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hype_cast: volume one

Manual Labor’s multi-topic quarterly series covering what is trending, hype and of the zeitgeist.

Deanna Wong

April 4, 2022

Mercury is in retrograde, Britney Spears is finally free, and trends are changing as fast as the glaciers are melting. Welcome and settle into ML’s latest content series, hype_cast, as we do our best to take you through the newest of the new. A pinch of stats, a sprinkle of industry quotes and a distilled history of each topic, this informative but opinionated series will walk you through the latest in what is causing hype. 

With each topic, we’ll also include the (trademark pending) Sadie Scale (modeled by Manual Labor’s resident mascot). A metric inspired by both Jeff Goldblum and John Green, consider the scale as being akin to a fortune cookie, tarot reading or the horoscope. Accuracy isn’t the priority here; the Sadie Scale is all about the vibes.

Gif of 5 black dogs loading into full color.

Health and Wellness Technologies

Be it 10,000 steps, closing your rings or your 100th ride with Peloton instructor Cody Rigsby, technology continues to stay in sync with the health and wellness industry. Nevermoreso than during these “unprecedented times” we’ve all experienced together did folks begin to take their health seriously. 

A teletherapy session taking place

When people were restricted to the confines of their own homes and spaces, they reached for technology to supplement their physical and mental health. Between Q1 and Q2 of 2020, fitness app downloads grew by 46%; demand for at-home fitness had spiked in response to the need for social distancing. In parallel, downloads for mental health apps also grew by 24%, signifying stress and anxiety were common denominators for many. 

As usage of these mental wellness apps grew, more people were led towards professional therapy. And in response, mental health professionals were able to offer teletherapy as an accessible and remote solution. One such example, Talkspace (a popular online and mobile therapy company), reported growth of platform users had gone up by about 25%.

A woman working out on her Peloton bike

As time went on, COVID positivity rates dropped, stay-at-home orders were lifted and the honeymoon phase with Peloton's beloved bikes came to a close. While the popularity of exercise-based apps plateaued, healthcare providers continued to see the benefits and positive outcomes, from telemedicine and virtual therapy. Much like how companies are still coordinating different remote/in-person hybrid work schedules, people are still figuring out how to keep the right amount of tech in their day-to-day. 

The “new normal” continues to be an amorphous descriptor of the times. Health and wellness technologies will need to be just as adaptive to maintain their user base and prevent their tech from being sent to storage. 

3/5 Sadies - Can an Apple watch a day keep the doctor away?

Digital Art NFT’s 

Much like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin, NFTs come from the land of cryptocurrency. A digital identifier that is stored on the blockchain, an NFT (non-fungible token) can be used as a means to prove authenticity of a digital item. Notable NFT collections include The Bored Ape Yacht Club, CryptoPunks and World of Women. These unique digital avatars are purchased with crypto and are typically flouted as twitter avatars to signal a type of exclusivity.

Paris Hilton on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" with her NFT

NFTs have also allowed digital artists to attribute value to their works and partake in the art market in a new way. It is the natural progression of online culture to leverage technology to prove “ownership” of digital art. As proof of main-stream acceptance, major brands have even begun to incorporate NFT’s into their library of assets.

While it is likely that NFTs will be around for a long time, popularity and interest have already started to wane. Check the Google Trends! Peaking in January of 2022, searches have plummeted over the last month. 

Turns out ownership of an NFT does not grant legal ownership, copyright or intellectual property rights. There is very little stopping anyone from copy-pasting your 1-of-1 anything!  An artist is also perfectly within their rights to mint more NFT’s off of their original piece of digital art.

It’s important to note that NFT art is only the first ripple of the Web3 wave. Cryptocurrencies are sticking around and blockchain applications will only grow more complex. It is likely NFTs will regain popularity as a means of identifying more than just artwork. However, unsurprisingly, your digital identity might soon be authenticated through an NFT! 

2/5 Sadies - Manufactured exclusivity and intangible value is inherently difficult to measure. Your Bored Ape might actually just be boring

AR & VR

AR and VR—Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality—are immersive technologies that have become more sophisticated and widely used with each decade. Notably, both technologies are conceptualized as being important aspects of Web3, the main difference being the level of immersion and the types of devices in use. 

Popular for their games over the last few decades, Pokémon took on a new life with Pokémon Go, one of the more widely known uses of augmented reality. Using AR technology, users can go through their neighborhoods and capture Pokémon as if they are trainers in real life. But games are just the tip of the iceberg for AR. 

Instagram filters have evolved from puppy ears to being able to display 3D art using Spark AR. Fashion brands have even created collections in AR, enabling try-ons with just a phone camera lens.  With VR, there is an even greater expectation of immersion in a virtual 3D space. As a tool, it can be used to create virtual meeting spaces, conduct virtual classrooms and even be used as treatment for mental health

It would be a disservice to VR technology to go without mentioning Meta (previously known as Facebook) and the metaverse. At a widely discussed conference, Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg had confidently announced a commitment to the building of the metaverse. But if plummeting stock prices and accounts of virtual harassment are any indicator, Meta is having a bit of a rough start. Critics even describe Horizon Worlds, Meta’s “Social VR Experience”, as not a true metaverse but a “walled garden”.

But technology moves fast. We are truly just at the start of what AR and VR are capable of. While we have yet to truly be able to experience the Metaverse as it was theorized, with interconnected virtual worlds and not solely controlled by tech giants, as hardware and software improve, we’ll likely see greater integration of the technology into our day-to-day lives. 

4.5/5 Sadies - Because San Junipero is the best Black Mirror Episode 

In this inaugural issue of hype_cast, we’ve rated wellness apps, crypto art and the Metaverse. While it’s just a tiny toe-dip in the ocean of everchanging evolutions, we hope you feel a little more well-versed in what’s trending. If you’d like to peer once again into the hype_cast crystal ball, make sure to stay tuned for the next issue!

Can’t wait for more? Stay seated for our version of post credit scenes.

ML Team Takeaways

1. Do your due diligence before jumping head-first into any of these items and spending significant time, money, and resources. Like anything new, there will be a period of euphoria and overpromising, a period of under-delivering (Gartner calls this The Trough of Disillusionment) and a period of true application being utilized in a common and scaled way. Find out where you are most comfortable in tackling these areas. Each has a strong opportunity to find your niche. - Todd Cadley

2. There is an interesting intersection with the rise of the metaverse and its potential value in the state of hybrid work, events, etc. But there are huge inequities and disparities to overcome to make the value a (virtual) reality—from the hardware investments, to the internet infrastructure, to the training and learning curve. We have a long way to go. BRB, gonna go write about this in my LiveJournal. - Kelly Wrather

3. NFTs are interesting and certainly open doors to artists who might not otherwise have the easy access to their audience. As with anything, it’s important to understand the implications all the way around. While there is great interest—and some of the creative being made is really great—there are also environmental concerns with NFTs that should be a part of the conversation. Bottom line, do your due diligence. - Dani Kennedy

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