The year 2015 has been an interesting year in terms of consumer electronics. This year we saw a new Apple Watch, hover boards, and multiple different 3D interface devices, including a few that can be built at home. I know that tech gadgets aren’t for everybody, but with the great advances of this year I am excited for what next year will bring. The great yet somewhat annoying thing about new gadgets is how quickly the prices fall. A large television that was priced at $2000 can have a comparable alternative by the next year for a quarter of the price. Technology is getting bigger, better, faster, and cheaper, and it seems as though 2016 will be the most affordable year in terms of the sheer quantity of interesting gadgets. I have learned over the years that new technology is always around the corner, and while I have been known to be an early adopter of many new products, I often find myself enjoying the novelty of older gadgets. In 2016, I expect technology to make a massive shift into the scifi realm, and I think we will see some products that were once thought of as impossible. I don’t expect to see hologram phones just yet, but based on the technological advances of the past five years, something huge is right around the corner.
Over this past week, I found myself playing games from my childhood and wondering why I’d ever stopped. I guess having my family together for Christmas brought on an extreme case of nostalgia, but it was much more than basic nostalgia. The old games are actually much more fun than anything available today. It’s funny that as a child all I wanted was the newest and brightest toys and games around, but as an adult I am fine with dusting off the old Nintendo or playing monopoly. Part of growing up is basically forming a state of contentment with the things you can’t change while changing the things you can, and along with that contentment comes a realization of what makes things enjoyable. When I was a child I always wanted the newer item because I thought it was better than the one I had, but these days I have realized that a shiny new paint job does not make an item better. It’s no great wonder that advertisers target children so often, it is easier to get a child to want a new item every year than it is for an adult, since most adults are accustomed to wearing the same jeans for years. I think the longing people have for the good old toys and shows of their youth is more than just nostalgia, it is the fact that the products of the past had more heart and were actually more fun than the products of today. These days everything is about glamour and pomp, but when it comes down to it, games were just more fun when nobody cared about how pretty they looked.
It is becoming all too common an occurrence for blockbuster movies to release their initial trailers online only these days. It seems like the Internet revolution has finally begun to take over cinema. I am convinced that in the near future films will be simultaneously released in theaters and online but I guess that is a topic for another day. Today Fox released the trailer for their upcoming X-men film, and while I found it to be quite underwhelming, it doesn’t change the fact that more and more film makers are putting their initial trailers on the Internet for fans to get excited about. I was always used to catching the premiere of a trailer during the viewing of another blockbuster, and I always felt as though tying anticipated trailers to a current release helped drive ticket sales, but I guess the numbers just didn’t stack up. With sites like YouTube, it was becoming impossible for companies to keep their trailers from being leaked, so now it seems they are willing to post them directly to the source. By releasing trailers online, these film makers are not only controlling the hype around their film, but also creating extra publicity via social media. It is clear that the Internet has had a huge effect on media consumption in general, and as we shift to a more web based society, I expect to see much less of the old guard techniques in advertising and much more web only productions.
Even thought the iPhone 6s was released less than two months ago, there are already rumors about Apple’s next entry into the mobile phone market. The iPhone 7 figures to be the name of the next iPhone, and along with a slightly upgraded look, Apple plans to make this phone the slimmest smartphone of all time. I am all in favor for making phones more compact, but in order to achieve this slender profile, Apple is rumored to be doing away with the 3.5 mm headphone jack. The 3.5 mm headphone jack is the universal standard for smartphones and multimedia devices, and while Apple has plans to replace it with their lightning connector, ridding their phones of the standard headphone jack will almost certainly alienate costumers who are looking to try an iPhone. Apple is used to introducing new iterations of old products in an effort to shake up the phone industry, but this change may be a huge mistake. I don’t think Apple will lose customers with a drastic change in the phones facade, but they will definitely annoy many, by turning their expensive headphones into obsolete peripherals of the past. I hope this rumor isn’t true, and as with all rumors it should be taken with a grain of salt, but Apple has shown in the past that they would be willing to make big changes to fit their style. I guess we will all just have to wait until the release of this phone before we start assuming the worst from its potential design.
With modern advancements in technology, it is no longer a question of if you can do something on your mobile device, but when. In just a mere eight years, mobile phones have gone from being a luxury device to an everyday companion to over a billion people around the world. I once worked with mobile phones and I have to admit there were several things I believed would never make it to a mobile device, and today I can proudly list the top 5 things I thought would never be doable on a smartphone.
1. Order and Pay for Takeout
I am still getting used to no longer having to dial up Pete down the street when I am hungry for some pizza, but apps like Grubhub and Seamless have made ordering delivery or takeout as simple as a few taps on a screen. I have to admit I never thought my clumsy old blackberry would be able to deliver my lunch, but now we are possibly a couple of years away from it being able to control my entire kitchen.
2. Hail a Cab
Catching a cab in New York City can at times be stressful, but apps like Uber and Lyft have cut out the waiting and given customers like myself a personal car service in the palm of our hands. Now we are able to sit inside our warm offices as we wait for our ride home.
3. Pay for Purchases
There is absolutely nothing better than running out to the store with only your keys and your phone in your hand. Apple Pay has made shopping hassle free and has all but eliminated the need for a wallet.
4. Find a date
I am not big on online dating, but for those who are, smartphones have become a reliable wingman. Apps like Plenty of Fish and Tinder have become a one stop shop for singles looking to meet someone special, and they can both be used without stepping a foot out of the door. I bet you never thought your phone could help you find a wedding date.
5. Travel the World
Apps like Periscope and Meerkat have made our world closer than it has ever been. I am now able to travel to the Pyramids of Egypt without buying a plane ticket. Nothing beats the real thing, but it is amazing that our phones are able to take us to such far away locations at a moments notice.
This afternoon while I was shopping, I realized that I a no longer had to take my wallet out of my pocket in order to pay for my items. With apps like Apple Pay and Android Pay, millions of smartphone users can now tap their phones at a pay station, and keep it moving with their items in hand. These mobile phone based payment systems are extremely convenient, and so far they are relatively safe, it is a wonder that we even use paper currency at all anymore. Today’s smartphones have the processing power of an older model computer, and the portability of a pocket watch, I just wonder if we can soon do away with the bulk of wallets and keys all together and just use our smartphones. These days there are basically apps that can do anything imaginable. It is possible to start a car, order food, and even find a new friend over the phone, however we still use paper currency and identification. I understand that many people don’t fully trust the digital advancements that are being introduced, and that apps are not perfect, but if we could slowly start to shift to a more digital norm, the changes would be less daunting to those who are afraid of the future. The biggest fear of those who are against digital payment systems is the fear of hackers, but with the security measures many companies have put in place, using a smartphone to pay is possibly safer than carrying a credit card. I am sure that the introduction of mobile payment options is just a start to what is planned for the future of a paperless planet, I just hope security measures can continue to improve in order to prevent the fears of many from coming true.
Many people consider gaming to be a dead hobby these days, but with millions of dollars coming into companies such as EA and Ubisoft, the gaming market is ripe for the plucking. We are decades past the days of Frogger and Pong yet Microsoft, a relatively young player in the gaming world, has managed to make this old hobby seem new again. While companies like Nintendo and Sony have kept true to their decade long sales model, Microsoft is in the midst of doing what former CEO Bill Gates never wanted done. The company has now begun blurring the lines between the PC and the video game console. With game streaming additions to Window 10, and web browsing available on gaming consoles, it looks as though Microsoft is tuning their gaming console into a home PC. Bill Gates feared the possibility that the gaming console would replace the home PC, but with the decline of new adoption for both gaming consoles and Windows PCs, this blurring of the lines seems to be the most viable option for the financial future of the company. The Xbox One is actually making me, a heavy Apple user, consider going back to a Windows PC, at least for my home desktop in order to partake in the integration. If Microsoft wants to compete with Apple, they must continue to embrace the change that is cross platform functionality, and dive fully into it. I don’t think PCs will ever lose popularity in the corporate sector, but when it comes to personal use, the Xbox One may be the PC world’s final stand against the impending threat of Android and iOS devices.
Virtual reality seems to be making a comeback in recent years. What was once limited to the imagination and displayed on lazily drawn red grids, is now once again in the public eye. Virtual reality or VR as it is commonly referred, was once only a gimmick, it was the idea that we can transport ourselves to another location without leaving the place we stand. VR has been attempted by video game companies in the 90s but it never made commercial success, after the failure of the Nintendo Virtual Boy, it was widely believed that VR technology was just not a financially sound investment at the time. While VR technology has seen continuing production for years, it was not until recently that it has become accessible to the general public, both technologically and fiscally. VR devices such as the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard, have made virtual reality extremely attainable to the everyday person, and with the rapid development of apps for the platform, it seems these devices are becoming more of a commodity than they have ever been in the past. In my opinion VR still is and will always be a fun gimmick, it is nice to try a VR device, but I honestly don’t think they can ever be an everyday recreational staple. There are many practical uses for virtual reality, but unfortunately VR in itself is just not practical enough to maintain lasting appeal.
In scifi movies robots are created to assist humans in basic everyday tasks, but in reality many believe they are being built to replace humanity. I know the idea automation can seem scary to many, but in reality people are getting too busy, and too advanced to not allow a robot to do some of the jobs we find tedious. I remember back when I used to work retail, customers would always prefer working with a human over an automated machine, they would think they are doing a service to humans by keeping us useful, but in my opinion what they were actually doing was tying us up in mundane tasks that could have easily been done by a computer. I understand that the use of robots in manufacturing assisted in crippling the American auto industry, and probably destroyed the economy of many cities throughout the US, but fearing the future is not going to stop it from coming. Technophobia is the fear of technological advancement, and it seems as though it is no longer a belief that is reserved for the very old. In this day of technological advancement many people fear they will be made obsolete, and while I agree that many current jobs will not be around in ten years, I think now is the time to begin learning about tech of the future. As long as humanity is building these machines of the future I am sure there will always be a job for man, but we have to learn to embrace the changes in order to avoid getting left behind.
I recently read a news report about a teenager in Oregon who was recently diagnosed with the Bubonic plague. This story seemed as a shock to me since I fully believed that this disease was extinct, but it seems like it has managed to hang around, we have just found advanced ways of treating it. The Bubonic plague is a disease that is commonly heard of in history class, it was known in Europe as the Black Death due to the effects it has on the human body. Back when the Bubonic plague was at the height of its devastation, it killed one third of the known population of earth. In the 14th century this plague was a certain death sentence and there was nothing anybody could do to save themselves or the ones they loved. Today, we know that the bubonic plague is spread by fleas and rodents, and we have drastically improved in our cleanliness since the Middle Ages, we also have antibiotics that can fight the effects of the plague, leaving it little chance to cause the damage it once did. It is astounding to think of how far we have come in terms of medical and hygienic technology, hopefully we will be able to look at all disease as ghosts of the past one day. Only 23 people have contracted the bubonic plague in the United States from the year 2010 to 2014, so it seems like this disease is well contained. This girl’s case is rare and unfortunate, but at least she has a cool story to tell her friends when she recovers.