The Sharing Economy and Mixed Reality

A transcript of this interview appeared in Tass in Russia

How will digital technologies change the consumer and the market in the near and distant future?
In the short term, consumers have become so demanding that they want to receive a product or service immediately, here and now. The trend is clearly visible in the development of food delivery applications: if you wanted Russian dumplings immediately, and you were in central London, you could use Deliveroo and get your desired food. Previously, it was possible to order mainly pizza, now – you can enjoy almost any dish or drink. A varied and diverse ecosystem of applications meets the needs of customers like never before in the areas of food, retail, information, music. Users have become more clear about what they want, and businesses have to find increasingly sophisticated ways to resist competition. If we make a forecast for a more distant future, then the most serious change that awaits us is that we will be able to access information using feelings. While we currently use words for this purpose – printed text or voice – in a few years it may be emotions or even thoughts. Technologies are already beginning to develop in this direction: advertising based on the mood of the consumer or a music streaming service such as Spotify. Spotify offers the user playlists based not only on their musical preferences, but also on the situation in which they are going to listen to music, for example, a compilation for snowboarding or a customized playlist for running based on your speed. The longer you interact with such services, the better it knows your tastes and preferences and consequently, the more you get used to it.

What are the main disadvantages of the concept of joint consumption? 
Let’s consider the idea of ​​joint consumption using the example of Airbnb, an online service for short-term rent of private housing. Companies operating in the hospitality industry – hotels, hostels and others – have faced serious competition from this service. Precisely because landlords who place their offers on this platform, unlike hotels do not pay taxes. Airbnb positions itself as a housing exchange service “for friends”, but in fact it is not. Those who pay taxes, in such a fight lose. The level of services that hotels provide, services like Airbnb cannot provide. For instance, the quality of cleaning in the apartment Airbnb relies on the conscience of the host party.

Does this mean that the joint consumption now is a wild market and clear rules should be formed?
There are rules in place. Uber can check drivers by going to the site; Aribnb also checks its landlords. But now the sharing services are checked mainly by experience and recorded in the form of feedback. Although, as we said earlier, customers have become so demanding that their expectations sometimes remain unjustified even though the service has been provided at a good level and in full.
As creativity became digital, it ceased to belong to anyone, became common and distributed. We use the Internet, but do not own it. We are so used to accessing services, goods, content, that we have no need to own all this. We seem to live in a giant vault that gives out everything for rent. Why buy if access to this can be obtained at any time? Moreover, we no longer have a headache about storing, updating and servicing all of this.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of sharing ideas and content?
I think the practice of “sharing” ideas and content is necessary in completely new high-tech areas, for example, creating a mixed reality software. That is, where people spend extremely difficult work on programming and where the number of specialists is very small.
Even now the competition in this area is so high that the companies unleash conflicts with each other because one borrowed an idea from another. Of course, this slows down the development of technology. It is important to clearly see the difference between sharing and cooperation, on the one hand, and the appropriation and copying of other people’s ideas, on the other.
As for music, literature, video production, I think when different people contribute to the production of the final product, the latter will only benefit from this. In the ideas of cooperation and common use there are many positive moments that will enrich both art and design. In July 2010, for example, an experiment took place: thousands of people from different corners of the globe posted on YouTube videos about one day of their lives. From these videos the film “Life in one day” was created. Artists are beginning to collaborate in the virtual space, using tools such as Tilt brush (Google). In the USA, for example, they arranged an exhibition that could be seen in the virtual space – several artists with the help of Tilt brush worked on the same work of art.

What are the positive and negative features of introducing a human in digital environments?
I am convinced that the technologies are meant to enrich our life, they should not throw us and our development back: to make people unhealthy, physically weak or lose their memory.
Virtual reality can be successfully used in various fields: education, medicine, retail, real estate, design, art and design. The Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, in partnership with Microsoft, has changed the approach to studying medicine with Microsoft HoloLens Augmented Reality glasses. Students were trained and practiced surgeries using holograms of visualized figures and human organs.
Many governments use augmented reality in order to develop tourism. In Moscow, for example, there is a service, Discover Moscow, which started right after the boom with Pokemon Go happened. And Pokemon Go itself is an impressive example of how mixed reality becomes mainstream – it stimulates players to leave the house and take a walk.
We are all sentient beings and we clearly see the difference between physical and virtual reality, and virtual reality should not be a way of escaping reality.
Of course, there are negative moments, but it will be more natural, more profitable and more reasonable for consumers, and for business, and for states, if we recognize the changes taking place, carefully considering and accepting them. Otherwise, we can miss the wonderful new opportunities that technology may provide.

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