With every new year comes a chance to look forward and wonder how our lives will change in the future. Rapid advances in knowledge, technological innovation and cultural change mean that we, as a civilisation, are never standing still. So what are some of the most exciting trends poised to change our lives now and what do they mean for us the future?
We will eat healthier and cook less
Associate Professor Tim Crowe from the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University says there is a growing trend for Australians to eat more meals out of the home and cook less often. ‘The appearance of more home-delivered and ready-to-eat meals meets the perceived time pressures of many,’ he says.
Food delivery is nothing new, but in our technology-driven time the arrival of food providers such as Foodora, Deliveroo and UberEATS has opened up a world of eating options at the touch of a button. But are they good for us?
‘Fortunately, in such a lucrative and competitive market, healthier options are being provided,’ says Assoc. Prof. Crowe. And with popular culture’s current focus on being fit and healthy, the increased ease of access to balanced meals could improve population health outcomes, reducing the burden on our future health system.
‘There is evidence that consumer purchasing patterns are changing (we now buy fewer soft drinks for example) and it is realistic to expect our health to be positively changed over the next few decades,’ says Assoc. Prof. Crowe.
Although we have more options than ever (including Soylent, a drink that claims to replace food altogether), Assoc. Prof. Crowe says a balanced diet combined with exercise is still key, no matter where you get your food from: ‘The basics of a healthy diet have changed little in decades – what has changed is the needless “nutrition confusion” from competing interests. Look for a consistent message that doesn’t demonise particular foods, promotes a wide variety of foods and is given by qualified people.’
We will watch more on the internet than traditional TV
With the continued rise of video-on-demand providers like Netflix, people are spending more time watching internet-delivered media than traditional TV. A recent US study found for 18 to 24 year olds 40% of weekly media consumption has shifted to internet-delivered content.
But despite today’s changing media delivery landscape, Dr Adam Brown – lecturer at Deakin’s School of Communications and Creative Arts – suggests looking at the other side of the coin, where the line between consumer and producer is blurring.
‘The contemporary digital media landscape has brought about a shift in the role of the “audience”, particularly in social media, where the user is now the product and hence the producer of that product,’ says Dr Brown. ‘Users take advantage of easy-to-use, often completely free technologies to create their own content, from vlogging to web series.’
Where the content production technologies and processes of the past were expensive, time-consuming and often unavailable to the public, ‘prosumers’ can now write, produce and edit engaging content from their smartphone, and publish to platforms like YouTube and Facebook to a possible audience of billions.
The continued rise in popularity of YouTubers like PewDiePie, Anthony Fantano and Deakin’s own Jess Holsman illustrates this new media environment where everyday people are successfully competing with traditional TV networks. A quick look at the growing global subscriber numbers of these internet stars suggests no sign of ‘prosumer’ content slowing down in future.
VR will change the way we learn
While the most prominent examples of virtual reality (VR) so far have been in entertainment and gaming, future applications could change the face education. Researchers and developers around the world are bringing VR to the classroom, enabling students to gain practical skills in life-like environments. Midwifery students at Deakin for example get hands-on experience in a simulated delivery with a pregnant model that’s a fusion of VR, nursing expertise and haptic technology. Using VeRITy (a ‘Virtual Reality Intrapartum Touch Trainer’), created in collaboration between Deakin’s CADET VR Lab and Deakin’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, students develop clinical decision-making skills in a controlled situation.
Dr Ben Horan, Director of Deakin’s CADET VR Lab says, ‘From medicine to occupational health and safety and education, people will be learning in virtual worlds before applying knowledge on the job – going into their work with an edge, knowing they’ve been able to practice over and over in a pseudo workplace first.’
And the life-changing uses of VR don’t end there. From relaxing chronic patients in hospital to easing phobias and assisting in recovery from stroke, our future in VR looks bright. ‘The potential applications of this technology are only limited by our imaginations,’ concludes Dr Horan.
Interested in joining a future-focused university this year? Explore Deakin University’s range of courses in engineering, health, media, nutrition and more.