This article first appeared on Digital Doughnut, written by our Head of Connected Experiences, Christophe Castagnera.

Our Head of Connected Experiences, Christophe Castagnera, discusses the development of screens usage and what will happen when screens can no longer be touched.

In science fiction, screens have become a reliable way to date a film. Dominated initially by blue or green flashing lights and ‘TV’ like displays in Star Trek, we have since seen mobile screens, screens worn on wrists and most recently holograms in classics like Blade Runner and Minority Report. The screens in these movies have not only been a sign of the times, but often a good indicator of what was to come.

However, this technology most synonymous with the computer age, is now transforming into something truly different.

The micro screens that we’ve become accustomed to, used in headsets like the HTC Vive or Microsoft Hololens, may be the last pieces of technology that we classify as a screen at all. The advent of Virtual and Augmented Reality is moving the screen from an external piece of equipment, into our eyes at a rapid pace; redefining what we mean by ‘screen’.

For example, Magic Leap’s 'dynamic lightfield Technology' – yet to be released - will enable the headset to present virtual objects as though they're close to the viewer, reducing eye strain. Meanwhile Avegant's latest prototype, also using a form of lightfield technology, allows your eyes to move naturally by letting them shift focus to different digital objects. Avegant have expressed a view that lightfield technology will eventually replace smartphones and VR headsets. Consumers will have 'one device' to watch content, implement assisted content AR overlays onto real objects, look up information and even make Mixed Reality video calls.

We know that customers are increasingly pushing for seamless connected experience, so these predictions seem ever likely.

But what happens when screens can no longer be touched?

Making screen-time ‘hands free’ means AI will come into its own. As consumers, we’ll find ourselves moving towards hand, voice, eye, mind and predictive gesture control, based on the exact context of the environment and situation we find ourselves in.

However, this new reality comes with its own challenges and issues. Within the context of advertising alone, there will be huge questions over the blurring of mediums. OOOH will merge with AR, ATL and MR – how do you create something with so many variable and avenues? Who or which department will take the lead – tech, data, creative or copywriters? How do you makes sure the fundamental purpose isn’t lost in a myriad of impressive and distracting tech?

The science fiction scenarios of contextual advertising will become a reality, but it has the potential to be a minefield. As well as the execution, there will also be a need for clarity regarding regulation. For example who owns the airspace where an ad appears or how frequently should these ads appear in terms of visual health for the user? As we’re currently coming to grips with the implications of GDPR, are we ready for an entire new set of guidelines or handbook?

Science Fiction becomes reality…

In his book, 'Stories of your life and others', science fiction writer Ted Chiang describes 'Spex' that hide ‘ugly’ faces and show them as attractive instead. As everyone becomes visually equal, a moral dilemma comes into view. In the story, technology is at the forefront in this societal shift, and we predict that our morality also has the capacity to be tested.

However, as the tech extension of our own eyes speeds into view, traditional screens and how we use them will seem as backward as Telegrams do today. This technology will create huge commercial and cultural changes for us all, and it’s our job to make sure that we’re as prepared as an industry, as we are as consumers.