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What would an Internet of everyday skills mean for you?

In the coming years, we will have all we need to become an instant expert on almost anything. Our lives will be turned upside down by the ability to download the skills we need on demand, and simply discard them when we no longer need them. In this blog post, we take a deeper look at the Internet of skills and how we can expect it to change our society in coming years.

People wearing VR glasses
Michael Björn

Head of Research Agenda and Quality at Consumer & IndustryLab

Category

Everything about how you use the Internet will soon undergo a fundamental change. It may sound like science fiction, but we are already on the brink of this change. Let me give you an example.

I hate ties. I never wore them. I barely even know how to tie one.

When I worked at Ericsson in Japan, the CEO would often call me in the morning and say "Michael, we have a customer meeting, go home and put on a suit." To that, I would typically reply: "Morgan, I am already wearing a suit and am almost at the office!" But he would not relent and I would be made to go back and find a more proper outfit. He was right, of course. As an informal Swede, I would never dress to Japanese standards.

So, I would go home, start a tie tutorial video on YouTube, and go through the motions. A week or so later, the CEO would call and we would repeat the same procedure again. Despite that, I never learned how to tie a proper knot. For a good reason: I no longer work in Japan, and I never wear a tie. I just downloaded the skill on the rare occasion it is needed.

So here comes the science fiction part. With the arrival of AR (augmented reality) and immersive technologies in simple household applications, we are on the brink of a sea change in the use of downloadable everyday skills. YouTube tutorials barely even scratch the surface of what is to come.

 

 

Take the skill to navigate, for example – something which is intuitive for some people, but I severely lack. Google's AR enhanced maps are now live. Or how about the finger skills to use video game controllers? I find it tricky to remember buttons when playing Minecraft, for example. But soon I will download the building blocks and tool skills right in front of me and manipulate them in their real scale instead.

Microsoft is launching Minecraft Earth, where Minecraft will gradually integrate with the physical world, giving more people the skill to play games.

Not only will this require lag-free mobile networks that also handle the graphics processing for you. A huge challenge will be the smartphone itself. In our recent Ericsson ConsumerLab AR gaming report, we discovered growing consumer rejection of the smartphone as an AR gaming device. Not only did people say their arms suffered when holding out their phones in front of them, they also complained that immersion was not very good.

The solution to this is AR glasses. It was actually amazing to see that most consumers already take the arrival of normal-looking AR glasses for granted, although many technological hurdles still separate us from this reality. Most consumers said they would get a pair when they were available, as if that was no big thing.

Well, this already-taken-for-granted future just got a little bit more plausible, as nReal have announced they are shipping AR-glasses that actually look almost like glasses before the end of the year. And Apple are also rumored to soon reveal their glasses, tipped for a possible launch in 2020.

With this in mind, it's no surprise that the internet of skills features as one of the key trends in our 2019 consumer trends report.

In our latest ConsumerLab report, we found that as many as 60 percent of consumers would buy glasses with on-screen instructions that can help them to repair almost anything at home. But, repairing things is ultimately not a visual skill. For this reason, more than half of the respondents in the survey also wanted gloves that could guide their fingers, for example when repairing things or sewing on a missing button. Recognizing all objects in our homes and mapping AR instructions to that would require an awful lot of AI and processing power.

The report also found that 56 percent of consumers want downloadable skills for cooking food. But all kitchens are different, so maybe that's still too far in to science fiction territory even though it sounds simple enough.

But there are many obvious solutions that tech providers can already offer pre-cooked. Most obviously, tech companies themselves could supply AR instruction apps for their own products.

For me, I can think of many examples where this could save me hours through the week. The other day, a friend's Mac froze, and even though I messaged him to hold down the power button until it would restart, he didn't know where the power button was. An AR skill could easily have helped to resolve this. And since I do a lot of teleworking, I struggle literally every day to use Skype for Business on various devices. Again, AR instructions would do the trick.

These skills are needed right now, and they need to be of the disposable sort, since they become worthless as soon as manufacturers change their designs.

And what downloadable skill do I want, personally? An AR skill that maps directly onto my own necktie in my bedroom mirror. Using YouTube just seems so last decade!

Read the 10 Hot Consumer Trends in full.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Michael Björn
Michael Björn is Head of Research Agenda and Quality at Consumer & IndustryLab at Ericsson ConsumerLab and has a PhD in data modeling from the University of Tsukuba in Japan.
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