First we had self check-outs…now Aldi has announced it is opening its first ‘till free’ store in London in an effort to cut queues and minimise waiting times.

Many experts (and AI enthusiasts) believe that in the future, contactless, digital technology will overtake traditional face-to-face interactions and transactions. Whether you love or hate the advancements in technology, there’s a lot to be said for the benefits they bring – with caution duly exercised, of course.

Here we take a look at the journey some of this life-changing technology has taken from humble assistive support to replacing the need for a human operative, along with some considerably epic (and pretty funny) fails along the way.

The pros of digital technology takeovers

Although many still resist the advancement of technology as sinister and a potentially dangerous precursor to a robot uprising (perhaps they’ve been watching too many Terminator movies 😉 ), there are many who celebrate and welcome the arrival of the digital age, with good reason. Medical devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators can save a life at the touch of a button, charities worldwide can promote and broadcast their cause to many millions more, positive figures for social change now have global platforms and it’s even easier to send money between different countries and currencies. You can open your phone with your face, manage your home heating system when you’re out and about and easily have a conversation with someone on the other side of the world.

Self-driving cars are one such futuristic tech advancement that’s rapidly gathering speed (literally). Fully electric, powered by green energy, self-driving vehicles have evolved considerably since Google’s initial prototype and show particular promise within the public transport sector. One UK company even developed a fully self-driven road-sweeper to help keep Britain’s streets tidy and clean minus the need for an operative. The sweeper has faster reaction times and less margin for error than a human, meaning it’s far safer out on the roads, too.

And the cons…

We’re fully paid-up members of the futuristic tech club here at Candy. It enables us to do an awesome job and get our clients fantastic results, connecting them with customers all over the world. But that technology couldn’t work without us driving it, inputting data and controlling outcomes using our human skills, experience and knowledge.

In many cases, technology is more reliable than a person in the same role and decreases the margin for human error. But at other times it can be cumbersome and frustrating, sometimes useless (think screaming ‘Alexa!’ only to be ignored for what feels like the millionth time, following your sat nav to a dead end or trying to work out what’s going on in the bagging area). Usually, technology needs human intervention to function optimally. It is programmed by humans and isn’t infallible – which means there’s still a long way to go before we trust it unequivocally.

One valid concern associated with the rise in technology replacing human heads is a dystopian vision of the future, where we rarely see others in person and instead have everything done for us by computers and machines. Screen time already dominates many people’s lives and separates them from reality in a sometimes less than helpful way – excessive blue light exposure from screens has been linked to poor sleep quality, declining eyesight and even obesity.

As much as everybody hates waiting in busy queues or elbowing people out of the way at the train station, life sure could be miserable with no human interaction whatsoever. An upsurge in people shopping in person at local independent stores instead of buying online, especially post-Covid, certainly demonstrates a desire for this. And then there’s the socio-economical concern – when machines replace people, what happens to their livelihood and skillset? What will those people do instead?

In Aldi’s case, who will be there to help when there’s an unexpected item in the bagging area, or you can’t find a barcode for your avocado? Who will stop people running off with a three-piece wicker patio set, or prevent trolley races in the aisles? Only time will tell whether this latest venture will be a resounding success, or enter into our list of epic technology fails…

Epic technology fails

For every technological triumph, there’s an equally epic fail. It’s the law of averages.

It’s widely accepted that not all advancements in technology will find their way into the mainstream – Google even has its very own ‘Google graveyard’ at its headquarters with a dedicated headstone for every piece of technology that didn’t take off.

Some other crazy tech ideas that didn’t stand the test of time as hoped include:

Samsung Galaxy Fold – First came the flip phone, then the Fold. Except nobody really wanted a phone that folded in half…it just feels wrong, somehow. Needless to say the pointless foldability didn’t catch on and was silently canned in June 2021.

Vine – Many of today’s social butterflies will be too young to remember Vine – but before Tik Tok and reels, Vine was the go-to for seemingly endless (and highly hilarious) 4-second looped videos, usually featuring people falling over and (strangely) lots of cats. Vine eventually faded into oblivion in 2016 after user numbers dwindled…if only they knew that their original looped video format would become intensely popular in less than a decade …

Windows 8 – Is it too soon to mention? Just hearing those two words is enough to send a shiver down the spine of anyone who updated their PC that fateful day, before spending the following months shouting ‘arghhh’ whilst attempting to understand its clunky interface and work around its user un-friendly functionality. Microsoft quickly rolled out Windows 10 (nobody knows what happened to Windows 9) after a major backlash and subsequently introduced 365, which looks spookily similar to Apple’s interface.

Failures are all vital stepping stones on the path to growth of course – and from many of these ‘failed’ technological endeavours new, popular technologies have emerged.

Is the future 100% digital?

In the future automated, digital services and products will undoubtedly continue to develop and dominate. But if you’re longing for the nostalgic feeling of your phone being tethered with a wire, or being able to go a few days without checking your email, don’t worry. There’s still a long way to go – so whilst this news does represent a major step forward in the advancement of intelligent tech, fear not. Human interaction and interventions, even alongside the introduction of automated technologies, will be around for a long time yet.

As a business or brand, staying ahead of the curve is essential if you want to offer consistent value and appeal to effectively compare with your competitors. Wherever your audience and customers are is where you need to be – so successfully predicting and accessing major trends as soon as they emerge is a vital ingredient for success.

At Candy we’re always staying ahead of the curve – we keep abreast of the introduction of new technologies that can change the game for your business online, so you don’t have to. If you need a helping hand moving your business into the 21st Century, give us a call (or message, or email, if you’re digitally-minded) and we’ll get you started.