The world has become more and more personalized, as we all know too well. Though radio is still around, many prefer to listen to custom playlists on their iPods. TV is still here, too, but we can use our TiVo or streaming video service to choose what, when, and where to watch. The entertainment industry no longer gets to tell us what's available for entertainment. This is just the beginning.
Get ready for the next huge wave of personalized products, stuff that you design yourself. The 3D printer will likely be in many, many homes by the end of the decade, and marketers, lawyers, and manufacturers are already preparing themselves. Companies like Nokia are trying to ride the early waves of the trend, by creating personal phone cases for people who buy their phones, and Converse is allowing customers who visit their flagship stores to create custom sneaker designs to wear. Once these printers hit homes, however, the game will change. The world's switch to digital media has been an intellectual property portent, and businesses who have CAD designs all ready to cash in on the next big trend are looking for ways to market, profit, and avoid having their hard work turn into pirated freeware.
There is much good news, however, about the future of home printing, and that is that we will no longer be limited by the imagination of manufacturers. This is especially true for quirky, one-of-a-kind items that would never be worth the profit margin in mass production. And artists will have a whole new way to recreate the world. Switzerland and Tokyo have seen scaled-down models of one such creation, an alien cathedral that has to be seen to be believed. Artists Benjamin Dillenburger and Michael Hansmeyer have created something that is one part complex math (the algorithm for the division of the artistic works of Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger), one part creepy sci-fi experience, and two parts eerily beautiful.
The future is beginning, and like the mobile phone and computer ages, will most likely make the next decade look like a place we could never imagine living. And yet, when we get there, we'll most likely wonder how we ever lived without it.
Abbey Peschel, Boston-area printing and marketing specialist. Twitter: @Abbey_Peschel