“The great thing about the future is that it isn’t fixed. We have the power to create it, and with the current rate of innovation it could be almost anything we want.”
By Samantha Foster
The best way to predict your future is to create it”. – Abraham Lincoln.
As the world continues to grapple with the restrictions and economic havoc wreaked by the corona virus, it’s created a double-edged sword for those of us working in spa and wellness. On the one hand, it’s put health front and centre for the entire global population, shining a spotlight on the importance of healthy lifestyle and the need for self-care. On the other, it’s prevented us from delivering our services to people just as they need it most.
Covid-19 has disrupted our industry in ways unimaginable during our recent decades of growth. However, I believe that disruption was coming anyway – albeit of a different kind. A host of fast-growing technologies are converging and reshaping the world as we know it. The pandemic has served as a wake-up call, causing many of us to consider the future. Although it might be hard to see it amidst the present hardship, this is a time of opportunity.
Searching for the way forward, there have been innumerable webinars about hygiene and re-opening procedures, and spas everywhere have been quick to create an online presence to keep connected to their clients. However, ‘the new normal’ will go far beyond sanitation and a digital presence.
We are embarking on an era of unprecedented change, swept along by technologies that are innovating at an exponential rate: artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, networks, sensors, 3D-printing, augmented reality, virtual reality, blockchain and more. To most spa professionals this list seems far removed from our daily life, and probably a little distasteful. But…we’d better get used to it.
Renowned futurist, Ray Kurzweil, has calculated that we’re going to encounter more change in the next one hundred years than mankind has experienced over the past twenty thousand years. Peter Diamandis, author of The Future is Faster Than You Think puts this into context: “Essentially, we’re going from the birth of agriculture to the birth of the internet twice in the next century.”
Are we ready for this? Not yet…but there’s never been a better opportunity to prepare.
The great thing about the future is that it isn’t fixed. We have the power to create it, and with the current rate of innovation it could be almost anything we want. Our greatest obstacle is our imagination. Human history has trained us to think about progress in a linear fashion, where we project our past experience and expect the future to unfold in much the same way.
Exponential technologies don’t work like that. The classic example is ’30 steps’. If you start walking and take 30 steps you will cover about 10 metres, but if you double the length of your step each time then by the 30th step you will reach the moon. Unless we break free of linear thinking we risk getting left behind as other industries take the wellness lead.
How do we break free of our current thinking? Futurists at The Institute for the Future in California use a tool called ‘Remembering the Future’ to imagine fresh possibilities. Come with me now as we time travel forward ten years…
Remembering the future
Shanghai, August 2030. “Feeling a bit anxious today?” I ask Suzie, as she steps aboard my self-driving mobile spa. The vehicle had sensed my client’s mood as she rushed towards us, and already filled the space with a calming blend of essential oils.
Suzie grimaces, “Yes, I have to give a major presentation this morning and I’m really nervous. I need it to go well!”
“Don’t worry,” I reassure her. “Here…pop this on and we’ll get you there looking and feeling fabulous.” I position a small net with crystal-like electrodes over Suzie’s hair as she settles back into the therapy chair. “It uses red light to boost your energy and lower blood pressure while a gentle current will enhance your clarity of thought, creativity and cognitive function.”
The net flashes briefly to confirm that I have positioned it correctly as I secure it gently with noise cancelling headphones. I switch on a brain entrainment relaxation, and within moments Suzie’s heart rate, respiration and brain waves begin to deeply relax.
I double tap the windows to block out the light as the spa vehicle moves smoothly to join the morning traffic. It’ll be less than an hour to Suzie’s office. Time to get to work!
I put on my hygiene visor and activate ‘therapy’ mode. Suzie’s skin lights up before my eyes, with various colours indicating her skin’s condition. Dehydration, sun damage, oil congestion…uh oh. A small red patch of light reveals an early bacterial infection. My visor identifies it as P. acnes (one of the main bacteria responsible for acne) and recommends a nanocapsulated essential oil that selectively targets that microbe. With a wave of my hand the ingredient is selected and sent to the product printer.
The printer is already primed to make products based on Suzie’s DNA, and has used today’s satellite data to adjust the formulae for local weather conditions and pollution levels. I confirm the prescription based on today’s diagnostics and within a minute I have a tray of products ready to use and begin the facial.
Once the mask is applied, I have a moment to look around. My thoughts wander to the business. Since replacing my bricks-and-mortar spa with this mobile vehicle, my profitability has tripled. I’ve no need to pay rent, and – being an autonomous solar electric vehicle – I can service clients anywhere anytime with negligible running costs. Water is free, condensed from humidity in the air, and cleaning costs are low due to the vehicle’s bacteriostatic materials and self-cleaning UV scanner.
Thanks to the product printer I no longer have thousands of dollars tied up in inventory with worry about shrinkage: I can make whatever I need, when I need it, from a library of the latest raw ingredients. All natural, with no need for preservatives. My clients love it, as it gives them high-performance products personalised to their needs, and I love it as it gives me a way to uniquely express my brand.
The only downside with my business right now is that I’ve reached my capacity. I’ve taken on as many clients as I can, and I’m turning people away while fast becoming exhausted. So, I’ve decided to invest in a Therabot. I wasn’t keen on the idea at first, as I couldn’t believe that a robot could perform therapy as well as a human. However, I tried it at a recent trade show and have to admit it was the best massage I’ve ever had. The therabot used thermal imaging to identify circulatory problems and adjusted its technique to even my smallest reaction. Since the 3D-printing of skin was perfected, it is impossible to tell the difference in touch. I’m sure my therabot will be a hit!
My musing is interrupted by a gentle squeeze of my forearms. My uniform has detected my wandering thoughts and uses haptic technology to tighten the sleeves, bringing my awareness back to the task at hand. I complete Suzie’s facial in a state of grateful Presence.
So, what do you think of this future? Does it sound too far-fetched? If you thought ‘yes’, think again. The technology for every element in that scenario either exists today or is in advanced stages of development. While spa ‘therabots’ may still be more than 10 years away, most of the technology is already in use in other industries and it’s not unrealistic that it will enter daily life within the next decade. What does this mean for our clients? What does it mean for our businesses and our industry?
As mentioned, there are no facts about the future. As a wellness futurist, my role is to forecast a range of possible futures based on trends and technological advances so that you as a wellness professional can decide: what possible futures do you need to guard against? What futures do you want to create?
To be continued…
For over 20 years, Sam’s passion for well-ness has led her on a journey through every aspect of today’s spa industry. A proven manager, trainer, therapist, retail-er, and one of Asia-Pacific’s most expe-rienced spa consultants, Sam has been blessed to work with many of the region’s top brands. Sam’s mission is to “make the world happier and healthier”, and she sees the spa industry as an ideal vehicle to achieve this.