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Desire for a tactile experience still strong amongst tech consumers

Technology can sometimes take us down unusual paths. But that new direction isn’t always right for everyone. For example, the rise of digital audio took many by surprise and transformed the music industry almost beyond recognition – aided by the launch of the iPod and other digital playback devices.

Consumers switched from buying physical formats traditionally listened to on home entertainment systems to almost exclusively listening to digital music via headphones or portable speakers. The digital phenomenon also gave rise to streaming services such as Spotify. Yet despite having got rid of a lot of handheld items and devices, digital has eventually led to a reverse in that trend, as older generations get nostalgic and younger ones fall into the classic pattern of retro being cool. Let’s examine how this process has panned out.

Mobile dominance

One of the big technological changes in recent years has been the switch to using mobile devices for a range of everyday life activities such as messaging, listening to music, watching videos and taking photographs. Today, it is so easy to switch from listening to your favourite artist on Spotify to playing your favourite game. Or to take a few photos and upload them to several social media sites in an instant before browsing the latest news and doing some online shopping. Consumers can do all of this plus organise their work and social schedules without looking away from a single screen.

End of an era

In another technological twist, Apple recently announced it is phasing out iTunes and that could spell the end of the iPod as the company looks to streamline everything towards their iPhone products. The platform that transformed digital music 17 years ago and sparked the demise of familiar formats such as the CD could soon become obsolete itself. That is mainly down to the fact that the phone has replaced the desktop PC as the entertainment centre for many households and cloud storage and streaming has removed the need to download and store media to a single hub. Such devices can be paired with wearable technology such as watches to keep users informed of incoming messages and phone calls (remember them?). But that trend didn’t get far before a major backlash occurred – let’s take a look at the ways in which the tactile is coming back into our lives.

Vinyl revival

Digital music created a hole where physical music used to dwell and many users have started to switch back to vinyl, cassette and CD. The joy of having a physical product to handle is still strong for many serious music fans. That trend has also seen a rise in popularity of home entertainment systems amongst consumers who want to seek out the very best listening experience.

Rise in retro gaming

Many of the games now enjoyed on mobile devices such as the casino and slot games would originally have been played in bars or casinos. These, and many other games, moved online and are now available in mobile formats. The vast range of themes this supports – from horse racing to film-based slots to those inspired by all kinds of myths and legends – has allowed mobile gaming to grow. But while it continues to do so, there has also been an upsurge in retro gaming. Mini versions of old consoles have been released and a large number of retro gaming bars have opened in major cities around the world.

Touch and feel

It was widely expected that the millennial generation would be the ones to break free from the need to touch and feel physical products and embrace this new digital future. But ironically, the same generation has driven the revival of vinyl and retro gaming consoles.

This contradiction will be something developers of future technology will have to take into consideration. It could be that the world is still not ready to move away from the tactile experience for consumers paving the way for a future driven by haptic technology.