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Driverless cars, at-home scanners the future of back-to-school supplies: report

Back-to-school season can be a stressful time for parents, but driverless cars and body scanners could eventually smooth over the hassles of buying new clothes and figuring out transportation, according to a futurist.

Ross Dawson, an Australian futurist who eyes trends to forecast future technologies, says such devices will be available to parents within the next decade.

As outlined in his latest report on the “highly stressful” back-to-school season, which was commissioned by Visa Canada, Dawson predicts the following: Parents will be able to buy clothes using an at-home scanner to measure sizes, virtual assistants will help with buying back-to-school supplies and preparing lunches and a driver-less car will be able to taxi kids to school.

According to an IPSOS Reid survey, also commissioned by Visa, 52 per cent of Canadian parents with kids aged five to 16 found the back-to-school season to be stressful.

Some of Dawson’s ideas are not that far-fetched, considering Google and Volvo are designing driverless cars, airports are already using full-body scanners and the virtual assistants on smartphones, like Siri, help with online shopping.

But don’t be fooled by Dawson’s “futurist” title – he’s not a psychic and his goal is not to predict the far-fetched ideas, but rather those that are attainable.

“I always believe in thinking about the future as a way we want to create a better future,” he said. “We want to see what is possible and be able to shape that.”

Bruce Tsuji, an instructor in psychology and technology at Carleton University, said the report fails to consider the “human side” of these technologies – that is, how families will actually interact with these devices.

For example, “all the technology in the world” will not force 11-year-old kids to hang out with their parents and pick clothes with a full-body scanner, he said.

“And even though they have this cool technology in front of them that’s supposed to be helping them to do that, that’s not the issue,” he said. “Their parents embarrass them, so why spend one more iota of time with them than you actually have to?”

What do you think? Will these technologies help the back-to-school stress? Or just create more technological clutter? Tweet @metroottawa.

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