Insights September 9th, 2016

As a Futurist I get asked a lot about what the future holds (no surprise there) but, when you get asked to think about a travel hub that hundreds of thousands of people use every year and what it will be like in 20 years then I find myself faced with a difficult challenge. To create a realistic, and fantastical, future that is completely practical, achievable, and supportive to great human experience for both travelers and workers.
So, when YVR approached me with this challenge I drew on Design Fiction to help draw out that vision of the future for this world leading airport, here in Vancouver. I weave technologies that I feel will be commonplace in the future into great traveler experiences using advancements we will likely see in 2037:

  • In-airport vertical farms that deliver fresh vegetables daily;
  • Holographic customer service representatives;
  • Robots for service, passport control and loading luggage for passengers;
  • Automatic car ports;
  • Augmented reality contact lenses that download and reveal airport maps and business events and provide on-the-fly instructions;
  • Biometrics;
  • …and even access to space travel!

Here is one of those stories.

Family Reunions in the Future

Story 3 - Family Reunion.LR

YVR Airport: Thursday May 14, 2037 at 13:26

Nearing the end of the flight from London, England, a supersonic jet descends through a thin layer of cloud on its final approach to Vancouver International Airport.

Its youngest passenger, 10-year-old Zach, is on his way to stay with his Grandpa. He gazes with amazement over this city of glass, perched on the edge of the Pacific, backdropped by endless layers of snow-capped mountains.

“Wow!” he gasps, “what are those mountains called over there?” Douglas, his Holographic YVR Travel Guardian points out – “That is the Coast Mountain Range, and see those two peaks? They’re known as The Lions.” Zach pulls a face, raises his hands, claw-like and lets out a “RAARRGH!” followed by a chuckle – “I hope Grandpa Bill takes me to see them.”

As the plane continues its descent, Zach learns about the people and the businesses that flourish at the airport and in the surrounding areas.

Douglas explains – “See those big buildings down there? They’re for cargo. Clothing, food, and anything else you can think of moves through there. The Airport is a world leader in cargo logistics and uses state-of-theart artificial intelligence and automated systems to help connect B.C. businesses to the rest of the world. For example, it’s quite likely that the B.C. salmon you eat back home in London was imported from here.”

As the aircraft prepares to land, Douglas points out the window – “See the vehicle parking?” When people park at Vancouver International Airport their vehicles get stored in the automatic car ports. They drive on, synchronize their flight details and the system packs them tightly into the space. That area can efficiently store over ten thousand cars.”

“This is the coolest airport,” Zach says excitedly as the plane quietly, gently touches down. Seconds later, a Ground Taxi Robot pulls it towards the gate to dock.

Zach grabs his bags and walks off the plane, up the aerobridge and into the main Arrivals area.

Strolling through the airport, Zach learns more about YVR through fun animations popping up on various airport surfaces. He and Douglas stop at a large window overlooking the runway. “YVR has built hyper-efficient runways to reduce emissions and to support the adoption of biofuels, which makes flying more environmentally friendly.” As Zach peers out, information menus appear on the window tagging vehicles, planes and baggage loaders to coincide with what they’re seeing on the runway.

“Let’s go and see Grandpa Bill,” says Douglas accompanying Zach towards Passport Control.

A Canadian Border Services Officer approaches with a welcoming smile and scans Zach’s passport. “Welcome to Canada Zach!” Zach smiles. As they approach the baggage area Utility Robots are helping travellers by hauling luggage and placing it on auto-carts that accompany the travellers as they exit towards ground transportation.

An auto-cart approaches – “Two bags for Zachary Swanson.” Zach and Douglas make their way towards the exit with the luggage-filled auto-cart gliding next to them.

Suddenly, from a short distance away, we hear – “Hey buddy!” Zach spots Grandpa Bill and runs into his outstretched arms. Douglas catches up with them – “Hello Bill. Great to see you. I have to go now. See you soon Zach.”

Zach responds with a smile and a wave – “Thanks for helping me, Douglas.”

The hologram of Douglas flickers and dissolves leaving a small control box on the floor. Bill picks it up, takes Zach’s hand and together they exit – “We can activate Douglas for the journey home and you can learn even more about the airport. Let’s go, I’ve got lots of fun planned for you!”

More Stories…

In this blog I will feature each story in full over the next few days (you can fast track to download all of them here) and I wanted to share the video that was created for this (without the voiceover to show the vision in isolation).

You can see more information on the project and what it is trying to achieve over at


Nikolas Badminton is a world-respected futurist speaker that researches, speaks, and writes about the future of work, how technology is affecting the workplace, how workers are adapting, the sharing economy, and how the world is evolving. He appears at conferences in Canada, USA, UK, and Europe. Email him to book him for your radio, TV show, or conference.

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Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas Badminton is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA (FRSA), a media personality, and has worked with over 400 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

Contact Nikolas