Digital Childhood

How will Digital Natives change the way we think about technology in future?

It’s Saturday morning. I’ve been tasked with tidying up the living room, as we have friends coming over later – and apparently we can’t expect them to tip toe over the Lego train set on the floor…

My first job: clean the TV screen. I know; you’re probably thinking that can’t be the most important thing to clean, but you should see the state of it! The reason it’s so dirty is my kids think they can change the channel by swiping the screen… and here begins the realisation that they’re growing up in the Digital Age.

They’re so used to touch, swipe and voice recognition that they just expect everything to work that way. My three-year-old son watches Peppa Pig via YouTube on an iPad. He can’t read, he can’t spell, but he’s worked out that by tapping the microphone symbol on the search box, he can say “Peppa Pig” and be presented with a list of videos to watch. I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll ever want to read and write!

I like my tech, but I didn’t grow up with an expectation – even a reliance – on it, but times have changed. We need to make sure we’re thinking about how these Digital Natives will expect to interact with us as they mature, get their first ClubCard, do their first shop, and open their first bank account. At first I was reluctant to let my kids loose with technology, but now I’ve embraced it, and it is really making a difference. It’s great for education (spelling, reading and maths apps are great), it’s great for on demand content, and it’s great for gaming.

What sets digital natives apart is a willingness to try, a lack of fear, and a ruthless attitude to technology. They’ll give it a go, and if it works for them great; if it doesn’t, it’s thrown on the scrap-heap and forgotten about forever! This applies to both hardware and software (especially mobile applications), and when something gains momentum – be it positive or negative – it spreads like wildfire over social media. I can’t work out if it’s an amazing time to be an application developer, or a daunting one: there are no second chances now. Digital Natives are a great source of inspiration for me, and I’m lucky I can make a difference by investigating technology for Tesco to cater to what they’ll expect in the future.

Another major source of inspiration for me is film. I’m fascinated by how film production has developed as I’ve grown up – especially computer animated film. I’m also fascinated with the technology in sci-fi/futuristic films, and how much of it will become reality. Robots, Self-Driving Cars, Gesture Interfaces, Voice Control, Holographic Displays and Augmented Reality are all technologies I’ve been introduced to through film, and have ended up investigating for real as part of my job. My favourite question to ask our partners and vendors is, ‘What was the last film you watched where the plot had a technology that made you go, “Wow!”?’

No prizes for guessing that Minority Report, iRobot and Avatar are popular answers… drop us a line and tell us your favourite.

Image credit: Steve Paine. Original image can be found here.

Game design competition mentoring

We’ve been mentoring the next generation of designers and developers at BAFTA’s Young Game Designer competition.

You might wonder what game design has to do with a supermarket, but you’ll see from this blog soon enough that we’re not your average supermarket team. Recently a few of the team took part in some mentoring sessions as part of BAFTA’s Young Game Designers competition  (http://ygd.bafta.org/). The idea was to give them help develop their concepts and work out how they were going to build the games themselves.

The first stage was to visit them at their schools. Before the mentoring session itself took place we presented some of the things we’ve been working on to a couple of classes studying computing to show them how some of the subjects they’re studying might relate to real life use. It obviously got their imaginations going as at the end of the talk they asked plenty of questions and had some ideas about how we could use some of the technology we had talked about to make things better for customers and colleagues. We like to think we’re pretty up to date with technology and how to use it, but we think it’s really important to make sure we talk to young people about their views on the future as they are the customers of the future. It was impressive how switched on they all were when coming up with different ideas too.

After a call in-between meetings the teams came to visit us at Tesco and Dunnhumby HQ where they got hands on with some of the gadgets we’ve got in the lab. We also got an update on their progress and a chance to make sure they had everything lined up for submission.

We think it’s really important that we get involved in outreach opportunities like this and do all we can to excite young people about possible careers in technology and other STEM subjects as they grow in importance for organisations like ours.

Now the entries have all been submitted for the judging now so we’ve got our fingers crossed for the teams we helped!