What will shopping, cooking, and gathering with friends and family look like in 2030? We dreamed about what the future of the holidays might look like.
1. Our ovens will be smart — and our toilets will be even smarter
Think "Jetsons" appliances, but a little more subdued on the outside, said Rebecca Chesney, research director of the Food Future Lab, which is part of Institute for the Future, a futurist think tank.
"I actually imagine that the smart kitchen will look in a lot of ways the same," she said. "But there will be this digital layer, this information layer, on top of our food, on top of our cooking, our recipes, and how we connection socially."
For instance, sensors are being developed that could keep track of what's in our fridge, as well as what's about to go bad. Ovens could tell us how moist our turkeys are and when they need to come out of the oven. And the bird itself? We could be eating lab meat, created to give us more of the parts we prefer. Drumsticks, please!
It’s also possible we’ll be better able to monitor our, er, output.
“People are looking at developing a smart toilet that would constantly be tracking your body's output as a way of tracking your health,” Chesney said.
2. Travel will be less painful — or we won’t have to travel at all
We may be able to ease some of the pains of holiday travel with driverless cars. Or we might be able to escape travel altogether, with haptic technology, which gives the user physical feedback from a device.
"You could sit in the comfort of your own living room, wearing a special sweater and a special pair of glasses, and see your grandmother sitting in her living room wearing a special set of glasses and a special sweater," said Amy Webb, Founder of the Future Today Institute. "Those could very well be woven with sensors and different types of materials so that you could send a virtual hug," Webb said.
3. Our late relatives may join us in holographic form around the dinner table
Music, movies, and sports aren't going anywhere, but how we enjoy them might change. Lemu Coker is a digital strategist who has worked at Google, Verizon, and is now at Twitter. He believes we might be able to take someone's digital memories — an archive of their sound and videos — and recreate that person at our dinner parties in holographic form. A digital Prince performing for us while we sip our post-dinner coffee — why not?
But it could go a step further than that.
"You might have the ability to physically manifest a person, a family member, who might have passed away, from their digital memories that are out there," Coker said. "If you take video, audio and photos and put them all together, can that represent who that person is, to bring that person to the family gathering? Some people might want to have uncle Joe telling jokes again in the house."
4. We’ll donate money using our digital assistants
“$370 billion is donated in the United States every year. More people give than vote,” said Scot Chisholm, co-founder and CEO of Classy, a fundraising platform for nonprofits. But much of that is done through cash and check, as opposed to digitally. And Chisholm believes that will change.
“Giving will become more integrated into everyday life through artificial intelligence and things like Alexa. Hearing about something on the news, and being able to donate through voice commands while you’re cooking breakfast.”
5. We’ll be able to experience classical music in virtual reality from our homes
Lots of us go to classical music performances around the holidays. But by 2030, Fred Child, the host of the classical radio show "Performance Today," believes all concerts will be universally available in a home-based virtual reality concert hall simulator.
“Say the Berlin Philharmonic is doing "The Nutcracker" in Berlin, that will still happen. But if you’re in Peoria, you’ll be able to plug your finger into your personal virtual reality adapter, and have the experience of sitting in your favorite seat in Berlin, and enjoying the concert.”
And Child believes that for an even bigger fee, you’ll be able to experience what it’s like to actually play an instrument in the orchestra.
6. Our bags will tell us what presents to buy
When it comes to what to wear ... and what presents to buy, the tech will be able to crunch a lot of data for us.
“You’ll have more access to what your mom might like, what she’s been posting on Facebook, and is in her holiday wish list on Saks,” said Zoey Washington, an editor at BRIT + CO, a fashion website. Washington said Rebecca Minkoff’s new Always On bag, which has a sensor in it that interacts with your smartphone, is a good inkling of what is to come.
“When you have the bag with you, it might say, ‘hey, while you're in this store, I might recommend the following,’” Washington said.
And Washington believes that tech could replace a lot of the actual shopping we do.
“You already see consumer exhaustion around Black Friday and Cyber Monday ... in 2030, you might see a completely different holiday of stay at home and do nothing.”
We like this idea, and we’re calling it Just Don't Day.
7. It’s possible we’ll reject all of the above technology
Technology has the ability to make life a lot easier — but, sometimes, there’s a lot of joy in the actual work of the holidays.
It's obvious that whether the oven cooks the turkey for us or not, it's the time eating with family that matters most. And hopefully self-driving cars will deliver grandma to the house ... and we won’t have to rely on haptic hugs.
Because, holograms or not — some holiday traditions are here to stay.
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Correction (Dec. 20, 2017): An earlier version of this story misspelled Scot Chisholm's name. The text has been corrected.