Category Archives: technology

Gadgets Come And Go

I confess, I am no longer enamoured by the gadget hype machine. I don’t know if I ever really was a big ‘gadget-type’ of a person. You know, the early adopter; the person who’ll gladly reschedule appointments to watch the latest keynote or wait in line for hours (or days) just to be the first person on the block sporting the latest gizmo. Though I am a hypocrite of sorts because gadgets of every shape and size surround me as I write this post. I am inextricably connected, just like everyone else.

But let’s be perfectly clear: you will never find me lining up or expending excess calories (unless I’m in the gym) in frantic anticipation of the latest product release.

A funny thing happens when you reach a certain age or point in your adult life. Owning the shiny new object becomes less and less, then not-so-important at all. Maybe it’s the realization that nothing really lasts. In a couple years (or less) there will be a newer, sleeker gadget on the horizon to make your current silicon-based gem look and feel like a dull paperweight. Oh by the way, have you heard? $45 Android tablets are coming soon to a store near you. Thank you China.

Who else has become weary of the incessant Apple media spotlight of late? Everything Apple does seems to be put under this gigantic microscope. There are entire discussion threads devoted to people analyzing Apple’s new 8-pin “Lightning” connector which replaces the legacy 30-pin connector used in previous iPhone generations. When did we become so fixated on these seemingly insignificant things. People are getting legitimately worked-up debating this stuff at length. Really? You’re gonna need an adapter or two. Quit griping and get over it or go buy an Android device with a standard USB plug. Apple like being different —remember?

Products come and go. Gadgets and gizmos are just raw tools to empower people to do things. You don’t need gadgets to be creative. Some of the most creative people on the planet use the shittiest old gear. In less than a couple years there will be an iPhone 6, then a 7. Yawn. It’s just a phone. You know what’s really interesting? People and ideas —way more interesting.

So the iPhone 5 is a little thinner, lighter, and faster, and its also got a bigger screen. Big deal. What profoundly creative thing are you doing with it?

Cracks In The Facebook Advertising Facade?

Mark Zuckerberg f8 Keynote

This week General Motors announced plans to cease much of its paid advertising on Facebook but retain its various brand pages to “keep the dialogue going” and continue promoting its automotive products on the popular social networking site.

A GM spokesperson said, “paid ads on the site have [had] little impact on consumers’ car purchases”, suggesting GM’s social strategy on Facebook has failed to meet investor expectations.

This is an interesting revelation amidst the IPO frenzy this week, considering GM is one of the top U.S. advertisers in terms of ad spending, dolling out a mammoth $30 to $40 million alone to nurture its Facebook presence.

Regardless of whether GM is doing it wrong or not, or merely broadcasting instead of listening, one critical question being raised of late centers around the long-term viability of Facebook’s business model, which relies almost exclusively on paid advertising revenues.

The challenge for Facebook, particularly in the growing mobile space where people are typically less than receptive to ADs thwarting their small-ish screens, is in monetizing the more than 900 million users without significantly undermining the user experience to the point people feel compelled to leave.
Myspace quickly comes to mind as the poster child in this regard, illustrating the historically fickle nature of Web audiences and the staggering speed with which tech fortunes can rise and fall on the Net. Though Myspace never had 13% of the world’s population perusing their social network, so things could be very different this time around for Mark Zuckerberg and his talented team of 6 billionaires and 1000 millionaires.

But the question stands: Do Facebook Ads really work? And do ‘Likes’ and ‘Fans’ ultimately translate into product sales? Well perhaps not directly into car sales, but how about something a little smaller, like slices of pizza.

The story of Pizza Delicious out of New Orleans appearing on NPR this week is an interesting one because it paints a cautionary portrait of the challenges in running a successful Facebook advertising campaign. But don’t expect a mass exodus of advertisers just yet, Facebook is only 8-years old! Let’s give the platform time to mature.

The Allure Of Glass Interfaces

Real Steel (2011) screen interfaces

Alan Kay once famously said, the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

“Invent” also happens to be Hewlett-Packard’s long-standing tagline (exactly how long, I’m not sure). Did you happen to spot the HP logo on Hugh Jackman’s screen above? How about Hugh’s glass phone on the right prominently sporting the Nokia logo.

Glass interfaces seem to be showing up more and more in popular sci-fi lately. And why not? They’re really cool looking, but not quite practical from an ergonomics, manufacturing or design perspective —but perfect as movie props to convey a sense of technological advancement and sophistication several years off into the future.

Let’s assume for a moment HP and Nokia are working on glass interface screens and mobile devices right now, just like the ones depicted above in the film Real Steel. Incidentally, consider the rumour Apple is developing an all-glass version of the iPod and iPhone. Awesome! I want one. Oh but wait, exactly what are the benefits of a glass screen again? —sustainable use of materials? —reduced power consumption (over a standard LCD)? —or does glass merely fulfill some tactile aesthetic desire?

Perhaps our love affair with plastic products is finally coming to an end. Plastic is of course petroleum based and could one day become cost-prohibitive as global oil production slows and environmental concerns curb its use in consumer product offerings.
Karim Rashid made a good point in Objectified when he said high-tech objects, which generally have a shelf life of eleven months, should be 100% disposable. How about laptops and mobile phones made of cardboard, sugarcane or bioplastic instead of polycarbonate.

So maybe glass does make sense.

Even Google seems to be jumping on the glass device bandwagon. Unlike their April Fools spoof last month, Gmail Tap, the Project Glass initiative we’ve been hearing about lately is a very real invention, one that could be destined for our eyeballs very soon.
If you can get past the parody videos poking fun at the concept you might feel slightly titillated—perhaps even a little creeped out—by the thought of friends and family bumping into one another when wearing these accident inducing glasses out in public. While Apple’s Siri and other voice-op UIs suggest conventional screen based interfaces may someday be on the way out (perhaps first in the mobile space), the question worth asking is, would you really wear a pair these Web connected (eye) glass devices?

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a future concept from one of the tech giants touting shiny glass augmented reality displays and wearable computer devices. Back in October 2011 Microsoft produced a highly polished video entitled Productivity Future Vision that left some people wondering if the future of interaction should be relegated to a single finger sliding ‘pictures under glass’, as Bret Victor eloquently put it in his post on the the future of interaction design.