3M Futures explores top science, tech and design trends shaping our world
Feb 17, 2022

3M Futures is a new online platform that showcases five top global trends in science, technology and design impacting society today — and shares thoughts from 3M experts on how these trends may shape the future.  

3M Futures explores each topic with a robust overview along with commentary and perspectives from 3M experts. They include scientists, engineers and designers who are passionate about their fields and have a personal interest in broad applications of technology and science. 

3M Futures also features data from a global, third-party research study conducted across 11 countries (Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, UK, USA and South Korea) that explores perceptions and expectations of science and technological innovation — and how individuals view its impact in their lives.  

The 3M Futures trends for 2022 include: 

  • Artificial intelligence (AI): How artificial intelligence and machine learning are revolutionizing everything from entertainment to business but require conversations about broader implications and ethics. 
  • Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR): Mixed reality is already changing the way we live, work and entertain – the metaverse is poised to change our perceptions of reality.  
  • Sustainable materials: The circular economy is introducing innovation in material science and design while disrupting industry, ushering in a more sustainable future. 
  • The new paradigm A pandemic aware world: The pandemic has created a paradigm shift in how we interact. From telemedicine and health-conscious design to remote work, the new abnormal is here to stay. 
  • Equity Through science and technology: The greatest innovation comes from diverse thinkers. Equity, representation and equal access to science and technology learning, like minority representation and STEM in youth, are paramount to solving the challenges of today — and tomorrow. 

Kevin Gilboe, head of 3M Design, International, says 3M created and launched this new platform because every day around the world 3Mers are unlocking the next phase of what’s possible and exploring the latest trends in science and technology. 

“3M Futures is a great opportunity for us to showcase the broad ways 3M is helping to shape the future,” Gilboe said. “Developing, designing and engineering cutting-edge solutions within the most relevant trends around the world, while profiling the incredible talent across our company who are experts in their field.” 

3M Futures survey findings

The new survey uncovers what participants believe future innovation should focus on across the globe and the ways they have – or have not – directly interacted with the technologies referenced across the five core trends.​ Among the key findings:

  • Science and technology: ​Public health, humanitarian crises, extreme weather crises, a cure for Alzheimer’s and ecological disasters are seen as the top problems to focus on over the next 5 years. 
  • AI interest and concerns: The survey results showed that while people are excited about AI, many are concerned about data privacy and want more transparency on how the technology is being used in society.  
  • Mainstream virtual reality: ​Virtual reality is expected to be a normal part of our everyday lives sooner than other advancements, especially in gaming and entertainment. 
  • Sustainability: top environmental threats: ​Respondents feel single-use plastics are a bigger threat to the environment than fossil fuels and fast fashion.  
  • Real life vs. tech: ​In the shadow of the pandemic, tech-driven innovations are being met with some resistance as many are trying to decrease tech in their life and seek out in-person socialization and hobbies.

3M Futures will continue to add and share content including stories, VR demos and more throughout the year. Insights from the survey will inform exploration of future topics and content.

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