Content: Afshin Mehin, Anna Savina
Illustrations: Cynthia Tranvo, Fran Pulido
In the past couple of months, so many of us had to rethink our lives due to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns that followed. Our homes turned into the center of our (subjective) universes where we spend all our time while also serving as a backdrop for the bleak news as well as virtual meetings, events, and happenings.
To do anything in the world (or at least in the world of knowledge work), we have to rely on technology even more than before. Simultaneously, our home is totally transformed and has acquired new meaning since it has to serve as a place for work and entertainment, as well as a vehicle for our survival. All these new functions need thoughtful technological solutions and designs.
As the restrictions are slowly being lifted, we will still need to rely on our home to provide much more for us than in the pre-quarantine times. Here at WOKE, we are curious to see how our homes can change in these uncertain times and how they can serve us better in the future. Below are some ideas and trends we are betting on — some of them are more backed by data than others, but we feel like all these futures are equally viable and we are excited to explore these trends in the coming months through our writing and design work.
How does everyday life look like when we are relying less on the outside world? Your home needs to become smarter and more self-sufficient. You need systems that help you make better decisions in the times when going out often and hiring professional help is not an option. We’ll see even more ways to monitor all the critical aspects of everyday life and tools to spend available resources wisely. We are betting on devices for smart gardening, advanced sprinkler systems and smart ways to preserve food and monitor what you have left and when you need to restock. We are also likely to witness a big leap forward in voice user interfaces. For those who work from home, screens can become too overwhelming, so these users may rely on smart assistants like Alexa and Siri to direct them on their path to self-sufficiency or, for example, continuous education.
The Rise of DIY: Better Tools For Greater Autonomy
Under a lockdown, our abilities to move around the city to access professional printers, sewers, repairmen and other professionals are limited, and a lot of work and repairs around the house are considered inessential. And even if some restrictions are no longer applied, we may want to have greater autonomy when it comes to doing things around the house.
These new conditions are likely to increase our interest in DIY and maker culture. The new movement can go into these two directions:
We’ll likely see a higher demand for content and expertise around DIY tips and techniques that allow people to create something new with the materials that they already have at home. Think Whole Earth Catalog in the world of Amazon, Home Depot, and broadband internet. Since this approach really emphasizes that everyday objects may be ‘hacked’ and assembled in a certain way to create something unexpected, it may not affect the market in a profound way. However, we’ll see a new wave of publishers, influencers, content creators, and lifestyle gurus who teach us how to DIY amidst uncertainty of our everyday lives and make tinkering a part of the ‘new normal.’
Another potential outcome of the crisis is the growing demand for semi-professional tools that are smarter and more intuitive than the previous generation. Thanks to the progress in the fields of robotics and computer vision, tools like Shaper Origin allow makers to cut pieces of wood with much higher precision and create even complicated pieces of furniture at home. We’ll see how new technologies will allow us to have similar tools — like better sewing machines, vertical gardens with smart sensors that notify you when to water the plants, tools for home repairmen’s, etc. With the right technologies and increased interest in self-sufficiency, the hardware designers of the future may achieve what maker movement enthusiasts weren’t able to achieve earlier. This time around, the pressure to become more autonomous is high, and the threshold for entry will be lower.
Entertainment and Leisure
Another trend we are anticipating is, in a way, an extension of our ideas listed above. We are likely to experience several waves of the epidemic, and as we are going to try to be self-sufficient and create space for various different activities at home, we will also need tools to create space for entertainment and leisure.
Very few people can recreate a movie theatre at home, or afford a restaurant-grade dining experience at their apartment (especially when it comes to decoration), but a lot of people miss these and other social experiences. We’ll see how digital and industrial designers will try to substitute experiences that we used to have outside of our home with new services and gadgets. We already see how parties, DJ sets, and proms are hosted on FaceTime, Zoom, and HouseParty, fashion photoshoots are done using video conferencing, and watch parties turn into distant streaming with friends with the help of Netflix Party and other apps.
What’s next? Some of the areas of our life may go back to normal, but it’s likely we will still see people, and especially strangers, as potential silent carriers of the virus. It calls for more creativity and higher demand for familiar experiences: think special equipment for socially distanced team sports, more powerful audio equipment, better home theater projectors or even more unusual lighting that recreates specific experiences.
Sanitizing Equipment and Touch-less Technology
In the past couple of months, so many of us learned something new about sanitizing and disinfection. News reports from around the world show a variety of measures and types of equipment to protect essential businesses and make public spaces safer — from drones spraying disinfectants to misty tunnels for factory workers.
Coronavirus made us aware about the importance of sanitation as well as about the possibility of future pandemics. We can see how a lot of this professional-grade equipment will become more common so we don’t have to rely on Clorox and other products and gadgets that weren’t designed with a global epidemic in mind. It’s not quite clear if we should expect sanitizing stations and other equipment to be a big part of our future homes. Very likely, this new regimen can be encouraged by touchless technology, wearable sensors that help us keep a safe distance, and other technologies that make life in dense areas safer.
Creating Space Inside your Home and Mind
Not everyone can afford to have a living space that has separate rooms or functional zones for different activities, so we believe there is an opportunity for products and services for creating space when you have none.
Our habits often revolve around certain triggers that can be set in motion by physical objects and rituals that revolve around certain objects and spaces. We’ll see a proliferation of furniture and home decoration that allows better zoning of the apartment or home. How to separate work from leisure? How to optimize storage to keep enough food and all the necessary tools and gadgets? How to use limited space to work out? How to get the most out of a balcony, patio, or a backyard? Those are the questions that became critical in the time of quarantine and are likely to be relevant after the lockdown ends.
There will be a need for technologies that create more space inside our minds as well. Meditation apps and wearable activity trackers will appeal to a wider audience since the outbreak raised many people’s awareness about their mental and physical health and its importance in the times of crisis. Another powerful tool to explore the world that lies beyond our homes is VR. We are likely to see how it’s implemented not just for playing video games, but as a form of therapy.
A Balancing Act
This great pause made us think of a future we never could have imagined before. Depending on our experience, political views, and unique circumstances, we may believe in different futures for a larger society. But on a personal level, this quarantine is making a lot of people reconsider their lifestyle choices.
The pandemic makes us lean into a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle — making our own bread or even growing our own food instead of eating out. We have started to think local instead of global, cutting off all the inessential travel and defining what truly matters. A lot of these activities may not look as glamorous as a globe-trotting lifestyle of the past, but it can be just as fulfilling with the right amount of creativity.
We believe that when we are left with our own imagination, skills, and tools, we can expect much more creativity and balance in our lives. The pandemic is making so many of us to be more mindful of our surroundings, our routines, and habits. Whether its being more sustainable with food, creating more mental space with VR, or inventing the newest touch-less technology, this pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we look at our homes and world. Here at WOKE, we see this as an opportunity to embrace a new way of thinking and are excited to start developing this new world with our clients and end users.