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NXTLVL Experience Design

Episode 59: Neil Redding

“Near Futurism and Spatial Computing” with Neil Redding, Founder, Redding Futures

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EPISODE SUMMARY

Neil Redding is a keynote speaker, author, Innovation Architect and Near Futurist. Neil has worked at the convergence of digital and physical for decades, and is an advisor in the realms of spatial computing, augmented reality, AI, and convergent brand ecosystems. As a Near Futurist, Neil focuses on connecting what’s possible with what’s practical — pulling the future into the present through a digital experience lens. In this episode host David Kepron and Neil Redding muse on the future or ‘Near Future’ and spatial computing in the brand experience world.

EPISODE NOTES

ABOUT NEIL REDDING:

Neil’s LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/reddingneil/

Website: https://www.neilredding.com/

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Editor, Near Future of Retail

BIO:

Neil Redding is a keynote speaker, author, Innovation Architect and Near Futurist.
Neil has worked at the convergence of digital and physical for decades, and is an expert speaker and advisor in the realms of spatial computing, augmented reality (AR), AI, and convergent brand ecosystems. As a Near Futurist, Neil focuses on connecting what’s possible with what’s practical — pulling the future into the present through a digital experience lens.
Neil currently leads Redding Futures, a boutique consultancy that enables brands and businesses to engage powerfully with the Near Future. Prior to founding Redding Futures, Neil held leadership roles at Mediacom, Proximity/BBDO, Gensler, ThoughtWorks and Lab49.
He has delivered for clients including Visa, Nike, Cadillac, Macy’s, NBA, Verizon, TED, The Economist, MoMA, Converse, Morgan Stanley, Apple, Oracle, Financial Times, and Fidelity Investments.
He has spoken at numerous conferences including SXSW, AWE, Immerse Global Summit, infoComm, Tech2025, CreateTech, SEGD XLab, A.R.E. Shoptalk, Creative Technology Week, Design+AI and VRevolution.
Neil is also editor of Near Future of Retail, author of the forthcoming book The Ecosystem Paradigm, and advises multiple startups at the leading edge of the digital-physical convergence.

SHOW INTRO: 

Welcome to the NXTLVL Experience Design podcast.

These dynamic dialogues based on our acronym DATA – design, architecture, technology, and the arts crosses over disciplines but maintains a common thread of people who are passionate about the world we live in and human’s influence on it, the ways we craft the built environment to maximize human experience, increasing our understanding of human behavior and searching for the New Possible.

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The NXTLVL Experience Design podcast is presented by VMSD.

VMSD is the publisher of VMSD magazine and brings us, in the brand experience world, the International Retail Design Conference. The IRDC is one of the best retail design conferences that there is bringing together the world of retailers, brands and experience placemakers every year for two days of engaging conversations and pushing the discourse forward on what makes retailing relevant.

You will find the archive of the NXTLVL Experience Design podcast on VMSD.com.

Thanks also goes to Shop Association the only global retail trade association dedicated to elevating the in-store experience.

SHOP Association represents companies and affiliates from 25 countries and brings value to their members through research, networking, education, events and awards. Check then out on SHOPAssociation.org

In this episode I talk with Neil Redding Founder of Redding Futures about Near Futurism and Spatial Computing.

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But first a few thoughts.

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I grew up on Star Trek. And Walt Disney of course.

Sunday nights were special my brothers and I would gather together with my father watching captain James T Kirk careening around the universe and battle everything from klingons to tribbles.

It gave me a vision of the future and a world of possibility beyond what was known.

I think having had that experience, and my father’s fascination with the possibility of beaming anywhere, set me on a path for being always curious about the expanse of the universe, the possibility of extraterrestrial life, what would happen when you traveled at the speed of light or entered the event horizon of a black hole.

Later on I began to be interested in string theory and tried hard to understand the math and physics of the general theory of relativity.

It’s equally become important as a practice to hold future thinking in context with present realities.

The pandemic offered an opportunity to really understand what it meant to be present -where the future vision for my life that I had established weren’t coming to pass – at least in the short term.

And so, it became interesting for me to think about the future not as some long far off vision of something that would happen 25 or 50 or 100 years from now but to think increasingly about the near future.

It also became clear that the distant future was becoming increasingly difficult to imagine.

When thinking about the exponential pace of change it became very clear to me that we were very definitely on the upswing of an exponential curve where moments of significant technological advances would become closer and closer together and therefore the deltas between one significant moment and the next would also become smaller putting us perhaps in the perpetual present, fluidly moving from now and next .

And of course, if you do any meditation or have a mind body practice, the whole idea is to find yourself in the present letting go of past and a longing for understanding future.

And that’s great and I do have a meditation practice each day that helps me stay centered focused on the now, hopefully ridding me of my worries or my regrets from things that I might have done in the past or perpetually longing for a future to be a certain way.

But at the same time, there seems to be a paradox – we’re not naturally good at staying in the perpetual present because we need to rely on past for learning and we often long for understanding our future perhaps because we want some sense of predictability in in otherwise largely unpredictable world.

And so I began to think a lot about this idea of near future – not lingering on the past, though hoping that I bring lessons learned from those experiences forward to make me smarter and help support the decision making in the present and not completely alienating myself from future.

I’ve come to think of this a matter of a proportioning of my daily brain power – how much time am I spending thinking about what was or has not yet come to pass.

And so when I reconnected with Neil Redding in an online conference that I see saw him speaking at, I was fascinated with his concept around near futurism end other subjects like spatial computing.

Things that has focused his profession professional path on over the past number of years since our first meeting in New York over a decade ago.

When we met then we shared a stage at a Society for Graphic Designers event and I had just published my book Retail (r)Evolution and was talking about the emergence of a new experience seeking cohort of shoppers focused in the digital world and what the emergence of digital media, as a medium for interacting with customers, would mean.

Then I was talking about Google Glass which had just come on to the market and I saw it as a potentially new way of engaging in experiences of our physical environment.

I explained to my sons that I was selected to be a beta tester and their remark to me then was “dad, you’re not actually gonna put that thing on your face are you?”

Google Glass ended up not gaining traction and faded away. But that didn’t mean that companies developing augmented reality headsets head disappeared they were just perhpas waiting for a time where general adoption of the tech would become more robust.

I happen to think that augmented reality is a better solution than virtual reality because augmented reality keeps us in the present it keeps us in a place where we are actively engaged in a mind body way with the environments that we’re in.

Augmented reality offers us an opportunity to have a digital overlay on those experiences and it draws from our Hansel and Gretel trail of digital ones and zeros that suggest our preferences, our desires, our need for certain kinds of information so that products and places could be customized by us.

Augmented reality also offers us the opportunity to share in the expereicne of place.

Both myself and a friend or family member could visit a store, a museum or even a National Park standing side by side and through our augmented reality headsets or glasses, we could at the same time, share in the experience and also have it equally customized to our individual preferences.

The idea of augmented reality actually isn’t new. L Frank Baum, who wrote the Wizard of Oz, actually described a headset in his 1901 book “THE MASTER KEY”.

There he previewed the invention of the Taser, a hand-held PDA with Google Glass-like capability, including live video /AR and a wireless phone.

The Master Key: An Electrical Fairy Tale, Founded Upon the Mysteries of Electricity and the Optimism of its Devotees, describes the adventures of a 15 year old boy who experiments with electricity.

The young lad accidentally touches “the Master Key of Electricity,” and comes into contact with a Demon who bestows upon him various gifts.

One of these gifts is a “Character Marker” which is described on p. 94:

“It consists of this pair of spectacles. While you wear them everyone you meet will be marked upon the forehead with a letter indicating his or her character. The good will bear the letter ‘G,’ the evil the letter ‘E.’ The wise will be marked with a ‘W’ and the foolish with an ‘F.’ The kind will show a ‘K’ upon their foreheads and the cruel a letter ‘C.’ Thus you may determine by a single look the true natures of all those you encounter.”

Sometimes I think people like L Frank Baum and others like Nicola Tesla knew, long before they actually came into common usage, where our technology would finally bring us. It just seems like the actual evolution of digital technology was simply lagging behind our imagination.

Tesla for example was quoted in in 1926 Colliers magazine article as saying “when wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will become converted to a huge brain, which in fact it is. All things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole… and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared to our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket” and then he goes on to say that we’ll be able to communicate with each other independent of geography.

About a decade ago there was a Time magazine article called “Never Offline” where they described wearables – meaning the digital interfaces that we would put on our bodies from smartwatches to things like Google Glass or augmented reality goggles.

In that article they suggested that “…wearables will make your physical self visible to the virtual world in the form of information, an indelible digital body print, and that information is going to behave like any other information behaves these days. It will be copied and circulated. It will go places you don’t expect. People will use that information to track you and to market to you.”

Now I suppose one way of taking this view would be that it aligns with the often dystopian vision of a future where information is used without our knowing and perhaps to our detriment.

On the other hand, things like wearables and spatial computing devices can be used to augment experiences to the benefit of people.

One of them which seems to be Ground Zero for the application of augmented reality or spatial computing is in the retail world.

It’s easy to imagine shopping experiences that are already difficult to navigate – because retailers cram their spaces with so many products that it makes choosing and navigation of the assortment difficult – could be alleviated through the use of smart devices like an augmented reality headset of some kind.

Signage could be clearer, information leading to better decision making could be better and navigation through a complex maze of products in any store could also be made more efficient.

Wearable technologies have not disappeared since Google Glass came on the market and then faded away. Compnaies have been spending time refining technologies allowing our ability to collect, parse and share data.

The introduction of artificial intelligence and natural language processing has also become more part of our everyday world. And this is where spatial computing becomes increasingly interesting.

What if we can talk to our devices as we navigate space what information could we call up that would help us make decisions or be better informed?

What visual clutter could we remove from our streets and highways? that instead of having large billboard structures lining highways that that information could simply be a visual virtual overlay that we see through our dashboard or through the glasses we’re wearing on our face.

Or maybe it offers up the opportunity for things that are specifically related to me like what restaurant I’d like to go to and how far it is away because my personal preferences are already loaded into the algorithm.

Perhaps our actual 3D environment becomes less littered with this type of visual noise and the work of providing that kind of information is provided through a set of glasses and an augmented reality overlay.

So having this conversation with Neil was interesting because he’s actually doing this sort of thing.

Neil Redding has worked at the convergence of digital and physical for decades, and is an expert speaker and advisor in the realms of spatial computing, augmented reality (AR), AI, and convergent brand ecosystems.

As a Near Futurist,Neilfocuses on connecting what’s possible with what’s practical — pulling the future into the present through a digital experience lens.

Neil currently leads ReddingFutures, a boutique consultancy that enables brands and businesses to engage powerfully with the Near Future.

Prior to foundingReddingFutures,Neilheld leadership roles at Mediacom, Proximity/BBDO, Gensler, ThoughtWorks and Lab49.

He has worked for companies including Visa, Nike, Cadillac, Macy’s, NBA, Verizon, TED, The Economist, MoMA, Converse, Morgan Stanley, Apple, Oracle, Financial Times, and Fidelity Investments.

He has spoken at numerous conferences including SXSW, Immerse Global Summit, infoComm, Tech2025, CreateTech, SEGD XLab, A.R.E. Shoptalk, Creative Technology Week, Design+AI and VRevolution.

Neil is also editor of Near Future of Retail, author of the forthcoming book The Ecosystem Paradigm, and advises multiple startups at the leading edge of the digital-physical convergence.

 

ABOUT DAVID KEPRON:

LinkedIn Profile: linkedin.com/in/david-kepron-9a1582b

Websites: 

https://www.davidkepron.com    (personal website)

vmsd.com/taxonomy/term/8645  (Blog)

Email: david.kepron@NXTLVLexperiencedesign.com

Twitter: DavidKepron

Personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/davidkepron/

NXTLVL Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nxtlvl_experience_design/

Bio:

David Kepron is a multifaceted creative professional with a deep curiosity to understand ‘why’, ‘what’s now’ and ‘what’s next’. He brings together his background as an architect, artist, educator, author, podcast host and builder to the making of meaningful and empathically-focused, community-centric customer connections at brand experience places around the globe.

David is a former VP – Global Design Strategies at Marriott International. While at Marriott, his focus was on the creation of compelling customer experiences within Marriott’s “Premium Distinctive” segment which included: Westin, Renaissance, Le Meridien, Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels and Gaylord hotels.

In 2020 Kepron founded NXTLVL Experience Design, a strategy and design consultancy, where he combines his multidisciplinary approach to the creation of relevant brand engagements with his passion for social and cultural anthropology, neuroscience and emerging digital technologies.

As a frequently requested international speaker at corporate events and international conferences focusing on CX, digital transformation, retail, hospitality, emerging technology, David shares his expertise on subjects ranging from consumer behaviors and trends, brain science and buying behavior, store design and visual merchandising, hotel design and strategy as well as creativity and innovation. In his talks, David shares visionary ideas on how brand strategy, brain science and emerging technologies are changing guest expectations about relationships they want to have with brands and how companies can remain relevant in a digitally enabled marketplace.

David currently shares his experience and insight on various industry boards including: VMSD magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board, the Interactive Customer Experience Association, Sign Research Foundation’s Program Committee as well as the Center For Retail Transformation at George Mason University.

He has held teaching positions at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), the Department of Architecture & Interior Design of Drexel University in Philadelphia, the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (L.I.M.) in New York, the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Montreal and he served as the Director of the Visual Merchandising Department at LaSalle International Fashion School (L.I.F.S.) in Singapore.

In 2014 Kepron published his first book titled: “Retail (r)Evolution: Why Creating Right-Brain Stores Will Shape the Future of Shopping in a Digitally Driven World” and he is currently working on his second book to be published soon. David also writes a popular blog called “Brain Food” which is published monthly on vmsd.com.

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The next level experience design podcast is presented by VMSD magazine and Smartwork Media. It is hosted and executive produced by David Kepron. Our original music and audio production by Kano Sound. 

The content of this podcast is copyright to David Kepron and NXTLVL Experience Design. Any publication or rebroadcast of the content is prohibited without the expressed written consent of David Kepron and NXTLVL Experience Design.

Make sure to tune in for more NXTLVL “Dialogues on DATA: Design Architecture Technology and the Arts” wherever you find your favorite podcasts and make sure to visit vmsd.com and look for the tab for the NXTLVL Experience Design podcast there too.

 

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