When Everything is Media: The Future of Ambient Communication by IFTF

Today, matchmaking is conducted through smartphone apps, shopping can be as easy as pressing a button on our refrigerators, office work can take place anywhere, and teens can become worldwide celebrities by shooting YouTube videos from the comfort of their homes.

All these recent transformations in the ways we build relationships, exchange information, and organize markets can be traced back to the 1960s when a group of engineers—including Paul Baran, one of the founders of the Institute for the Future—envisioned a move from centralized communications to a distributed network architecture. In these systems, nodes automatically route packets of information to final destinations across the globe. That technical and intellectual shift defined the way we’ve communicated since the dawn of the digital age.

This research map explores what technology holds in the coming decade and details a world where the convergence of the Internet of Things, immersive media and advances in network speed will envelop us in a continual stream of information, seamlessly merging our digital and physical worlds. It describes a future of “ambient communications” that will create an information-rich media environment extending well beyond television, smartphones, and computers to include objects, our bodies and other living things.

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