Blogs > 37th Frame

Photography, notes, commentary and much more from former Reporter Online Editor Chris Stanley.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The promise of unwanted technology

An article in today's New York Times talks about the drive by television makers to convince consumers that their (mostly) new flat TV's are out-of-date, and need to be replaced with something newer and shinier. The two technologies that seem most likely to accomplish this are televisons capable of 3-D viewing or those that are Internet-ready.

Due to some vision problems, I can't actually see 3-D, but my kids tell me it is 'cool'. For the moment, viewers have to wear clunky polarizing glasses (some with their own power supply), but research is underway to eleminate these. As to whether this would be worth several hundred dollars (assuming I needed a new TV, which I don't) extra, for me the novelty isn't worth the price. Though the technology is getting much better than the blue-and-red glasses days, I still have my doubts. To me TV is still about content - I'll watch if the shows are good. People flinging folding chairs in 3-D won't make Jerry Springer any more worth watching than it is now.

On the other hand, if I was into gaming, I would probably be very interested in 3-D.

I wonder about the usefulness of putting 'the Internet' on TV. I'm not talking about Internet video - this area has a bright future as long as the structure of the Internet can keep pace with the demand. I'm talking about Facebook and Twitter and getting Skype calls through your TV - these are experiences that are really better aligned with PC's, tablets and mobile phones. Reading text from across the living room just isn't that comfortable, and I really don't want to answer my TV when somebody is calling.

All this made me think about some of the other under-appreciated promises of technology that came and went - then came and went again - over the years. Two-way video telephones are my favorite example - I think people LIKE that nobody can see them on the phone. You can be disheveled, in your underwear, eating a sloppy sandwich, watching porn - the person on the other end of your call has no idea what you are doing (unless it makes noise). This is a bonus, not a drawback.

How about automated phone operators that try to sound human (ever call Verizon?) Seriously annoying. If I'm talking to a robot, let it be a robot. Let's have some honesty here.

Flying cars (the greatest unfufilled promise of technology ever)...would you really want that guy flipping the bird while tailgating and talking on a cell phone sailing OVER your house at 106 mph?

One about cameras that wait until you smile before they take a picture? "Be happy, dammit. Be happy NOW! What's WRONG with you? Never mind, we'll just replace you with a cutout from an old picture back when your WERE happy!" (also an automated possibility now).

The list goes on. But for now, I think I'll ask my TV to get in touch with the refrigerator to whip me up a tuna sandwich. When I get it, I promise I will smile, which will hopefully make my camera happy, too.


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