Predicting the future is hard.
Not only do you have to imagine what problems we’ll be trying to solve; you have to imagine which still-uninvented products will help solve them.
The Institute for the Future, a research organisation devoted to providing foresight about the world ahead, thinks it’s up to the task.
Tech Insider spoke with Mark Frauenfelder, one of the IFTF’s top research directors, to get a sense of the kinds of products people will use in 2026 that we can’t imagine yet.
By 2026, couples could have the option to get brain implants that allow them to read one another's minds. Rather than rely on self-reports about emotional states and well-being, they can just know.
The IFTF imagines that the company supplying this service will be called Amethyst.
'One little device lets you truly be together, even when you're apart,' the IFTF states in a 2015 report. 'You can think and move as one, without words, or even thoughts.'
Similar to Bitcoin, Edublocks might serve as a new virtual currency exclusive to online education.
If you watch a three-minute guitar lesson on YouTube or an hour-long physics lecture on MIT OpenCourseWare, you'd receive a set quantity of Edublocks to match the time you invested.
'The lessons are recorded on an immutable database that other people can access to see what you've learned,' Frauenfelder says. 'And you can use these education skills to buy more training.'
Public speaking could get a whole lot easier with Winning Friends, augmented-reality software that would give you real-time updates about your audience and tips to make your presentation the best it can be.
'Whether you're talking to a single person or a whole stadium, Winning Friends is your guide to mastering persuasion,' an IFTF report states.
With the app, you'd know exactly when to smile more or project your voice so that you appear confident and authoritative.
Gender identity has become a national issue, and Frauenfelder says it will only get more scientific as times goes on.
With Gender XY-Change, a pill that could instantly change your hormone levels so you can experience life as the opposite sex, people would develop greater empathy toward one another.
The effects would last until the other pill is taken, the IFTF says. But 'be aware of unknown consequences when stacking and mixing Gender XY-Change pills.'
There's a blood type only 43 people in the world are known to have, an ultra-rare 'Golden blood' that is a true universal donor. It's known as Rh-null.
The problem is that those 43 people can only accept Rh-null blood.
Frauenfelder says home donation kits could allow people with Golden blood to sell it at a high cost -- upward of $2,400 a litre. They could save the profits for when they need to buy more of it in the event of an injury.
Research about ageing suggests the first person who will live forever might already be alive. Aguavida, a futuristic water that grants people immortality, would give everyone that chance.
But since populations are growing rapidly, Aguavida would try to avoid the over-crowding problem by containing an ingredient that permanently sterilizes all who drink it.
'Even without increasing life span, the population is growing just from an increased birth-rate,' Frauenfelder says. 'Those are issues to address.'
Scientists are finding that people's microbiome -- the bacteria in their gut -- is essentially a second brain.
The Microbial Mood Ring would contain a perfect replica of the wearer's microbiome. When you encounter an environment that might negatively affect that bacteria, the ring would change colours, prompting you to leave or perhaps just wash your hands.
'I think that would be incredibly useful as a guide to lead you to things are going to be good for you,' Frauenfelder says.
If we want to gauge someone's worth, we shouldn't go by their bank account, Frauenfelder says. Instead, we should develop a Reputation Statement -- an itemized list of each person's monthly social acts, similar to a utility bill.
A nobler form of currency would incentivise people to act in a way that benefits their community, rather than themselves, Frauenfelder says.
'It's proof you've done something good to make this money, and it's not like you made a killing in the stock market.'
A wearable device could use people's genetics and psychological profile to track their cravings and help them to avoid eating unhealthy foods during moments of weakness.
The Indulgence Navigator would present biometric data through augmented reality. If you're about to open a candy bar and your heart rate and saliva levels spike, the device could send you an alert.
It also works for recreational drugs, say, to learn how a strain of cannabis will affect you.
The EZ Lift would encourage people to take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
Each person would start the day with a certain number of 'lift' credits; as they exhaust them, an augmented-reality display would let everyone know they're running low. People can earn credits by taking the stairs.
The idea would be to nudge people toward exercise by making public health truly public.