From a robot to serve you dinner to growing your own groceries indoors, there are plenty of surprises in store for the future and they’re not all doom and gloom! Here’s what the futurologists predict.
Twenty years ago, we were celebrating the millennium. Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist, there was a video rental store on most high streets and the only thing about our phones that was smart was if you had the Snake game. It’s intriguing to wonder what the next 20 years will hold if we’ll be snacking on centipedes while being chauffeured home in our own self-driving cars, or if your mirror will be able to tell you if you’re looking washed out. Here’s what our trendspotting experts think we can expect to see in 2040.
Some of the biggest changes will happen in our homes, according to futurologist Dr Ian Pearson.
‘In the next 20 or so years, I would expect smart mirrors to provide more holistic insight into our health,’ explains Dr Pearson, who is working with build-to-rent landlord Get Living to plan what their properties may offer in years to come. ‘Whether that’s looking deep in people’s eyes to provide insight onblood pressureor showing tooth plaque in a bright colour. They could also tell us a lot about our skin for instance, where we’re not applying enough sun cream.’
He also believes technology could expand to being able to change our interior decor. ‘We’ve already seen rollable TVs, so the thought of a rollable screen replacing wallpaper doesn’t feel too far away,’ he says. Screens could display information about things such as room temperature, humidity or be part ofthe entertainment set-up imagine having Netflix across four walls of your living room.
Kitchens that help you cook
Kitchens look set for a revolutionary overhaul. Whirlpool has already developed a concept kitchen that works around an interactive splashback and hob using a touchscreen and sensor technology. It’s designed to carry out tasks, such as measure the nutritional content in a packed lunch, while monitoring the arrival of the school bus or suggesting breakfast ideas based on time available. ‘The display could also show reminders to stir ingredients, or the hob could work with smart vessels to sense their contents and automatically heat or cool to the ideal temperature,’ says Whirlpool brand manager, Charmaine Warner . Fridges that minimise waste by predicting when food expires and suggesting recipes using what’s available are also set to be a must-have.
For non-cooks, the future has a solution, according to Dr Pearson. ‘Samsung is already exploring robotic cooking arms but I predict that we will favour a more humanoid robot. It could move around our home, collect food from couriers, prepare, serve and tidy up after.’ And, as to what those meals will be, Devon Brits, entomologist and research director at Soldier Fly Technologies, thinks he has the answer: ‘Insects grow rapidly, producing high-quality nutrients that humans can utilise. Most insects are also fantastic recycling agents of food waste. Insects could make up 15-30% of our overall diet and 30-50% of our protein intake.’ Cricket fritters anyone?
Self-driving cars and superfast trains
Self-driving cars will be everywhere by 2040, according to Steve Kitson, director of corporate communications at Kia Motors (UK). ‘We predict that fully autonomous driving will be the norm,’ he says. Kia plans to start manufacturing partially autonomous cars later this year, and by 2030 release their first fully autonomous vehicle. By 2040 Kitson predicts their cars will be able to navigate to a preset destination, connect to network traffic systems, making roads safer and more efficient. Mass transport is also undergoing a transformation, with magnetic-levitation trains predicted to become more widespread in the next 10-20 years, and a pod and vacuum tube system in development by Virgin. Moving at estimated speeds of 600 mph, Hyperloop One could turn a four-hour car trip into a journey of just 30 minutes.
Grow your own groceries
Growing your veg indoors? It’s going to be a thing, apparently. Soil-free indoor gardens are an emerging trend, such as Indiegogo project Rotofarm by Bace, which uses zero-gravity technology, energy-efficient sunlight spectrum lighting and smart app automation to grow vegetables, herbs and microgreens. Its founder Toby Farmer says, ‘Soon everyone will grow half their groceries at home and the technology to do this is advancing at a rapid rate.’
Meanwhile, Dr Pearson believes that in-home drones capable of caring for plants are a real possibility. ‘Drones the size of insects are already being used in the military,’ he reveals. ‘Plant upkeep is a great application of this technology. Drones will be automated and so small you won’t even see them.
With the arrival of 5G being heralded as revolutionary, making driverless cars, robots and drones possible, the future of communication is constantly advancing. ‘Our reliance on screens, content and streaming isn’t set to slow down, based on growth in the past few years,’ explains Sam Kemp, products and devices technology director at BT Consumer. ‘The number of screens will rise, with every member of the household having multiple devices. It’s expected that these screens will be personal, meaning that those who look into them will get a tailored individual experience. ‘Twenty years ago, when we saw the introduction of dial-up internet access, nobody could imagine the extent of the speeds we would need in the present-day. It’s hard to make any concrete predictions but, based on the advances we’ve experienced over the past 25 years, it’s vital to keep up with this demand in an ever-connected world.’
Hospital care in your home
While there’s the potential for future treatments to range anywhere from brain implants to 3D printed pills, the next 20 years is likely to revolve around personalised care. By 2040 we could see much earlier diagnosis of common medical conditions through apps. MD of pharmaceutical company Galen, Dr Dennise Broderick, says, ‘The major trends we’re seeing is the advanced use oftechnology, such as treatments that patients can safely administer themselves, virtual support services and digital monitoring saving time and providing better outcomes. Supercharge that with technological advances we can expect in the next two decades and the model of how we “consume” healthcare looks very different.’