#1: In an attempt to appease consumer unease over the growing use of facial-recognition technology, a handful of retailers will admit prior to “Black Friday” that they have deployed the technology during the 2012 Holiday season but will claim they are using it only as a “safety tool” to monitor crowds and prevent unruly shopper behavior. The technology, which can effectively read a person’s emotions, can be used to change in-store advertising based on the age, gender, racial make-up or mood of the consumer in closest proximity to the display. (A spokeswoman for the Retailer’s Association will claim the ads are only changing to “enhance the customer shopping experience” and are not profiling the unique characteristics of individual consumers. A leading privacy advocacy group will counter with a call for “Blackout Friday”—a boycott of all retailers using facial recognition technology.)
#2: To address growing concern over the escalating unemployment (and under-employment) rate of recent college graduates, a major public university will announce plans to offer unemployed alumni free access to one course per semester until they are gainfully employed. The offer will come with a lifetime guarantee.
Augmented Political Reality
#3: A mobile app will be created that allows voters to use their phones to determine from what special interest groups a candidate has received special interest money. The fact that the app will artificially dress up candidates like a professional NASCAR race driver—with the size and the location of the logo of the special interest group being determined by the size of their contribution to the politician—will make it one of the most politically influential apps of 2012 election season. (In other political-related news, a new wave of social media political consultants will monitor live Twitter streams and use the feedback to adjust candidates teleprompter speeches in real time. The consultants will also use the medium to engage in post-debate “political spin.”)
#4: The hype over gaming dynamics will reach its pinnacle when a new toilet-training game is released. The game, which will consist of a thin, flexible polymer that can adhere to the bottom of a toilet, will be designed to train young boys not to pee on the toilet seat by encouraging them to urinate directly into the simulated bat cave (which will be displayed on the waterproof electronic polymer). Depending on how successful the user controls his stream, a varying number of virtual bats will be released. The game’s success will spur the development of a number of related games.
#5: A mid-size city in the Netherlands will announce its intention to grow 10 percent of its food supply within the physical confines of its city. Utilizing tracks of “open urban space,” rooftop gardens and new vertical farming techniques, a city spokesperson will announce she’s optimistic the town can meet its goal by the end of fall harvest.
#6: Although officials from Britain’s MI6 won’t publicly report the incident, an unmanned aerial drone operated by a 16 year-old boy will successfully penetrate the bedroom of Prince William and Princess Kate while they are vacationing in the Mediterranean. The operator, an aspiring Paparazzi, will be released to his parents but the head of MI6 will be relieved of his duties and an internal investigation launched in effort to prevent a more serious incident in the future.
Virtual Grocery Stores
#7: After being denied the opportunity to build a new store in downtown Washington, DC, a major grocery chain will announce plans to rent the wall space at a number of Metro subway stops in order to create “virtual store shelves” that allow consumers to purchase goods directly by using their cellphones to snap photos of the items they would like delivered to their homes. As part of the program, the retailer will also announce a new shipping program that provides participants unlimited shipping for $69-a-year. The program is an attempt to mimic the growing popularity and success of Amazon’s “Prime” program.
#8: Bowing to pressure from cancer patients, their families and legislators, the Food and Drug Administration will agree to fast track a new lung cancer treatment that uses nanoparticles and magnets to kill tumors. Only individuals with Stage 3 or higher cancer will be accepted into the program. Participants must also agree to waive their liability in order to be accepted into the trial program.
#9: In Munich, traffic congestion will decrease 5 percent. The reduction will be attributed to a slew of new social networking apps that create safe ridesharing communities and allow members to connect automatically based on best-match journeys. The labor union representing Munich taxi drivers will seek an injunction against the social networks claiming they enable individual drivers to act as taxi companies and should therefore be subject to similar regulations and taxes.
Phone Food Sensors
#10: Two graduates students at Purdue University will announce the creation of a $9.99 sensor that can be attached directly to a smartphone and will detect the type and precise level of chemicals used on any fresh produce. The app will gain quick approval within the organic and sustainable agriculture communities and will force a growing number of farmers and producers to begin modifying the amount of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides they use on their products.
Interested in Futurist Jack Uldrich’s past predictions? Checkout his 2011 and 2010 predictions: