Interactions will be through different mediums
The way we communicate has undergone a true digital revolution. We’re as likely – maybe more likely – to converse with our family, friends, and colleagues through virtual means as we are in person, whether through social media, messaging, instant images, or live video.
It’s all been possible because the tools we use to communicate have been through their own revolution. We went from rotary phones to mobile phones to dumbphones to smartphones. We went from posting letters to sending emails and SMS to chatting through social media and messenger platforms. We started sending each other images, then we quickly progressed to video and now live streaming. We can even translate what we say into other languages at the click of a button.
The changes are happening so fast, it’s hard to keep up. Even the new kids on the block can quickly find themselves under threat. Snapchat completely changed the way Gen Z express themselves. But their messaging competitors are already catching up with enhanced features like stories, location filters, and augmented reality stickers.
And it’s not just the way we connect with our friends that’s changing. Our relationships with corporations and professional services are going digital too. Digibank is a mobile-only bank launched in India which is completely paperless. It has no branches, sends no letters, and requires no written signatures. Instead, it lets customers do all their banking through AI-powered chatbots or live chat through a mobile messenger app.
Healthcare may still be some way behind that level of digitization. But people are already thinking how medical services could operate in Slack-like messaging environments, enabling us to communicate securely with our healthcare providers, sharing descriptions or pictures of symptoms, booking appointments, and receiving test results.
It’s easy to forget what an extraordinary change this has all been in such a short space of time. But you’ve only got to pick up your smartphone and remember you’ve got the whole world in the palm of your hand. We’re already living in the sci-fi future we once imagined, and we didn’t even realize it.
Virtual, voice and video.
And, as voice becomes the dominant digital interface, it’s also quick, intuitive, personal, and sensitive to context. It’s why Siri, Alexa, and Google Home are so popular, with as many as two-thirds of smartphone owners using the voice assistants packaged with their operating systems.
But voice isn’t the only way we’ll communicate with each other and with our digital devices. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are poised for explosive growth. Consumer spending on virtual reality, already as high as $108 million in 2014, will hit an extraordinary $22 billion in 2020.
AR, in particular, is being fueled by the latest features in must-have high-end smartphones. The iPhone 8 and iPhone X both offer highly polished AR experiences, for example. These capabilities are set to radically change what mobile gaming, messaging, and social media can do. And companies are coming together to build up the market for VR/AR interfaces. Nvidia and Oculus VR partnered to offer an introductory bundle for gamers interested in getting into VR, for instance.
Virtual sight and sound is one thing. But total sensory immersion is something else entirely. And it’s coming soon. We should expect to see VR experiences that also engage our other senses, like touch and smell, developed over the coming year. With experiences like these, the possibilities really do become endless.
So, the communication revolution is a long way from finished. In fact, we’d better get set for a new kind of reality altogether.
Talking health will get much easier.
The communication revolution is set to radically change healthcare too. Whether it’s a consultation with a doctor, medical advice, or emergency care, the latest forms of digital communication are changing the game.
Using voice recognition, artificial intelligence, and connected electronic health records, Forward is a medical startup helping physicians compare a patient’s health data against huge volumes of medical information, and supporting more informed decision-making for better preventative healthcare.
VR and AR will have a genuinely transformative effect on medical therapy and training. For example, resident physicians at OhioHealth’s Grant Medical Center are getting a head-start on their emergency medicine training through a VR platform. The program puts users at the heart of a virtual trauma bay, and lets them watch various medical scenarios in stereoscopic 3D.
For patients, too, digital tools are bringing personalized medical information ever closer. WebMD has long been a go-to source for patient health information and symptom analysis. Now Google is taking on the company with an intelligent symptom search function using their Cloud Machine Learning platform powered by voice-commanded search. And digital spaces like PatientsLikeMe are enabling safe and supportive patient-to-patient communication.