“Since April last year Schibsted’s management has – together with Future Today Institute – spent much time exploring different scenarios for the future. One of the conclusions in the project was that we need to invest more in understanding how possible scenarios may impact Schibsted. Our newly established Schibsted Futures Lab will help us achieve this,” says Chief Data & Technology Officer Sven Størmer Thaulow.
Schibsted Futures Lab will be headed by Andreas Bengtsson, former Chief Technology Officer in Blocket. In the management is also Anders Grimstad, who is heading a team for emerging interfaces, and Digital Identities Lead Ian Vännman.
“And note: The name is Schibsted Futures Lab, not Future Lab. The “s” in the name underlines that there are multiple possible futures, not only one. We don’t pretend to know the answer, but will be exploring different directions,” says Andreas Bengtsson..
“Our goal is to not only understand emerging technologies and how they may converge with each other, existing technologies and our businesses, but also to understand how to leverage them to potentially radically improve our existing businesses or to form new businesses.
Futures Lab’s ambition is to enable financial return in the long term, contribute to a culture of exploration and innovation in Schibsted, and drive open innovation through partnerships and collaboration both externally and internally.
Invites for collaboration
The lab will not work in isolation, underlines Sven Størmer Thaulow.
“We would very much like to work together with external innovation team. Therefore, do not hesitate to contact us if your company would like to explore new technologies within our focus areas together with us,” he says.
Schibsted Futures Lab will focus on three scenarios
Schibsted Futures Lab will focus on three of the scenarios from Project Horizon to explore in depth.
Scenario 1: Omnipresent Connections
A wave of new devices and interfaces are coming to the consumer, such as virtual reality headsets, glasses for augmented reality, wearables, and more. It will allow humans to interact with digital services in new ways.
Scenario 2: Digital identities
This area is all about identities of both people, things and content. There will be new ways of representing or identifying people emerging for many different use cases. We will experience the emergence of solutions that enable decentralised identities that are not controlled by a central organisation or entity. Another exciting field is product identities, for example in the form of digital “product passports” that can inform us of the product’s production and lifecycle and in some cases even its usage. Content identities are also of interest to Schibsted, for instance with technologies making it possible to verify the provenance of photos and videos or to understand if an image has been manipulated and if so how.
Scenario 3: Synthetic revolution
New technologies make it increasingly possible for computers to create content. One example is how Google Docs can suggest the next words when you write. Areas for research can be computer-generated summaries of content, automatic translation, avatars that can interact with users, generation of images and graphics, and more.
This fall the lab will spend much time exploring how well the large language model GPT-3 works with Scandinavian languages. “The technology is becoming more mature. Now we will test different hypotheses for how it can be a useful tool for Schibsted,” says Andreas Bengtsson.
Prototypes rather than slides
But how will the Futures Lab work?
“We will prioritise tangible outputs. The ambition is to work with hypotheses to explore how mature the technology is and learn what might be the potential for Schibsted. We like prototypes more than slides. The outcome will be a deeper insight for Schibsted, also as a basis for possible investments in these areas,” says Andreas Bengtsson.
Bengtsson explains that the lab wants to build a network within Schibsted as well as externally within the three focus areas.
“And we want to develop the capabilities to identify trends and build foresight built on solid research,” he says.