This is the fifth part in a series where we will explore new trends and ideas, their possible impact on funeral homes, as well as the opinions funeral directors have about the future of funerals. Read part four here.
Remembering the dead is part of our nature. Society has always had ways to honor ancestors. In ancient cultures in Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean, ancestor veneration was so important that it was incorporated into their religions.
When it comes to remembering the dead, the future holds a lot of promise. Even now, we have the technology so that when we die our great-grandchildren will know more about us than we could have known about our great-grandparents.
So what’s new?
From social obituaries to Facebook tributes, online memorials provide a place for a community to mourn. These profiles provide a wealth of information — photos, videos, and stories about the deceased — all permanently stored online.
With recent advances in technology, anyone can be a Spielberg and put together custom Tribute Videos to honor a loved one and tell their stories. Videos are helpful for mourning families and allow the deceased to live on for future generations.
As cremation rises, families still want personalized ways to remember their loved one. 3D printing has led to highly customized urns and tribute products.
But that’s only the beginning.
Let’s peer down the road. What will the next couple of decades bring in terms of remembrance? By building on the current trends, we can imagine that technology will play an important part.
You’ve probably heard about the Pokémon Go craze. The technology behind it, augmented reality, might have its benefits when it comes to remembering the deceased. Augmented reality blends the real world with the virtual world.
Google Glass is an example. It’s pair of glasses that allows the user to see things like videos, maps, and pictures, while simultaneously looking at their real-world surroundings.
How would this work for remembering a loved one? Imagine in a distant future, your relatives are going to visit your memorial plot (it could be a traditional headstone, a special place in a park, or even GPS coordinates to your favorite place).
At the memorial plot, with the use of a smartphone, glasses, or other technology; videos, pictures, messages, and stories from yourself or other family members would appear via augmented reality.
What if you could be remembered through holograms? The technology exists — with a hefty price tag. But in the distant future it could become more affordable. You could prerecord your hologram, leaving behind messages and stories about your life.
A hologram would provide a lifelike display of your personality, more than an audio or video recording would. The hologram could play as a farewell message at a funeral, or be used as a way to show grandchildren and future generations your personality.
Things are starting to sound like the stuff of science fiction, right? But there actually are companies out there trying to preserve the dead through artificial intelligence, or AI. The idea is to store data of our habits — things like how we interact with people, our thought processes, our likes and dislikes, and our memories — and use it to create a map of our personality.
That personality would be programmed into an app, program, or even a robot. Family could then interact with your AI — asking it questions and receiving responses based off your personality and memories. AI could paint a vividly clear picture of who were as a person.
Remembering our loved ones is an important part of the funeral process. It has been for thousands of years. While technology evolves, the motive remains the same — to keep the memories alive.