By Brinkley Warren
I have heard it said that to truly understand something, one must become one with it; even if only for a moment, so as to taste it’s beingness. Doing this is creating the future by becoming it, and this is in fact the ONLY way to create the future.
In the year 2014, I literally became a living breathing personification of the #1 top innovation trend in the World. It happened at SXSW (South by Southwest) on the main stage of SXSW Interactive which usually has about 33,000 people in attendance. SXSW is the mecca of conference/festivals concerning the future. It is an amalgamation of ecstasy that includes the best and brightest from tech, film, music, and innovation….all within the confines of an awesome southern college music town with more tacos per capita than people. It is my paradise. Not only are all of these creative industries synthesized there, but SXSW just announced their newest addition to the 2015 lineup. Fashion. SXSW Style will bring the fashion world into the fold, and why not?
It may perhaps be surprising, and perhaps not surprising that somehow I ended up being the harbinger of SXSW Style, a personification of the future of fashion and its new stronghold at the World’s most awesome professional conference, but alas……
There I was……I was up on stage in front of an entire auditorium full of tech nerds, innovators, and nerd bait as a tech fashion symbol for the ages — I was wearing the world’s first interactive digital t-shirt — a T-Shirt that has LED lights embedded in the fabric, and that you can text or tweet messages and designs to. The t-shirt had just been launched to the public, and I was on stage modeling it before public consciousness for the first time. I recently spoke with a SXSW staffer who said that it was this moment in 2014 that convinced the organizers to launch SXSW Style and bring fashion into the fold in 2015. Amazing.
On stage, my friend Alison (the t-shirt’s creator) talked about her powerful vision and mission, and my phone started blowing up with people who recognized me. I was heralded before the SXSW audience as the #1 most innovative tech trend of the year by the CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association and some of the leading tech journalists and I was paraded around the festival like a c-level celebrity.
Why? How did this happen? I’m not some fashion model, and there are plenty of professional models who would have loved to be the one to participate in this historical “fashion innovation” moment. I didn’t think up this invention or even work on building it….and yet, there I was, blessed with a rare and somewhat hilarious circumstance becoming a manifestation of the future of wearable computing and fashion tech. There I was becoming the future of SXSW. So how did we get here, and what does it all mean!?
I thought I would use this personal experience and story as a jumping off point — and after the tale, I’ll contribute what I believe to be the Top 5 Innovation Trends of 2015. If you want you can jump down the page to that section, and if you’re curious as to how I ended up on that stage that day….I’ll tell you how it all happened……
I have also heard it said thusly, that there will always be serendipity involved in discovery. Discovery is the quest of that curious spirit at work within our own inner-engineering; it is the search for truth, the questions that we ask, and the insights that we receive. Having a transformative purpose is what has helped me. Mine is to help make big ideas come to life that bring us together and make us better in the service of humanity. Because of my commitment towards this purpose — positive things happen. Things I could never have imagined would happen.
It’s this sense of discovery that makes us entrepreneurs, and creatives, and leaders. It’s not hard, it’s incredibly simple. Follow your bliss as Joseph Campbell famously urged us. One can be a conceptual artist while also being an experimentalist, and one can have both questions and answers. We all have the opportunity to control our own reality, but it can never be done alone.
I love the future, and so to really know the future, I seek to become the future, and my identity as the future helps to sharpen my saw as a joyful receptor, and therefore, as the future’s humble servant and divine actor. Honesty in craft is the untold standard of respect among artists, and honesty can sometimes come at us from oblique angles compared to our preconceived notions of what the future holds. This jolt is what lay at the foundation of a life unconditionally lived, and for this reason I wanted to write about it and pay homage to serendipity and a more prosperous global future.
Yielding to serendipity, we can become receptors of the natural flow of the universe and find ourselves right smack dab in the middle of it. And by it, I mean dialogue with the zeitgeist; and so it was for me in 2014, and hopefully again in the coming years.
This year was my first ever experience at SXSW and it surely won’t be my last. I put together the trip on a whim at the last minute to promote my newest product at the time, LeanMonitor.com. On my first day in Austin, I was on a dérive through the city and I came around a corner to see my friend Alison Lewis wearing her brand new interactive t-shirt and trying to simultaneously broker deals and promote. I had first met Alison a couple of years earlier as we are both graduates of Singularity University, and she’s great because she’s super fun to be around, plus she has a massive transformative purpose — and people who are on a mission are the best ones to be around. For Alison, she’s on a quest to feminize technology by fusing her passion for fashion with her passion for innovation.
To learn more about Alison you can read about her story here: http://www.iheartswitch.com. Her company is called Switch Embassy (http://switchembassy.com/) and she has created the World’s first and only “scrunchable, washable, connected tshirt.” By connected, it basically means that you can send text messages or tweet to the shirt and the messages or designs will show up on embedded lights inside the shirt.
Not longer than 5 seconds after she saw me walk around the corner she said “You’re the one! Brinkley! You’re going to model this shirt this week!” I was like, “Okay, whatever, hey Alison good to see you too, this is awesome, what are you doing, what do you need me to do, yes let’s do it and do you want to grab some tacos because I’m starving.” That’s serendipity. What if I had left my hotel 5 minutes later? What if I had taken a left instead of the right onto that street?
Alison knew that she needed to find a model, and in that moment somehow I became that person. I hadn’t seen Alison or spoken to her in months, and I wasn’t even aware of her stealthy fashion project that she was launching to the public starting that evening. I believe serendipity happens when multiple people follow their bliss. Alison had a specific desire, her need for a model. I had a specific desire, to help big ideas come to life — and boom, magic happening on the streets of Austin. I can tell you one thing, modeling that shirt was freaking awesome.
Everywhere I went people wanted to take photos with their message on the shirt, people looked at me in awe and wander and I loved those looks. People wanted to touch me….ah I mean they wanted to touch the shirt — and that was awesome. People couldn’t believe that it was a t-shirt with lights inside of it, but that was basically the same material as a normal t-shirt that you can put in the washing machine.
As the week went by and as SXSW Interactive started to gain momentum, we became a little bit of a sensation. I ended up meeting Lady Gaga face-to-face at a DJ Shadow show where she showed up to perform a secret light show for DJ Shadow. She used her ipad to control the lighting system of the club and our whole team worked desperately to try and get her to wear the shirt — alas, it was to no avail, but still pretty freaking awesome. I ended up front row at a Melissa Etheridge show which was hilarious and tons of parties like the Spotify warehouse party where Ashton Kutcher performed a DJ set (because at SX, everyone is a DJ).
I was on stage everywhere Alison spoke about the shirt and her company and her mission, and this included multiple conference sessions and workshops and all of those parties…. and eventually, the main stage at the culminating event of the conference where Robert Scoble and company announced the #1 tech innovation trend of the year — me.
After our time on the main stage I looked at my phone to see it blowing up from people who recognized me from the crowd, some of them I hadn’t spoken to since college but am now back in touch with. It was an amazing experience and something that I never would have predicted to happen. However, I must say it was one of my top highlights of 2014. It’s always amazing to become the future, and it’s something I encourage all of you to attempt to do.
In 2014, I attended many of the top innovation conferences in the World, including the Global Innovation Summit, CES, Launch Festival, TechCrunch Disrupt and South by Southwest among others. Based on my experience, I’d like to offer my personal Top-5 Innovation Trends for 2015.
For purists you might see more than one trend in this, and you’re right, but I see it as part of a singular pulse.
Whether it’s the World’s first interactive t-shirt, Google glasses, brainwave monitors, fitbits, the Apple Watch or wrist-based gesture controls for the connected home — 2014 and going into 2015, it’s clear that we are in the age of pervasive wearable computing.
Mobile computing is everywhere now, and these devices connect us with the things and sensors around us and inside of us and to each other and to everyone, and this is a magical trend because it means that we can all become a little bit more like Prospero — we can all act with a little bit more magic in our daily lives. Experiences that would seem to be supernatural to somebody living only 30 years ago, but now made commonly possible because of creative technology. Because of this, we are entering the age of experience design where innovators can usher in new possibilities of interaction and magical moments.
One of my friends who I went to high school with is Dr. Muhammad Abdurrahman, co-founder of a startup called Playtabase and inventor of the Reemo, which is a wristband that can programmed to control any number of connected devices. He developed the idea because his Father had suffered a stroke and he wanted to give his dad a way to still be able to turn the lights on and off, or change the channel on the TV or stereo. Here’s the result:
According to analysts, wearable computing is expected to grow by 35% in the coming years and will reach 485 Million units shipped in the next two years. People are predicting the Apple Watch to account for almost 50% of total smartwatches sold in the coming year, but don’t count out other upstarts like Playtabase or innovative incumbents like JawBone. Different analyst projections vary wildly, but all of them are trending upwards and with exponential acceleration.
Another big part of the wearable computing trend and the internet of me is augmented reality. I think 2015 will see more fast movement in this area. The past year brought huge acquisitions (Facebook bought Occulus Rift for a cool $1 Billion), along with compelling technology innovation (See META Space Glasses) and investment activity (almost $600Million in funding to Florida-based MAGIC LEAP). I don’t think there’s a clear winner yet, but it could be some of the more practical applications and experiences that entrepreneurs are working on. For instance my friend Kyle Samani’s company Pristine is empowering doctors with Google Glass in simple but compelling ways.
It’s likely that despite the obvious possibilities for medical and entertainment experiences, it will be more practical blue collar professional tools that help to bring augmented reality into the mainstream. For instance the company Daqri is making smart helmets for industrial use-cases, and AUGMATE is helping to bring augmented reality to the enterprise. Check out the demo of META’s newest developer kit:
Is there any other innovation trend as seemingly disruptive? The ride sharing company Uber which is disrupting taxis and transportation laws around the world is now valued at more than $18 Billion, and it’s still a startup. Uber is now available in 250 cities in 50 countries and facilitated 140 Million rides in 2014. They are adding over 50,000 new drivers per month and over 55% of the entire US population now has access to Uber in their location. These are mindblowing stats.
The home sharing startup darling of Silicon Valley is Airbnb — started by an art school student and funded with maxed out credit cards, Airbnb is now in 34,000 cities and 190 countries with over 1 Million global listings alive as you read this. Founded just 6 years ago, Airbnb is now larger than the World’s top 2 hotel brands — InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Worldwide.
With the democratizing power of the sharing economy comes political strife with incumbent firms and kabals that are largely older, more traditional, less empowering, and less efficient or open as newer more tech-driven firms. Instead of innovating themselves to make the experience better for consumers and the system as a whole, they instead allow exponential organizations such as Uber and Airbnb to out-innovate them. Instead of catching up, they all to often turn to policy, bans, regulatory squabbles, and other uncreative attempts to limit a free market economy and more positive outcomes in the name of “consumer protection.” What ALL incumbents and corporate innovators should be doing is reading the new book “Exponential Organizations” and then get to work putting into practice some of these teachings.
The biggest issue at hand here is that these 2 examples — Airbnb and Uber — represent the very fabric of our human society and the entire system upon which our societies exist. This is human housing and human transportation. In New York and San Francisco (and don’t forget Europe), 2015 will likely be a year of rent regulation debates as cities start to adjust to a new, more democratic, open, and connected citizenry. More and more, citizens are not just consumers, but producers of the local systems that govern their everyday lives.
Assets are not just personal property, but what about private equity assets!? I think the next big wave for the sharing economy is Equity Crowdfunding. Already valued at $30 Billion, and with over $500 Million in funds currently already active on equity crowdfunding websites, this is an incredibly exciting opportunity. Because of the 2012 JOBS act, there is set to be a massive disintermediation and democratization of equity investing and the entrepreneurial venture economy. Private equity up until now has been an elite game to play, but now somebody at your local church can announce their new real estate development project to the congregation and solicit funds to help get the project off the ground. Instead of a handful of bankers and accredited investors taking the leap of faith, the entire congregation can chip in a little bit of the needed cash — just like a Kickstarter project. But instead of getting a t-shirt, you actually get to own stock in the real estate development project. As soon as it makes money, the entire congregation is making money. Ask yourself who, then, is the big winner here?? If you said, “the church,” then you’re right. Everyone benefits, and the cambrian explosion that is digital innovation and the democratization of democracy itself accelerates even faster. Big win for humanity.
I think this gets my #3 for two key reasons: 3D printing and Drones. Both require robotics. The Unmanned aerial vehicles market (UAVs) is expected to grow by 18% regardless of government regulatory decisions that will likely loom large in 2015. The impact that the democratization of UAVs will have globally is to many a scary and daunting concept to address. It is, however, reality, and there is no doubt all kinds of global grand challenges that this technological advancement will help us to solve. In the past year we’ve seen the best impacts being made in the areas of emergency response, film and television, and product delivery (aka, Amazon drones).
3D printing also represents a democratization of robotics and is also being driven by a growing group of consumer demand. Sales of printing machines is growing at 16% per quarter and most of the devices are now being sold for $10k or less. With the announcement from global conglomerate HP to begin offering their own 3D printing offering, expect HP to do for 3D printing what Apple is poised to do for smartwatches.
Gartner is projecting that the 3D Printer Market will be at $13.4 Billion in the next 3 years.
If you want some inspiration about the power of robotics to transform lives. Check out the video below showing the World’s first double-amputee to get robotic arms. This is a big deal — truly life changing and shows of the coming frontiers of tomorrowland. My friend Federico Pistono wrote a book called “Robots will Steal Your Job but that’s OK” and I suggest you check it out if you’re into the future of robots.
I think this one is fascinating because of how strongly its basis is rooted in the upcoming generation. The ephemeral web is all about content that doesn’t stick around like most content on the internet does, and it’s because Gen-Y and Gen-Z want to be able to share silly photos with their friends in middle-school and not have them show up 15 years later at a job interview.
The leader in this space is clearly Snapchat, which is now valued at over $10Billion and just recently began to show advertising for the first time. Every single day, over 700 photos are sent among friends, only to disappear after a few seconds. Over 1 Billion stories are viewed every day, and this is a company that was founded only 3 years ago and already has over 100 Million Monthly Active Users. Of these, more than 70% are women, and more than 70% are less than 25.
Anonymous social networks and the recent news that Facebook is planning their own ephemeral messaging service points towards more activity in the space in 2015. This is the type of media that the young generations are demanding. They want to live in a mission impossible world. This message will self-destruct in…..5…..4….3…..2…1.
5. Artificial Intelligence
To see my comprehensive take on this top trend, see my article by clicking on the guide below:
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