Technology and cannabis go together like cookies and milk. Or, since I’m writing this from LA, like Girl Scout Cookies and Soylent.
Not only is the Golden State host to the tech hub of the century in Silicon Valley and beyond, it also boasts the oldest medical marijuana market in the country. California is a state (and a state of mind) I’ve called home for most of my adult life, and as a dedicated technofuturist, my experiences here have inspired me to predict some hybrid innovations of my own.
As the cannabis industry evolves at an exponential pace, we’re likely to see some of these ideas come to fruition sooner than you might think.
My first, possibly most realistic prediction: Augmented Reality (AR) cannabis dispensaries. I love Virtual Reality (VR), and when I saw some of the AR developments at VRLA last month, my wheels started turning in overdrive. Imagine—as you walk into your favorite dispensary, you’d open an app on your smartphone similar to WeedMaps, except this app would activate your phone’s camera. As you browse around the dispensary, the app would identify products and little boxes of information would pop up, making you an instantly more informed consumer. It could keep track of products and strains you’ve tried, so you can collect cannabis experiences at different dispensaries and with different products, just like in Pokemon Go.
When you hold your phone up to a jar of flowers, the app would display information including the strain’s name, percentage of cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN, etc.), test results (like Canndescent has begun to do) and even user strain reviews, like the ones you can access on Leafly (currently in beta). Similarly, when you hold your phone up to an edible, the app would display info like strength, ingredients and user reviews like on the Swallow app.
This AR dispensary app would help customers make more informed buying decisions, have more consistent cannabis experiences and make the whole dispensary experience more fun. Not to mention, it would take the pressure off of budtenders to be constantly up-to-date experts in a field of constant product development and growth.
My next idea might seem like a complete fantasy, but the tech is already emerging to make it a reality. Imagine an app that would allow you to create and order personalized strains of cannabis that could be delivered within hours. Users would be able to choose a combination of experiences they want in their high—uplifting or relaxing, pain or nausea relief, help with focus, creativity or sociability, an endless amount of combinations.
Users would also be able to select their mode of consumption like vape pen cartridge, dabs, edibles, drinkables, tincture or even get seeds of their personalized strain sent to them to grow their own plant. The app would create the desired “high” by accessing a database of research including patient feedback and DNA sequencing to mix a certain ratio of cannabinoids and terpenes. Drawing inspiration from companies that offer personalized fragrances or customized meal plans, it’s obvious that customer-specific consumption is getting more and more tenable across industries.
Technology like this is not far-off; companies like ebbu are already creating specific formulas in their pharmaceutical-grade extraction lab that produce desired effects or “feelings” in consumers. As of now, they have a line of five “feelings” including: Energy, Create, Chill, Zen and BOLD.”
My third idea is a little further out there, but the tech, here too, is already starting to materialize.
The idea is to be able to capture and send smells via text. You’d buy a little box that would connect to your phone, like the Square reader. The box would contain a large amount of base smells that could be recombined to create an infinite amount of odors.
People would help in creating the “scent library” by recording and uploading smells into a database available to anyone who owned the box. Different scents like specific strains of weed, but also other things like fresh cut grass, different roasts of coffee, the forest after it rains, the Pacific Ocean from the PCH or Grandma’s turkey dinner, would all be available to send, as long as someone had uploaded it already. Dispensaries could use this tech to make their mobile menus more enticing, and it’s applicable beyond the cannabis industry.
I’ve been thinking about ways to share smells online for ages, but it became more of a reality when I saw an Oscar Meyer campaign a few years ago. Oscar Meyer was giving away a similar little box that attaches to an iPhone for the sole purpose of producing the scent of bacon when a user’s alarm clock app goes off in the morning. I was excited about this tech, but as a health-conscious, Jewish, wake-and-baker, I would personally prefer the smell of Jack Herer or another uplifting sativa when I wake up in the morning.
Another recent VR development made me see this tech was more than possible.
Researchers at the National University of Singapore created technology that allows people to send “electric” lemonade online. By sending specific electric signals to a glass of regular water, researchers were able to simulate the taste of lemonade to consumers on the other end. Even though end consumers were only actually drinking normal, zero-calorie water. Similarly, an olfactory VR headset can give users entirely different flavor experiences while eating the same cookie.
The main takeaway?
We’re not far from finally being able to share sensory experiences, even taste and smell, across space and time. This opens the door to tons of potential and incredible sensory VR experiences that are clearly ripe for application in the evolving cannabis market.
These three predictions are just the tip of the cannatech iceberg.
What other types of innovations do you see in the near future? Tweet your ideas to @SmartyCatG.