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How mobile is idiot-proofing our lives

Posted by Marian Berelowitz on May 16th, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Mobile devices are helping us outsource ability, knowledge, and effort. And as technology evolves, it will learn to anticipate needs as well, staying one step ahead of the user. As we note in JWT's recent report, "10 Mobile Trends for 2014 and Beyond," mobile is making life more idiot-proofed.

Having an advanced computing device constantly on hand—and one that can determine location, acceleration and other real-time data—enables us to compensate for skill gaps, augment our capabilities or otherwise outsource an array of tasks and some brainpower. As technologies get more sophisticated, consumers will increasingly harness mobile tools to become instantly smarter, savvier and more skilled, and also much lazier.

As we get accustomed to asking our mobile phones to perform tasks like figure out directions or translate foreign phrases, we’ll continue to outsource more elements of life—even our intimate relationships. Romantimatic and BroApp are apps that keep a relationship humming along (in theory, anyway) by sending romantic messages to a significant other at pre-selected intervals.

Consumers will increasingly expect digital tools to do the heavy lifting for them. For instance, Magisto is a fast-growing app—it claims more than 25 million users, up from 10 million in September 2013—that automatically selects compelling moments from videos or photos and combines them with customized styles and music. And its CamCrew technology optimizes for important characters the user is filming (one‘s kids, for instance), while providing real-time feedback on video lighting, framing and stability. Charmingly wonky home videos could be a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, technology is getting increasingly advanced in its ability to tailor help to specific users, learning our preferences over time. The movie Her was a futuristic vision of how mobile helpers could evolve from something like Apple‘s Siri into Girl Fridays. Such tools are evolving―Microsoft‘s new Cortana, for Windows Phone 8.1, and Google Now focus on anticipating wants and needs after collecting an array of user information. IBM has challenged mobile developers to create apps that leverage Watson, its artificial intelligence system that can understand the complexities of human language, among other things.

Digital assistants and other tools that can learn from experience and adapt themselves to user preferences will become increasingly predictive, catering to consumer needs even before the user is aware of them. Microsoft‘s Cortana can automatically present flight information and boarding passes as users travel to the airport. Google Now will tell a user when he passes a store that sells a product he‘s looked up in Google. Walmart is working to enable its mobile app to generate shopping lists automatically based on the user’s past behaviors.

Privacy, of course, is one potential stumbling block here. And ultimately, with mobile devices automatically thinking and doing more for us, we’ll see people start to question how much control to cede to technology. As we let machines come to know our preferences and take on more duties, we’ll grapple with big questions like whether we‘re losing autonomy and brainpower.

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