AT&T makes new predictions after 1993 'You Will' ads come true
On the campaign's 25th anniversary, a new generation of experts weigh in on AI, smart shopping and more.
Roger ChengFormer Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
ExpertiseMobile, 5G, Big Tech, Social MediaCredentials
SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
offered a series of out-there predictions in an ad campaign called "You Will" about where technology was headed. The ads foretold everything from video calls to GPS directions in your car.
And most of those predictions came true.
Many of the technologies, such as ebooks or electronic tolls, are things we take for granted today. But keep in mind these predictions came out at a time when the internet was just getting underway, and we were largely living in an analog world. Keep in mind AT&T's prediction that it would be the service bringing those innovations to customers didn't exactly work out -- many of them were brought to you by the likes of
. But the ads offer a scary-accurate window into what our lives look like now -- a quarter century ago.
For the 25th anniversary of the campaign, AT&T tapped its employees and outside academics for a new set of prognostications. Here are some of the most noteworthy.
Robots are already in our homes in the form of vacuum cleaners and cute mechanical dogs, but Andrew McAfee, MIT research scientist, envisions more sophisticated robots helping senior citizens with dementia or children with autism.
"One of the great things is they don't get impatient with human beings," he said.
AI and your digital self
Artificial intelligence can allow us to leave an imprint of ourselves that can remain a hundred years from now. Alicia Abella, VP of operational automation and program management for AT&T, envisions creating an AI print of her deceased father, a pitcher, who could teach her son how to play baseball.
Michaela Rose, a strategist and technology expert and co-founder of consultancy Not Terminator, imagined every child have their own AI assistant that would help with homework and craft custom education plans.
Futurist and technology philosopher Gray Scott predicted that wearable clothes would be smart enough to detect if your heart has stopped and automatically hail a drone to deliver a defibrillator. Abella likewise saw a vast network of sensors at home and in your clothes that would continuously monitor your health.
Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer of AT&T, talked about the potential of the smart home to change conditions after you leave your house. Hannah Beachler, a film production designer, took it a step forward, envisioning a scenario where the paintings in the room change according to her personalized tastes, and temperature changes automatically.
"I have this house where I don't have to talk to," she said. "It just knows."
The mundane task of grocery shopping could be eliminated if Abella has her way. She describes virtually picking her own tomatoes, but through an avatar in the store while she sits at home.
Likewise, Beachler wanted to see an avatar with your measurements that you could use to try on clothes to see how they would look. Once you order it, the clothes would be delivered to wherever you are.
Autonomous driving may end up being a real game changer for the industry. "No one will own a car in 25 years," said Rsesh Patel, senior executive vice president of retail and care at AT&T.
AT&T talked about the ability for cars to communicate with each other over -- what else? -- cellular networks.
"We could avoid ever having a person lost to drunk drivers," Scott said. "That should never happen."
New movie experiences
Wayne Purboo, vice president of product management for the AT&T Entertainment Group, envisioned movies shot with cameras everywhere, embedded in hats, glasses and wristbands.
"If I don't like the seat I'm in, I get up and go somewhere else," he said. "Imagine doing that in a movie."
Some of these guesses may sound far fetched, but remember that many of the predictions were made back in 1993. Much of the tech we use every day -- from video conferencing on a computer to on-demand video streaming -- seemed pretty out-there back then.