Innovation Monitor: Your Digital Me (Gartner Hype Cycle Trend #1)

NYC Media Lab
6 min readSep 4, 2020

Innovation Monitor: Your Digital Me (Gartner Hype Cycle Trend #1)

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Welcome to this week’s Innovation Monitor. This is the 2nd of six editions where we cover a range of emerging technologies identified by Gartner (last week we broke down the concept of the Gartner Hype Cycle). In this week’s edition, we’ll be focusing on “Digital Me”, a topic that can transform everything from gaming to healthcare to consumer experiences to media.

Digital Me may seem absent from our current business vernacular (besides this Microsoft research project from 2016), but we’re presuming that Gartner coined it as an umbrella term for technologies like “health passports, digital twin of the person, citizen twin, multiexperience and 2-Way BMI (brain machine interface).”

In a broad sense, Digital Me does not mean a digital version of your likeness but rather an accurate copy of your persona/identity. This is beyond rows in a database, and gets closer to how we’re likely to be represented in the Metaverse in the future (our previous edition on Metaverses). We’ll explore what that means in healthcare, retail, and spotlight some startups and enterprises in the space.

Before that, let’s back up a bit and take a look at Digital Me’s predecessor — the video game avatar. The term reveals more about the present-day equivalent than we might think. Where does the modern version of the term “avatar” come from, anyway?

In the clip above, video game godfather Richard Garriott (aka Lord British) said the aim of his 1985 game, Ultima IV, was for players to respond to ethical choices in-game not as beefed-up warriors but “themselves.” Garriott wanted the character in the game to be “you, not your alter ego.” In his research, Garriott came across the concept of “avatar” from Hindu text.

“The ‘avatar’ was being used as the incarnation… of a god on the earth. So when a [Hindu] god came to earth, their avatar was their physical manifestation. And I thought that’s perfect, because really I’m trying to test you in your spirit playing in my fictional realm.”

So even in the era of video game avatars, the goal of the avatar was to accurately represent you, your moral choices, your personal actions… not an exaggerated centaur. Let’s take a deeper look at the business applications of Digital Me technologies, and how they’re creating that “perfect representation.”

As always, we wish you and your community safety, calm and solidarity as we support each other through this unprecedented time. Thank you for reading!

All best,
Erica Matsumoto Digital Me in Health To better understand Digital Me tech and its role in our lives, we should focus more on the context, rather than the technology in isolation. Why do we need Digital Me tech in our lives? How will it make work, play, and life easier?

Let’s come back to accuracy. Digital contact tracing apps have been touted as a faster, more accurate approach to manual contact tracing. Hotly promoted at first, global backlash soon followed due to security and privacy concerns, pushing the tech to the wayside, at least in the media. There are still ongoing efforts to get the tech into the hands of local governments.

On a high level, we see an effort to use digital personal data to solve a widespread problem. Taking this context — the current pandemic — we can also see how Digital Me technologies create a digital persona/avatar that is more than just an ID number, but a legal and medical representation of your corporeal self.

Digital health passports have started to gain steam over the past several months. The Health Passport Ireland initiative aims to let people access their COVID-19 status for simpler screening at work; WEF Young Global Leader Mustapha Mokass is helping design a CovidPass that uses the blockchain to store encrypted health data to also quickly provide COVID-19 status; blockchain firm OneLedger is launching a health passport to help safely open up the US-Canada border; and to travel to the Bahamas people need to install the Hubbcat monitoring app.

Thus far, we’re seeing our digital representation enable efficiency in workplace screening, safer traveling, monitoring during quarantine, and as a quick-access store for medical records — all difficult tasks using documentation alone. The major flaw here, however, is that these are all disparate efforts, and you can bet that they’re not all following established guidelines. Digital Me for Consumers The Digital Me consumer space is much more established than the sinuous, regulation-heavy world of encrypted medical data and pseudo-anonymous digital tracing. Look no further than Fortnite’s $1.8B in revenue last year — and League of Legends’ $1.5B for in-game skins — for the most lucid examples.

People are spending billions decking out their avatars in-game ($20.6B was spent on F2P games in 2019, for reference). Futurist Cathy Hackl calls it a direct-to-avatar (D2A) business model. Another example of D2A: in partnership with Snap, last month Ralph Lauren launched a branded store for Bitmojis.

This goes beyond individuals — who are spending more and more time in virtual environments, especially during the pandemic — trying to distinguish themselves. It hints at a much vaster Metaverse-sized digital economy. This economy won’t replace most of our base needs, but it will provide — as it’s already doing in its various primordial forms — ways for creators to generate income and consumers to further establish their online identities. Digital Me Startups & Giants What we gather from the section above is that avatars will increasingly be an important part of our lives — and both startups and tech giants are trying to establish an early front. Notably, Facebook Horizon has shown efforts to consolidate your corporeal online persona with your digital avatar by announcing that in October, Oculus products will require a Facebook login — Horizon, of course, will require one as well.

On the work front, startups like IrisVR, MeetinVR, InsiteVR, Mozilla Hubs, and AR meetings startup Spatial cite numerous use cases for construction, engineering, architecture, and design, with benefits such as engagement, interactivity, design software integration, and zero travel time. The pandemic has been a big player in WFH VR meetings — the crisis spurred a VR usage boom that will further cement the avatar as not just an entity to access entertainment, but also communicate with your colleagues. This Week in Business History September 4th, 1882: New York City is electrified

The JP Morgan office on Wall Street is the first establishment in New York City to have electric lighting. The inventor Thomas Edison flipped the switch which channeled in lighting from the Edison Illuminating Company at nearby Pearl Street. This was the first power station of what would become the Consolidated Edison company (Con-Ed) that would supply power to all of New York City.

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