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by Curt Finch

Child’s Play: Why Kids Will Always Be at the Forefront of Shaping Technology

Opinion
Jan 06, 2012 3 mins
CIO Consumer Electronics Financial Services Industry

I love dreaming about technology of the future.  I’m a huge Star Trek fan and more often than not, I see many similarities in new technology being developed by innovative thinkers on planet Earth and the technology showcased on my favorite Sci-Fi show.

But just imagine what still remains to be developed.  It’s exciting to think about. I’ve always believed that children are a great resource for discovering what technology will become popular in the future.  The germ of this idea came from reading Peter Lynch’s One Up on Wall Street: How To Use What You Already Know To Make Money In The Market. An excellent investment book, Lynch strongly believes in really understanding the companies you invest in and often turns to kids to conduct informal market testing.

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We are now in an age where almost everyone in the developed world who is under 18 cannot remember a time when the internet wasn’t a major part of everyone’s life.  That’s a pretty amazing fact.  Because of this environment, kids can easily see technology being an extension of themselves.  A study by Latitude found clear trends in how kids see the future of technology.  Latitude asked a sample of children “what would you like your computer or the internet to do that it can’t do right now?”  The results were very revealing and you should take a look at the full study here when you get a chance.

As these technology-savvy youngsters graduate from college and enter the workforce, the consumerization of IT will no longer be a trend. It will be a way of life.

Tactile Technology

A kid’s world is incredibly tactile so it makes sense that kids want to literally touch the technology they use.  Children often assume that every screen is a touch screen that they can control and manipulate.  User interfaces will move from nested structures to navigating surfaces.  Kids also envision Google searching via drawing on the screen instead of typing in a phrase.

A Physical World Integrated with Technology

Children don’t divide online and offline life.  Nor do they see much separation between the physical and digital world.  Kids envision technology that can print real food, or can provide real or simulated travel.  Kids see technology assisting them with physical activities, such as sports.  Essentially, there will be more and more technology crossing over into our physical world.

Human-Like Interactions with Technology

With the introduction of Siri and voice control on most smartphones, kids find talking to phones natural.  Kids also want to interact with computers beyond a keyboard and mouse, preferring auditory controls or touch-screen interfaces instead.  Robots and virtual companions are also common trends with kids’ technology desires.

Their Future’s So Bright…

Children represent how current technology influences our behavior.  Kids can use technology intuitively and have certain expectations based on what’s currently available.  It’s as if they know the next chapter in the book they’re currently reading.  And kids aren’t stupid.  Most teens excel at troubleshooting, which many adults still struggle with.

And why as a CIO should you be concerned about this?  I’m sure many of your employees are either parents or recent grads.  Both of these groups have a strong connection to new technology and will bring it with them to the office eventually.  Do your part to stay two steps ahead of the curve.