Movies and TV have been trying to predict the future of technology for years (some more successfully than others—Star Trek got the cellphone right but Back to the Future’s hover boards have yet to come to fruition). But after a very tumultuous decade for kidtech, including YouTube Kids’ launch and everyone getting into voice control (check out our roundup of the biggest events in kidtech in the 2010s here), could the 2020s have even more in store? Several kidtech experts weighed in on what they think the future of the space is, and what they want to see more of.
They said that the future is…
“My wildest prediction is that [the future] is going to look a lot like it does right now,” says SVP of global trends at Dubit David Kleeman. He’s referring mostly to devices, because while it may have been exciting for a new device or way of interacting with tech to bow seemingly every couple of months, Kleeman argues that this environment was actually terrible for content makers and led to less innovation from those third-party providers, mostly out of fear.
“They didn’t know what device they are making something for, and what will that device do and how kids will use them. So there was this stalling around waiting until things were more stable,” says Kleeman. “Now, it feels like things are more stable so we can devote ourselves to creativity instead of anxiety.”
The devices themselves will also benefit from a leveling out and a degree of stability in the marketplace. He points out that smart speakers in particular are only going to get better and better. In the future, rather than a voice assistant assuming what you want when you say, “Find me Peppa Pig,” it will start asking more questions like, “Do you want episodes of Peppa Pig? Do you want to play a Peppa Pig game? Or do you want to see some Peppa Pig merchandise options.” When an Amazon Alexa or Google Home (pictured stops assuming what a person means and starts asking more questions, it will be easier for users (especially kids) to navigate, according to Kleeman.
It’s not all roses though, and the future will also include a much larger penalty (than, say, YouTube’s landmark US$170 million fine from the FTC and New York Attorney General for reportedly violating COPPA) when a tech company is found to have violated privacy and data regulations, says Kleeman.
Adam Rumanek, the founder and CEO of Aux Mode, echoed Kleeman’s sentiments that there will likely be a lot more fines coming down the pipes in the next couple of years. But even though penalties for breaching privacy will get harsher, the future of technology will also allow companies to collect even more data. This is a double-edge sword: More data, means more privacy breaches, but it can also mean more protection for kids from ads, he says. Facial recognition, for example, could help shape the type of content kids are actually able to access.
“Everything has a camera,” says Rumanek. And since everything has a camera, and artificial intelligence is creeping into our day-to-day, it’s only natural that front-facing cameras will be better able to identify kids from adults, he says.
Although this means collecting more information on children and invading a lot of privacy rules, he says this would actually improve the internet. In this version of the future, there won’t need to be a YouTube or YouTube Kids—the website or app will just be able to tell who is watching and automatically add filters. This would end the need for parental privacy agreements and anything along those lines that makes the internet more cumbersome for its users, argues Rumanek.
He takes his prediction a step further and says that if this technology is more widely used, it can also be applied to things in the real world like an ad on a bus shelter. Then, if a parent and their child are walking by a vape ad, that ad will be able to tell a child is there and switch to something more kid-appropriate.
Over on the price front, Valerie Vicante, the founder and managing partner at Collabsco, thinks it’s likely that prices for tech products will start to drop. “We need to be really mindful of how everyday people are buying products,” she says.
In the 2010s, a lot of tech-enabled toys and games cost upwards of US$200. Vicante says she frequently hears big toy companies complaining that their high-priced offering wasn’t flying off the shelves and she knows why: It wasn’t affordable or accessible.
So in the next decade, Vicante predicts a shift towards cheaper toys (closer to US$25) that spark moments of magic for kids with the tech included in them. If any tech-enabled toy is really going to take off, then it needs to be accessible to more children both price-wise and for children with learning or physical disabilities.
All week we’re hopping in our time machines and taking a look at the 2020s. What will the next decade look like in movies, TV, tech and consumer products? Check back every day this week to find out.