On a random day in 2021, I decide to hit the mall for some shopping. What happens next is right out of Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report.”
Passing through the entrance, a retinal scan confirms my identity entering the mall – originally developed for mobile-phone technology, then adapted and implemented by homeland security in all public places.
VR technology has become ubiquitous in our everyday lives, so I don my VR goggles, only to be greeted with holograms from stores and brands popping up in front of, and all around me.
Because the mall is aware of my presence and my preferences, due to the massive social media integration over the past several years, all of the brands vying for my attention will appear, with specials and incentives to buy them.
Thing is, I’m there for a birthday gift for my wife.
Within my viewfinder, my eye’s track a drop-down menu of contacts and select my wife’s name. Data is then pulled from social platforms and aggregated, with a new suite of products and offerings appear targeted at my wife’s shopping habits. Great!
I can find a gift for her in 10 minutes because I know what she’s been recently looking for on Amazon. Geo-shopping features will allow me to pick an item from her wish list and point me to the mall store carrying that item at the most competitive price.
Five years ago, it would have been strange to see all my fellow mall-goers out in public wearing VR goggles walking around store to store, but not today. Beginning with the AR craze of Pokemon Go, the jump to an everyday overlay AR/VR experience was a natural progression for all brands.
As I head toward the exit, a Hail Mary offering appears with the deal of the century on home furnishings. “Don’t go! 40% off your purchase if you stay!” I blink it clear and hit the door.
I leave the mall and get in my electric powered self-driving vehicle. Still donning my VR headset, I start to survey maps and traffic patterns to program the navigation of the car. Within minutes, I get served a digital popup within the viewer of fast-food restaurants and donut shops along my route. (I thought I was more health conscious than that!)
I enable my ad blocker and the screen clears. I’m headed home, but who is really behind the wheel?
Is this within the realm of possibility? What will the ramifications be for consumer privacy? How far can we push the limit on brand exposure and targeting?
Probably all the way to the front lens of my VR goggles.