London may well have the swagger that goes with a global city but Paris will always be a treat for the eye. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Cognizant sponsored event on AI and I have to say, Paris doesn’t feel like it’s changed much since my first solo trip by ferry (I’m showing my age: my first trip predated cheap flights and even the Eurostar!) This trip coincided with the International Olympics Committee’s awarding the 2024 Olympics to Paris. And this got me thinking about Paris because it’s going to look and feel very different by the time the Olympic circus rolls into town in 2024.
I think that the French Olympics is going to the stuff of legend. It will be packed full of spell binding technology to really make the Olympic experience shared and breath-taking not for just those that are there, but for everyone that tunes in. I can imagine it being a similar phenomenon to when the Rome Olympics were first broadcast across Europe in 1960 or the live global broadcast of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Looking back at the quality of the broadcast then and now, you can begin to see the potential for sport broadcasting and crowd participation over the next 10 years. Now wonder a king’s ransom is pouring into virtual reality tools, technologies and start-ups as the tech giants look to understand and exploit these new tools—industry chatter is about a technology game changer. They’re right. But back to Paris and what can we expect.
As a tourist to the city in 2024 you are going to be a hit with a whole host of tech innovations that will bring the ideas and concepts we live and breathe at the Centre for the Future of Work into focus. Imagine interacting with a 3D hologram placed on the corner of the Champs-Élysées that can be dialled up, telling you how to get to the volley ball or to the Louvre or see the replay of the 100m final. Or the people friendly, android/robots trundling around the upmarket Galeries Lafayette that you can address in any language, and are able to deliver the answer you need without a Gallic shrug in sight. Or find yourself stuck near the Eiffel tower? All you need to do is press a button on your smart phone—or swipe the chip implanted into your hand over a reader—and summon a self-driving pod which will whisk you and the family safely back to your hotel. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction but it’s a future that is happening much quicker than we think.
Paris has just followed Singapore down the path toward an autonomous future because today, travellers to the city can cross the River Seine between the Gare d ‘Austerlitz and Gare de Lyon and make the trip for free aboard one of two electric, driverless shuttles. The shuttles carry six passengers and a human overseer to keep an eye on things. These pods trundle back and forth over the Charles de Gaulle Bridge in a dedicated lane, making the 800-foot jaunt at about 12 mph (basically it’s too short for a taxi; it’s too painful with suitcases and a couple of moody teenagers in tow). It’s not a massive “wow” but it’s a sign of things to come in how we approach transport in our cities. And looking ahead six years after the Olympics, Paris has plans to be the greenest capital in Europe by banning all petrol and diesel cars off the road. Electric everywhere. And I take my hat off to the French for doing this. The city where the first global climate change accords were signed is walking the talk.
When the Olympics hit Paris perhaps we’ll cycle around with bike that powers itself. Check out the Copenhagen wheel that gives anyone (yes, even my mother-in-law) superhuman powers, and the ability to ride their bikes 10 times faster. The wheel synchronizes with your movements and amplifies pedal power as you cycle around the newly clean, traffic free streets (imagine how good the Parisian café culture is going to be). It looks supercool as well—it’s a red hub that turns almost any bike into a smart electric hybrid with a custom motor, advanced sensors, control systems, and a battery. Bluetooth connectivity (of course) enables you to personalize your cycling experience from your smartphone. Easy to fix too: simply replace the rear wheel of your bike or add it to a new bike (OK, my big plug is over for the Copenhagen wheel but I read about this innovation when I was on the Eurostar and I think it could be a game changer for all of us). In the meantime, perhaps we can figure out law around the blighted Segway and allow to actually use them to move around.
Most of all, think about all those people at home that cannot make it to Paris in 2024. This will be the most interactive, immersive, real-life-in-the-home Olympics ever. The images we will be in 3D, 4D and layered with insight and information about everything you could possible want to know about the sport, the competitors and the place where it’s happening. Think about putting on your headset (or a more palatable pair of hi-tech Ray-Bans or sporty Oakleys) and visit the games as if you were actually there in person. I can believe this vision will happen and I suspect you can too. You really need to read my colleague Rob Brown’s forthcoming report “Augmenting the Reality of Everything” and think about how incredible the Parisian Olympics are going to be for all of us. It’s another smart move for France’s tech industry that could catalyse great things for the country like the London Olympics did for the East End of London. Watch this space.