woman peeking out over an opaque screen
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The Andantes were the most important 1960s Motown trio you’ve probably never heard of. They were the hidden backup singers on more than 20,000 songs, including hits by stars like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Diana Ross.

So who are today’s Andantes of technology? Here’s my pick of three hidden tech advances that are poised to move into the spotlight.

Pop-up Shops With Digital Shadows

Just as video killed the radio star, online commerce has doomed many brick-and-mortar retail operations. But now, ironically, digital advances are making a different kind of physical store a success: the pop-up shop.

The pop-up concept emerged more than a decade ago but stayed in the retail shadows until recently when it was rediscovered by struggling brands searching to revive themselves. It turns out that pop-ups can capture our imagination and shopping dollars by being trendy, experiential, and engaging. While they are a temporary use of physical space, they can create long-term brand loyalty, but they can’t work in this new digital age without, well, digital technology.

In an Iversoft blog post, content specialist Jess B Wright says, “It was only natural and expected that tech would weave itself into the pop-up scene, well beyond its online mirroring.”

In pop-up retail operations, technology “helps with . . . promoting the experience, capturing sales leads, increasing foot traffic, and building a loyal clientele,” she writes. “Options such as mobile, web, and cloud-based apps, social media campaigns, responsive and engaging touch-points, and the internet of things have all contributed to the short-term event that is a successful pop-up shop.”

Pop-ups got a workout this past holiday season. In a recent Forbes article, journalist Anna Schaverien (@annaschav) discusses how online marketplace Not on the High Street tested out the world of brick-and-mortar retail with two holiday pop-up shops in London’s Waterloo station and Westfield marketplace. At the pop-ups, products from more than 200 of Not on the High Street’s vendors were on display for shoppers to browse in person.

If you think Christmas is the only pop-up season, think again. Barry Goldware who has more than 40 years of retail experience, sees pop-ups as the potential future of retail in a world increasingly owned by the likes of Amazon and other online retailers.

In an article on PopUp Shops, a website he founded, Goldware is quoted as saying, “Pop-up shops are what will entice shoppers to get off Amazon and head to experience a brand in-person while it’s in town.”

Related Article: How Pop-Up Events Bring Online Businesses Face-to-Face With Customers

Legos That Truly Play Well

Could Legos possibly get any better? Emphatically no, but the stuff they are made of could well get better soon with the help of technology advances in materials engineering.

Lego has set a goal to produce its products and packaging from environmentally friendly materials or recycled sources to reduce its carbon footprint. Lego plans to dedicate more than 1 billion Danish krone (roughly $116.5 million) to research and development for sustainability. And in 2018, it introduced “Plants From Plants” — tree-shaped Legos made of sugarcane. The iconic brand that taught us to “play well” has taken an important step toward playing well with the environment. But it’s not going to be easy for Lego to fully replace its plastic bricks.

To ensure that any new bricks it produces are sturdy and look and feel like the current ones, Lego is testing hundreds of secret material options in the lab behind closed doors. Let’s hope that one of those will emerge in the coming year to shine for the future of play.

Related Article: Digital Customer Experience Isn't Child's Play. Just Ask Lego

Health Care Miracles Hiding in Plain Sight

Much like the Andantes, 3-D printing technology has been hiding in plain sight for some years now. Back in 2014, my CMSWire new year blog included one clearly tongue in cheek prediction:

“By 2020, traditional supply chains will no longer exist. Instead all objects will be created at the point of use by 3-D replicators.” — Spacely Sprockets Research

While I may still have a shot at that 2020 replicator prediction, this year I couldn’t be more serious about the potential of 3-D technology.

We’ve already seen advances that will change people’s lives in patient-specific medical applications using polymers and metals for orthopedics and models for presurgery diagnostics. Now in the lab we have bio-printing systems designed to create corneas, as well as 3-D-printed ears made from electrically conductive silver nanoparticles and cartilage-forming cells. Let’s hope that these advances move from the lab to help us live better lives, the sooner the better.

Related Article: How Many Portals Does it Take to Deliver Good Patient Care?

Hidden No More?

The Andantes are no longer a trio, and while Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow and Louvain Dempsy did get to record one single under their own group name and can be proud of the Motown sound they helped to create, they never did get a chance to step out into the spotlight. I heard it through the grapevine that digital-backed pop-up shops, Legos made of newly engineered material, and 3-D bio-printing systems with medical applications may fare better.