We Are All Cyborgs Now: Brand Engagement and the Future of Interaction

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h1In the future brands won't be focused on selling – they will bring out the best in you. They'll be a trusted guide and advisor.

Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist

Amber Case is obsessed with the future of the interface, location and mobile. A self-described cyborg anthropologist and the founder of Geoloqi, a company bringing the future of location to the world, she believes technology is evolving us as we become screen-staring, button-clicking homo sapiens.

We're delighted to have Amber join us next week at SAY Create to talk about our future selves and how our values and culture are being shaped by living lives increasingly mediated by high technology in a session called Brand Engagement and the Future of Interaction. Or as Kris Krug put it in Fast Company, "She's a digital native. She's from the future. She's come back to help us figure out how to think."

As a lead-up to her session at Create, we asked her about the human-machine interactions that interest her most right now, invisible interfaces, and what the future holds for brands. You can also catch her TED Talk called We Are All Cyborgs Now below.

Are you a digital native? Why or why not? I feel like I grew up in 2 different generations. My Mom is older than my Dad and I grew up reading the 1960 Worldbook Encyclopedia, wearing clothes from a thrift store, and listening to my parents' music. But my Dad always had a computer so I grew up with a computer that was like a family dog. I first got on the Internet with a perspective of someone older than myself and had to build my own experiences.

What are the human-machine interactions that you're most interested in right now? I'm most interested in invisible and natural interactions. For example, you look something up on Google – behind the scenes robots are doing work for you and indexing information to show you results. I'm fascinated by that human machine symbiosis where machines don't look like robots, they're as natural as breathing.

At SAY Create you're talking about the future of technology and brand engagement – can you give us a glimpse of the opportunities you're seeing there? Brands used to be opaque – you couldn't interact with them and they didn't come to life. Then we got mascots like the Marlboro Man or Lucky Charms character where a mascot embodied a brand. And that was exciting because you could picture a person or character. Now we have the Old Spice Guy interacting with you and you can interact with brands on Twitter. In the future brands won't be focused on selling – they will bring out the best in you. They'll be a trusted guide and advisor. They'll help smooth out the friction and inconsistencies in life. A good example is Hipmunk - it takes all the pain away of finding a flight and they have this animal mascot.

You’ve talked a lot about invisible interfaces - why are they important? Location services – they help show us information that we would normally not be able to see. There are some technical issues we need to solve before we can really use it, but that's happening. This is not advertising. Starbucks sending you a coupon when you're walking by a store is not a good use case – it's not empowering. But if Starbucks could tell you a book club is meeting at Starbucks in half an hour then you might go during a time that you would not normally go and buy a drink when you would normally not buy one. That's helping people discover new things and giving them a sixth sense for things happening around them.

If we're all low-tech cyborgs now with phones in our pockets, what's the next level? Hopefully it's not implants – that would be awful. We'd have to go to the Apple healthcare center in the Apple store to get surgery for our next upgrade. But Google Labs and the interface on the eye can help us take better photos and augment reality. It's not a big stretch to go from hand to eye. In the future there will be no technology visible at all. It will be omnipresent – there when you need it and not when you don't.

When you look into the future, what excites you most? Everything having a data stream that you can plug into and use. One day all historical data around you in a city will be available and you'll be able to see interesting things that happened there in the past and who lived there. That excites me.

Follow Amber on Twitter @caseorganic

[Photo credit: Daniel Root Photography]