Daniel Smith discovers Adidas’s new vision of the future involves buying sneakers with the blink of an eye.

When most people pitch their vision for a utopian future, it usually includes things like flying cars, teleportation, and a planet that’s somehow managed to turn away from climate catastrophe and towards an eco-conscious environmental heaven.

But the utopia being pitched by Alexandra Popova and Constantine Gavrykov is a little different. It’s a hipper, more fashionable world in which shoes can be purchased with the blink of an eye.

Popova and Gavrykov are two of the best and brightest minds at global fashion retailer Adidas. 

They’ve been tasked with bringing a huge business into a rapidly approaching technological revolution, which they outlined during their talk at Spark Lab’s Future State conference earlier this year.

Online shopping (or “e-commerce” if you want to sound like your marketing degree was worth the student loan debt) is set to be worth $7.2 trillion globally in the next decade, they said.

But to take advantage of that glistening, steaming cash pile, businesses need to make massive technological advancements that allow them to become human focused.

“People and organisations are more overwhelmed than ever,” Gavrykov said.

“The reason for this is a gap between technological advancements and our human adaptability. Our social and business structures were largely developed in the first industrial age, and we must constantly revise them to keep up with the advanced world we are living in.

“This gap shows the need to adapt to our technology and lifestyle changes faster than we ever anticipated.”

Buying shoes with a blink

Leading this high speed technological advancement for Adidas is how we buy our shoes.

In the future put forward by Popova and Gavrykov, gone are the days of lazing on your couch and scrolling through your phone.

In their strange new world, buying shoes is as simple as blinking into your VR headset.

To illustrate this idea at the Future State conference, they told a hypothetical anecdote about how a fictional woman named Mary might purchase a pair of Adidas sneakers in 10 years’ time.

Alexandra Popova speaking at Future State earlier this year. Photo / Supplied

Mary is a keen runner. In fact, when she isn’t running she loves nothing more than to sit on her couch plugged into her VR headset watching a simulation of someone running the Auckland marathon. (We are assured she is completely level-headed.)

During her VR marathon simulation Mary notices a runner next to her wearing the latest Adidas sneakers. Her pupils dilate, and she blinks rapidly to let her AI VR headset know she is interested in buying these shoes.

Her AI digital assistant already has her biological information, including her weight, shoe size, and stride pattern, which it then sends to Adidas to get her perfect, tailor-made shoe into production.

The digital assistant also has a highly realistic digital image of Mary, which it can dress in the shoes so that Mary can see what she might look like in her new kicks.

The AI assistant also has her biometric and financial information so that when Mary is ready, she can purchase the shoes with a simple verbal command of “Yes” or “No”.

But more than this, her AI digital assistant knows she is going to visit her mother in Queenstown next week and is able to give this information to Adidas, who will send the shoes to her mother’s home so they will be there when she arrives. 

It also knows the temperature down south is colder, so can offer a new running jumper to buy along with her fresh kicks. To finish off the personalised experience, it will also recommend several running trails for her to try out in the Queenstown area.

The next wave of e-commerce

If all this sounds a little creepy, it might be because we’re not used to having consumer technology so inextricably intertwined with our lives.

But for Gavrykov and Popova, this is a reality that is coming, and fast.

“This next wave of e-commerce means brands are focused on becoming indispensable to the customer, delivering them a deeper experience both offline and online,” Gavrykov said. 

“This will mean companies will put digital experiences at the centre of their offering, so they can orchestrate experiences people can’t get anywhere else.”

Of course, there is a trade off here.

In order to get this level of customisation, a person would have to surrender huge amounts of personal data to private corporations, trusting them with safekeeping almost every detail of our day-to-day lives.

Popova and Gavrykov don’t shy away from the security and data privacy challenges presented by their futuristic vision. 

But according to them, this future is coming whether we like it or not, and we need to start addressing the problems by thinking of big ideas.

“Don’t wait for somebody else to solve the problem instead of you,” Gavrykov said.

“We need to approach these problems with continuous innovation. The technology itself is innovating fast; we as humans need to develop our own processes to keep up.”

This content was sponsored by Spark Lab. This year, Spark Lab and Semi Permanent presented their first Future State event, a one-day series of talks from innovators at world-changing companies. You can find more speaker content from the event at the Spark Lab website.

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