It has already been a year since COVID-19 occurred. We survived each day through desperation and overcoming such desperation without a finish line while technologies cleverly re-organized the world. INNOCEAN Worldwide analyzed such market flow and presented a big data analysis report on the ‘2020 WITH COVID-19 Era, New Normal: Age of α (Alpha Era).’ According to this report, an era of new connections, ‘Alpha Era,’ is to take place due to COVID-19. Its characteristics are shown largely in 4 areas: individual, organization, place, and living. How has COVID-19 changed our lives?
The keyword that was most frequent in the individual area was ‘children.’ It makes sense as they would be the generation that has most difficulty in adjusting to COVID-19 on their own. Children are going through unprecedented educational, emotional, and relationship-related experiences.
The biggest changes would be a lack of caring and an increase of exposure to media and smartphones. Korea Creative Content Agency’s analysis shows that since COVID-19, the consumption of kids/educational contents showed the greatest increase. There are also concerns about disfiguration caused by wearing masks and psychological pain amidst the fear of the pandemic as well. There was a theory about how children wearing elastic loop masks for too long can cause prominent ears while the UN made a report ‘the effect COVID-19 has on children’ to show concerns of sudden stress on children due to the suspension of schools which can disrupt recognition development.
In the marketing industry, children between the ages of 0~10 are called the ‘alpha generation.’ In their report, INNOCEAN Worldwide defined them as a newly beginning generation rather than a lost generation. They were born with the launch of iPad, AI voice recognition system ‘Siri,’ etc., and are adept at mutual interactions with AI. So, they tend to pursue flexible lifestyle and innovative thinking. Understanding such traits of the alpha generation could allow providing new experiences to children who have lost many things including friends and play time due to COVID-19. It’s just like how Amazon launched a children’s AI speaker ‘Echo Dot Kids Edition’ which made many children an AI friend named ‘Alexa.’
The keyword that received much attention among those in the organization area was ‘school.’ As the learning methods transitioned into those of no-contact communication, remote class, self-led learning, etc., we had to think about true education for the future. Many are voicing the need for a new definition and direction for education including contents and the role of a leader, etc., as the environment is changing and technologies are developing.
There is a college in America that’s getting the spotlight in relation to such concerns. It’s Minerva School, which was established on an online platform and combines characteristics of both online and offline colleges. Opened in 2014, this school does not have a campus but carries out classes through two-way remote classes and offline projects. There are staff in each city to help students out while each country operates programs connected to related corporations and administrative institutions to assist the students’ projects. The Minerva School pursues students’ self-led learning, presentation, and discussion on the suggested tasks rather than has one-way lectures by the teachers. In this school, the teachers are there only to guide the direction of the classes.
Many experts expect classes, students, and teachers to change like those of the Minerva School when the post COVID-19 era takes off. Classes will be hybrid ones where digital contents and offline activities coexist; students will be able to design their own career path and life through self-led learning, while teachers will be not knowledge deliverers but coaches in the students’ long-term career path design. Teachers’ role as coaches will especially be important; they will need to be able to lead the students so that the students are not just able to learn but also develop their lives generally including the emotional aspect, etc.
The keyword in the space area was indisputably ‘home,’ where all family members spend their time all day long for each one’s purpose. According to INNOCEAN’s 2017 trend report, the role of home was already changing due to the 5-day/week work schedule, micro dust, and development of IT infrastructure. As COVID-19 forced us to work at home, learn through online classes, and work out and play at home, the home space started to go through sudden changes.
Currently apartment houses are built in structures fit for 4-member households ？ the 1970s lifestyle-with 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms. But with COVID-19 changing the living paradigm, many people are getting interested in changeable houses which allow space transition to react to diversification and changes in resident lifestyles. More are preferring sliding door installation for visual openness and closing or column form structure which allows changing up space without construction. The Alpha room (spare space), which maximizes space utilization in small and mid-sized apartments, is also popular.
These keywords were much more popular on portal websites in 2020 than the previous year. Results like ‘remodeling (24% increase),’ ‘Alpha room (61% increase),’ ‘sliding door (22% increase),’ ‘column structure (96% increase),’ etc. show how much the demand for space division and changeability has increased. In the future, we can expect that living space will go beyond being divided into parents’ room, children’s room, and couple’s room according to residents, but will be taking a changeable form which can flexibly react to the family members’ various purposes.
Finally, the keyword that grasped the greatest interest in the living area was ‘mind.’ Related keywords were much talked about when more people began to suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, and other COVID-19 related psychological issues. When the number of COVID-19 patients surged, mentions and searches of ‘COVID blues’ also rose.
In reaction to this, there are various movements in the market to fight against COVID blues, which include remote medical care, digital health care, social robots, comfort food, etc. Among them, social robots, which are ‘robots with recognition and empathy that can carry out mutual interactions with humans,’ are being highlighted as a technology that can aid psychologically unstable people in quarantine. AI implemented on a machine does not stop at delivering food and living goods but can also make communication and play games with a quarantined person and act like a psychologist.
The importance of remote psychological health management is also on a sudden rise. Compared to 2019, an investment in psychological health start-ups has increased by more than 400% while related services and goods are being launched actively. Applications that have provided online treatment even before COVID-19 such as ‘Wysa,’ ‘Talkspace’ and ‘AbleTo’ are also in greater demand.
Health care before COVID-19 was mainly about physical health; but it’s expected that the post COVID-19 health care is likely to focus more on psychological health. As social distancing is mandatory these days, digital measures are likely to be highlighted.
Unfortunately, many experts expect the COVID-19 aftermath to be a long-term deal. What is important then is predicting and reacting to the changes in major areas surrounding us. Just like the aforementioned INNOCEAN Worldwide’s big data analysis report, we will soon encounter the true New Normal era which could be summarized as alpha generation, coaching, changeable houses, digital psychological therapy, etc. What other variables will the approaching New Normal era entail? INNOCEAN Worldwide plans to share trend insight through continuous data analysis and observation to flexibly react to the changes the new era brings.
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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