In their last Request for Startups Y Combinator posed an interesting question: What are people going to do for fun in 20 years instead of what they do now? I asked my sixteen year old son and his idea was that in 20 years movies and TV are going to be much more interactive down to the ability to participate in the plot line and change it on the fly. According to him, there will be some sort of artificial intelligence that will be able to build a new story line, somewhat similar to the popular Choose Your Own Adventure book series. I think this is an interesting idea and may be definitely possible in 20 years, but something that doesn't really pull people away from screens.
My idea is different. I think with the current advances in miniaturization, robotics, open-source hardware, 3-d printing, connectivity, and mobile devices will lead to the ability of a large chunk of the population to mass-produce things for fun. This is in many ways similar to the role artisans or craftsmen played prior to the Industrial Revolution. The products they build will not be passive, like the vast majority of the currently produced items or tools is; they will be interactive, entertaining, and practical. In the same way as mobile devices enabled a market for mobile applications, in many cases simple and created by someone without much experience in the field, these advances will create opportunities for people to design, prototype, and niche-produce items that other people will find interesting to interact with. Niche-produce means producing 100-10,000 items, which is larger, than an individual craftsman can produce and smaller than mass production would bother with. These ideas are already being explored with Kickstarter-funded projects, using crowd-funding, which will also be leveraged by this new wave of artisans. I also believe that while connectivity and computers will play a critical role in this process, the focus of the activity will migrate back to the physical world and the items produced will take the form of physical goods more than virtual services or mobile applications.