My esteemed former colleague Euan Semple published an interesting little video on YouTube yesterday. I think I’ve seen the “Ambulance Drone” clip before, but through my new-found PRTech lenses, I smelt something of a rat, and called it out. “Spoilsport” said Euan, quite rightly.
For the record, Ambulance Drone was a design concept from a student at TU Delft. The details the university explicitly say that it’s not a commercial proposition, but that wasn’t enough to stop breathless headlines in the Daily Mail. It’s really not clear how much of it is real, if any of it.
But it’s got me thinking about how we are increasingly being bombarded with imagery and video that blur the lines between fact and fiction like we have never seen before.
In the old days (and by that I mean up to about 10 years ago), life was simpler. There were movies and TV drama. There was the glitzed-up and regulated world of advertising. There were there occasional “vision of the future” videos put together by tech companies. And there were things like concept cars that were obviously ideas rather than real products. Oh, and there was Vaporware – software companies making promises about products in the future that would somehow never emerge.
But today, with the tools of mass creation in the hands of anyone, the barriers to entry for making concepts look like realty have disappeared and vaporware is everywhere.. Design concepts like the Ambulance Drone or the supersonic plane, the capsule plane, or even Marissa Mayer’s CV (although goodness knows she needs to polish that at the moment)… They’re all out there, getting virally amplified, picked up and reported by the mainstream media, bending the space between reality and fiction.
Or take Kickstarter. Dear goodness does the world really need a radically transformed rucksack? Middle class problems solved and crowdfunded. But yet more propagation of unrealised concepts blurring those lines.
I had a wonderful conversation with Emma Bearman last week as part of my book research. Emma’s an incredible character who had created a wonderful concept in Leeds called Playbox– a shipping container containing all manner of things to play with, taken from location to location around the city. It’s an amazing idea, but sounds like bloody hard work (the logistics alone sound a nightmare).
In our conversation, we were musing on whether she would have more impact of shed just carefully crafted the story of Playbox rather than actually doing it. Which, it seems, is exactly what concepts like Ambulance Drone seen to be achieving.
The blurred lines are getting more gaussian. Our ability to distinguish between reality and fiction will get harder, and not just behind the goggles of VR and AR. Post-factual might go way further than just ignoring the experts.