what we're watching

Welcome to the Emo-Surveillance Era

Applicable Trends

March 5, 2019      |      5 Min Read

No thought is safe or private

Beyond tracking where we roam, tech can now monitor how we feel, and mining our moods will become big business. Are you in the socio-emotive field yet? If not, why not? You need to start mapping faces and extrapolating conclusions — consumers will expect you to predict what they want and where they want it.

This new trend means there’s also a business case to be made for providing privacy. Consumers will pay for it — can your brand be re-positioned as a safe space? How do you communicate with consumers about what you are keeping confidential? A new code of ethics will need to be written and revealed.

You Are Being Eyed & Interpreted

Everyone likes to think they’re unique. But, when it comes down to it, humans are remarkably pattern-based — and AI has noticed. Now it’s clever enough to get one step ahead and start selling us stuff that we didn’t even know we wanted. 

What people say and what they really think are two different things, especially in certain cultures where saving “face” is crucial. We know that old-school focus groups are dead: The days of executives relaxing behind smoked mirrors with sushi, while marketing panelists munch potato chips and discuss new products, are over. Now they’ll just hook up volunteers to the latest emotive tracking technology and get results that way. You’ll know the real story on what your target wants, craves, and needs—not a filtered version. Few Hollywood Studios release a blockbuster trailer without AI tweaking it to get the maximum emotive response to guarantee a smash.



Do you have an AI king/queen on the payroll, working in tandem with your team of data scientists? Have you forged a connection to a firm that can embed mood-tracking powers into your digital platforms and portals? The time is now.

Hooked Up to the Cloud

Beyond software that tracks consumers’ thoughts and intentions, connection and surveillance will enter our bodies.

With neural lace, we’ll be wired to the web, receiving in-brain marketing and ordering items just by thought. Deep-brain messaging will be pay-for-play.

Future employers can scan our habits and efficiency with a glance– and you won’t get the job if you refuse to be monitored. Potential dates and mates will read our personality and predilections in real time. You can’t join that matchmaking service unless you agree to be scanned. Not linked to the database? You no longer exist. 

Our interior lives are about to go public. Tech can now swiftly scan and capture every mood – the arch of an eyebrow, the curve of a lip – and know the very core of our humanity, then optimize it. Millennials and Gen Z embrace a love-hate relationship with this new technology. They’ll give a little to get a little. They’ll share their private lives if it benefits them, and pull back when they feel it’s too intrusive. It’s hard to argue with being offered reduced prices and freebies to part with your personal data; consumers will grant access to their inner lives for these benefits. But expect people to opt into paying for ad-free, surveillance-light services as they mature. Do you have a tiered set of service offerings to take advantage of this? Consumers are getting canny with their cloud-based data. They know it’s worth something to you. They want rewards for sharing and being analyzed. They’ll also pay to make you tone it down later in life. 

One Nation Under Surveillance

The US security service’s face recognition prize challenge brought many smart solutions out into the marketplace that offer a window onto Tomorrow.  The winning company claims to identify not just known criminals (from millions of faces now registered inside massive networked security camera databases), but also gender (monitoring male-only privileged spaces) and intent. Yes, we’ve arrived inside the world of Minority Report, but real-life Tom Cruise detectives don’t need advanced human pre-cogs for pre-crime investigations. AI will give evidence in court, and the entire code of conduct will shift. If someone is always watching, what behaviors will emerge in private? How can companies recognize and give safe outlet to the darker human impulses? Much remains to be seen in the decades ahead.

Connected & Ever Closer

There’s a plus side. Some people struggle to comprehend others. Tech can help. A current study helps children with autism use Google Glass. The child sees simple emoticons displayed on screen which transcode confusing human feelings into language they understand. 

Does your consumer need your brand to understand them? Take cues from virtual AI-fueled therapists that are emerging now, like Ellie, ready to listen from behind the screen mapping visual cues to tailor sessions. She’s being used to help wounded warriors, suffering from PTSD, feel comfortable breaking down their defenses in a safe environment. But she’s eminently adaptable to brands and companies who need to show a more caring, intuitive face. Do you have an Ellie on your customer service team? She’d be great there. 

The 21st Century Anti-Surveillance Toolkit

Not only terrorists and other “bad guys” will try to outsmart facial recognition. Consumers will seek control of when and where you are watching them.

New services will help secure identities. People will innovate wildly with makeup and hair to confuse the cameras.

You’ll see hats everywhere soon. Worn low to create shadow over your eyes is a foolproof tactic. Facial-recognition cameras need to measure the pixel width between pupils for accurate readings. 

Your customers may also stockpile smartphone apps to detect electromagnetic signal interference and radio frequency data. They will go low-tech and cover up cameras on laptop and tablet with tape. No one will travel without sweeping the hotel room for (digital) bugs first. You will need to be agile about adapting to their preferences for surveillance.

The Return of Secret Societies

As masking technologies rise and tools to combat them surge, you’ll see a movement towards the hidden.

People will go underground, sharing private password-only docs which contain camera-free spaces and hold scan-free get-togethers where people can vent, mourn, and rejoice without prying AI eyes.

Position your brand or service as one that truly “gets” consumers – and is willing to work with them on levels of self-directed privacy. They’re going to expect it. Tidy up your terms and conditions now – and put them in plain language, or Gen Z won’t click the box. Use virtual therapist-style consumer service agents to address concerns and deliver stellar socio-emotive intuitive feedback. Get smart with predictive AI and start experimenting with brain-machine interfaces as the marketing tool of the future.

Consumers will want you to respect their privacy – but predict their every desire. No one said the Future would be easy, but there are opportunities to thrive.

If you’d like help navigating Tomorrow, our team of Futurists is here Today.

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