Nesta’s social movement & technological predictions for 2016

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A new year, but will it be a new world?

In recent years Nesta – a charitable organisation that helps bring innovative ideas to life – have signposted their predictions for the year ahead so we thought we’d invite them to share some of these with you.  Their 2016 list focuses on the trends, social movements and technological breakthroughs that they believe will impact our lives over the next year. We let Sara Rizk, Senior Digital Producer, take up the story.

Patient citizen scientists

Two of this year’s Nesta predictions focus on the involvement of patients in shaping and contributing to healthcare outcomes.  In 2016, we’ll see a surge in digitally enabled and patient-led research. Easily accessible digital technologies such as smartphones, and health wearables like Fitbits, are creating a generation of citizen scientists eager and willing to contribute to medical research by sharing their own health data. This new data is produced, owned and controlled by patients, accessed on their terms and allows them to be active healthcare participants rather than passive subjects.

Healing games

The same idea of patient participation carries through to the prediction that 2016 will be the year doctors start to prescribe video games to help treat mental health issues. With the rise of the gaming industry, a new set of tools with therapeutic potential is emerging. Strong narrative structures, immersive role-play and comforting game dynamics are being brought to the attention of both researchers and doctors as valid treatments for a range of mental illnesses. One example is design agency Shift’s BfB biofeedback games which use data from wearable sensors to reward players that stay calm under pressure by linking performance to heart rate variability.

 

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Small food gets big

Forecasts around the innovative use of data have made several appearances in Nesta’s prediction series over the past five years. This year, the data predictions have turned to food production. Small farms and boutique producers will use new technology and better data to reach more people than ever in 2016 allowing them to take on the big supermarkets. Large food manufacturers and agriculture giants have been using these techniques for some time, but the sensors and software are now becoming much more accessible to smaller businesses, and have the potential to level the playing field.

Challenge-driven universities

This year we could see a big shake-up in higher education too. Nesta is predicting new kinds of universities where students work in multidisciplinary teams to solve real-world problems. Several universities around the world are already encouraging students to do most of their course work on unsolved problems on the cutting edge of science or social innovation, rather than only learning about existing knowledge. These examples have been pretty marginal to date, but a push from students to gain more real-world experience, coupled with emerging tech that makes independent study more flexible, could spur a movement towards challenge-driven higher education. 

For more on these, and six other predictions from their 2016 series, please visit Nesta’s official publication or listen to their podcast below.


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Jamie Parkins

Product Manager, Evangelist and all things API

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