Smart Boredom: Upgrading Downtime

Office worker using mobile phone to be productive during evening commute

In the digital era, downtime no longer equates to “deadtime.” With smartphones, we can use spare moments to browse social media, play games, manage our online finances, or catch up with the latest news, and do so in any location and at any time. There is no moment of the day when we can’t connect, update, communicate, or achieve. The researchers at global consumer analytics and trend agency Foresight Factory calls this trend Smart Boredom – converting all pockets of time into productive, worthwhile, or fun activity.

Today’s moments of true downtime and rest (once considered lazy or wasteful) are created intentionally and set aside, imbued with connotations of luxury. In the mental arithmetic of maximizing time use, by consciously filling each available fleeting moment with worthwhile activity – whether during the commute home, while waiting in line, or in an unexpected half-hour opening between meetings – we see ourselves as earning a major “switch-off” later for rejuvenation.

Mobile technology and internet uptake are fundamental facilitators of the trend. Particularly in the developing world, as more and more consumers gain access to smartphones, tablets, and WiFi, their ability to engage in non-taxing activities and fill their downtime with easy yet useful or rewarding tasks will naturally expand.

While smartphone ownership and usage of productivity apps is relatively high across the world, levels of adoption vary. Countries where consumers continue to show particularly high usage include China, South Korea, Turkey, and South Africa; within these countries, smartphone ownership is essentially universal. But lottery players are leading in maximizing their downtime. Globally, weekly gamblers and lottery players are more likely than non-gamblers and players to say they use their smartphone or tablet “on public transport when travelling to/from work” (66 percent versus 53 percent) and “in the airport when waiting for a flight/waiting for boarding” (64 percent versus 49 percent).1

There are regional differences in the type of activity, however, especially with gaming. In Asia, the frequency of playing games on smartphones is equivalent between weekly gamblers and lottery players versus non-gamblers and players, indicating broad open space for brands to act on this trend. Within the E.U. and in the U.S., however, weekly gamblers and lottery players are 11 percent more likely than non-gamblers and players to play games on their phones. This means that in these developed markets, lottery players are on the leading edge of the Smart Boredom trend.

Lotteries are already innovating to catch people’s attention and appetite for play in micro moments of downtime. In March 2017, IGT launched Champions of Cash, an augmented reality (AR) instant ticket, which delivers a 3D-like play experience. The tickets, which made their debut in New York, include a scannable barcode. When scanned with the lottery’s smartphone app, it allows the player to virtually sink a jump shot in basketball mode or deliver strikes to a batter in baseball mode. In the basketball game, players will be surrounded by a 3D basketball court on their smartphone. Players can move around the court and tap to shoot, revealing potential cash prizes and experience points. Each player earns points, which contribute to non-monetary prizes, and places them on a leaderboard. The results are the same whether the player uses the mobile game to reveal their prize amount or if they scratch the ticket in the traditional manner. The technology that powers this game makes an otherwise 2D ticket “smart” and upgrades the fun of play with an exciting 3D reveal. It resembles the short games of skill that are popular on mobile, all the while remaining a predetermined outcome.

Downtime isn’t just for play, however. Seventy-four percent of weekly gamblers and lottery players agree that “entertainment should be about learning new things as much as simply having fun.” (Agreement with this statement is essentially the same between players and non-players within countries. The exception is in the U.S., where weekly gamblers and lottery players are 13 percent more likely than non-gamblers and players to agree.2) Homing in on this trend is WaitSuite, a collection of apps that claims to open new possibilities for “micro-learning,” such as when users are waiting to connect to Wi-Fi or refresh their email. Developed by researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the WaitSuite apps test users on vocabulary words during idle moments, and are embedded directly into existing tasks so users can easily learn without interrupting their main task. Though the CSAIL team used WaitSuite to teach vocabulary, it could also be used for learning other subjects like math or leaning technical terminology when studying medicine or the law.

Lottery games that offer players micro-moments of achievement or satisfaction will appeal. And the abundant micro-moments are possible opportunities for lotteries to reach consumers. Winning can be framed as an immediate, tangible reward for the customer using that moment to play. Foresight Factory anticipates the emergence of even smarter apps and bots that will use machine-learning from personal data to make moments of Smart Boredom more interactive and rewarding, ever better personalized to the individual’s frame of mind, time of day, and reason to play.


1 Source: FFonline Research | Base: Global average (1000-5000 online respondents per country) aged 16-64, 2015 February
2 Source: FFonline Research | Base: 1000-5000 online respondents per country aged 16-64 (Indonesia & S. Africa 16-54), 2016 February

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