more than just a novelty.
Expect More Meatless Meat in the Meat Section
Plant-based meat will take a larger chunk out of the supermarket’s meat section. The money is already there. Impossible Foods now has a valuation of $2 billion, and Beyond Meat’s IPO in May had a valuation of almost $1.5 billion. Meat business giants like Perdue and Tyson Foods are launching their own plant-based meats. And there are already deli-slice offerings of meatless products designed to taste like turkey, ham, chicken and salami, although they come in a pre-packaged form and are consigned to the fridge or freezer section. In the future, perhaps mounds of plant-based meat will sit side-by-side with the real thing at the deli counter.
Most of Our Energy Will Come from Renewable Sources
Regardless of political debate, renewable energy is simply cheaper to produce than using fossil fuels. In some areas, it’s cheaper to build a solar or wind farm rather than keep an existing coal plant running, according to CBS News.
BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, is betting on renewables. The firm, which has heavy investments in ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell, lost $90 billion over the last decade due to its investment in fossil fuels. Already, some energy manufacturers are closing up their coal operations. Upper Midwest energy provider Xcel Energy will close all of its coal-fired plants by 2030. Michigan-based Consumers Energy will close all its coal plants by 2040.
As the industry creeps toward a renewable future, job losses in the fossil fuel industry will be significant. And our energy will come from renewables — but whether or not savings are passed on to the consumer is hard to predict.
Superfans Will Be Rewarded
What if being a superfan could earn you money? In the future, entertainment venues and franchises might award virtual currency for fans who attend events, promote them on social media and spend money at stadiums. In turn, that currency could be used to spend on mobile games or receive discounts for related merchandise. It could also be used to purchase on-site food or dress up a virtual avatar of ourselves, says Euromonitor.
At Events, We’ll Choose Who We Sit Next To
It’s time to pick a seat for SuperBowl LXX. You head online and pick a seat, then use a VR headset to scope out the seats and the surrounding area. The computer tells you that Melissa, James and their two young children will be sitting adjacent to you. That doesn’t sound too good — you and your friends are looking for single people, so you look for another section with that demographic.
Euromonitor also predicts that augmented reality will show fans additional stats and information about the players on the field, from their seats in the stands.
We’ll Attend Live Events Without Leaving Our Living Rooms
This future is already here, in its nascent form with Live Nation’s NextVR. Right now, it’s an app that works with VR headsets that syncs with a live feed to view sporting events and concerts. The cameras are still rather static — for example, for boxing, the cameras are on the ring posts, or positioned on the stage during a concert.
But in 20 years, will advances in VR technology allow us to virtually dribble with the Raptors, or dance with the Rolling Stones? (We assume they’ll still be touring).