The only question more important than how and why luxury businesses should embrace technology is when they should embrace it, says Sophie Hackford, Director of Wired Consulting and all-round pioneering "future thinker". The answer? Immediately.
"What I really want to drive home is a quote by US General Omar Bradley: 'We should be navigating by the stars and not the light of every passing ship.' There seems to be a lot of passing ships at the moment," said Hackford this morning, who went on to outline the key technologies on which the luxury industry should set its sights. Bringing digital information to physical forms through smart surfaces; sensors embedded in our clothing; and virtual reality are the key players in the new landscape.
Hackford believes that virtual reality will soon replicate human interaction much more reastically, using avatars to mirror our expressions, feel the texture of surfaces, and even recall memory. The end goal? That we widen our perspective and recognise this development not as something only relevant to the online gaming community, but as a luxury experience that can be a shared across continents. Today's web is made up of pages, but instead we should think about web places, Hackford said.
"Today's kids will be virtual natives. We are moving away from the rectangle screen towards a 3D world," she explained. "In order to have a profound impact on the world, we need to be intuitive." Hackford doesn't want Silicone Valley's tech community to be the only ones to embrace these changes; instead she believes it is designers who will bring creativity to the new "Metaverse" experience.
The benefits of this new technology are abundant for the creative field. Analysing online data, "businesses can be turbo-charged by information" and "make the real world searchable", Hackford explained, meaning designers and retailers can only benefit from connecting with their customer easily and seeing how the competition is doing. "It won't be a tidal wave, it will be a creep - but as it becomes more useful, it will become more normal. We are entering a virtual age."
Hackford advised the audience, "It's important to ask big questions about the coming years — there are enormous technologies that have already left the gate and are doing transformative things in the world. We're not suffering from lack of technology, but a lack of imagination as to what to do with it. Technology has a place in luxury. We are all becoming entangled with machines in ways that we haven't before. So keep your eyes on the stars and not on the lights of each passing ship."
By Scarlett Conlon, reporting live from the CNI Luxury Conference in Seoul