Saturday, January 12, 2013

The End Of The Smartphone

I recently stumbled upon a headline on-line that proclaimed "The End of the Smartphone Era Is Coming".  This immediately caught my interest, because smartphones are a pet peeve of mine.  I think we've become far too engrossed by them. 

Seems that no matter where you go these days, and no matter what you do, you're surrounded by people whose noses are buried in their smartphones.  A world full of people, and none of them are actually "there".  When poet Hughes Mearns wrote:

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...

...I`m sure he was talking about a guy with a smartphone, which was pretty forward-thinking of him considering that he wrote those lines in 1899, when smartphones were still in the very early stages of development.  How has a communications device managed to become such a barrier to communication? 

In case you're wondering about my hypocrisy level, I'll say for the record that I don't own a smartphone.  I have a cell phone, and even that doesn't follow me around everywhere.  It stays in my car in case I need assistance while on the road, or in case I come across a fellow motorist who needs assistance and doesn't happen to have a phone of their own (which is practically unheard of these days) or in case my wife needs me to pick up something from the grocery store, or perhaps pick up dinner, on my way home from work (which is heard of practically every other day these days). 

So I was eager to learn more about anything that might finally break this obsession with smartphones and get people actually talking to each other again.  You can imagine my disappointment when I read the prediction that, if smartphones are indeed to become less ubiquitous, it will only be when they're replaced by some other, even more grotesque, distraction, such as computerized eyeglasses.

Seems both Google and Microsoft are working on eyeglasses whose lenses are augmented with computer displays that will have the ability to overlay information on top of whatever you're looking at, sort of like the "Heads Up Displays" or HUDs used by fighter pilots.  For instance, you might be watching a hockey game, and your glasses could display a little computerized tag next to each of the players, showing their names, plus/minus ratings, annual salaries and favourite brand of underarm deodorant, because you just know that the marketers are going to harness this as just another medium through which to constantly bombard people with non-stop advertising pitches.

I have to admit, I can imagine some interesting uses for this type of technology.  When mingling at boring cocktail parties, the glasses could use facial recognition technology to superimpose names over everybody in the room, eliminating the possible embarrassment of being cornered by people to whom we've previously been introduced, but whose names we proceeded to forget almost before they left our peripheral field of vision.  "Bob!" we could say, as we warmly extended our hand for the obligatory greeting, "Bob Finster!  It's great to see you again!"  This could even be augmented with a small database of key factoids about the person such as their age, where and when we met them, and personal interests, allowing us to impress them by continuing with "It's been, what, three months?  I remember you from our encounter at the clinic.  How's that hemorrhoidal swelling of yours?  Any better?"

Maybe those of us who, when verbally insulted or otherwise mistreated, lack the ability to quickly think up clever responses could be presented with a list of witty, snappy comebacks from which to choose, Terminator style.

I can see potential problems too.  Just as smartphones have a way of causing people to stand right in front of you without actually talking to you, these computerized glasses could allow them to stare right at you without actually seeing you.  And if these glasses are really going to replace smartphones, then they have to enable you to talk to people remotely, but how would you hear what's being said, and could any built-in microphone pick up your voice when it`s situated no-where near your mouth?  I suppose the glasses could communicate with one of those bluetooth earpieces.  Then again, that gives rise to another potential problem...

1 comment:

Tubes said...

You will be assimilated!