Home Technology: We’re In Control Now


Apple WatchA few months ago, Google Glass opened a very snazzy store in my neighbourhood. It looked like an opticians run by supermodels. Each time I went in I found a few people trying out Google Glass then beating a hasty retreat. They didn’t even stay for the free coffee. I tried them and found them cumbersome and pointless. Worse, they seemed intrusive to me and to other people. This lack of instinctive use seems to have been felt by all who tried the technology. The shop has already disappeared, and Google Glass has crashed.

It’s a good example of the public deciding that they didn’t want this new technology, and I wonder if the same fate won’t affect the Apple Watch. There has been a run on the super high-end models, which suggests that people with fat wallets and low self-esteem are buying them to show off, but anecdotal evidence suggests that people don’t want to have a watch that they need to co-ordinate with their phone (a lot of people don’t seem to realise that it’s not a stand-alone wi-fi product but must be operated via an iPhone).

The Kindle is a wonderful device that I find makes me read twice as many books as before. It also encourages me to buy more physical books, particularly large volumes which are simply too unwieldy to read on a crowded tube train. But its sales are slowing in the UK because it appears to have hit its maximum market. Some readers refuse to accept the idea of it, while others like me use it in conjunction with regular books. The iPod Classic has been discontinued, but public demand is now forcing up secondhand sales and prices are soaring on eBay because it’s a device we really like using, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it returns. 3D movies have all but vanished now, and China and India, who were sold the hardware by America, have been stranded without product to show.

It feels as if there has been a distinct change in consumer technology; after two decades of being in thrall to technology a new generation has realised that home tech doesn’t own us, that Apple presentations are simply selling tools, that nobody is perfect and that computer technology doesn’t have to rule our lives. If you don’t have a direct need to use something, you don’t have to use it – and that puts the power back into the consumer’s hands. A growing interest in crafts is also reducing our thrall to technology.

I still burn CDs of everything I buy because sometimes iTunes deletes my files for no reason I or anyone else can figure out, so I can at least re-upload tracks from a hard copy when they’ve been lost. I remain addicted to DVDs, although I use iPlayer, Netflix and Flixster too. The main reason is because home entertainment delivery systems remain stubbornly Hollywood-oriented, and I can’t find half the films I want to see on any format other than DVD. Last night I watched ‘Septimo’, a terrific thriller from Buenos Aires about an abduction, but according to most databases it doesn’t exist. I bought a cheap copy in a Spanish store.

Perhaps we’ll also come to realise that home and wearable tech is just another product, and not the most exciting thing for kids to base their spare time around; there’s a world out there to explore.



5 comments on “Home Technology: We’re In Control Now”

  1. DC says:

    I like tech but sometimes I think companies take the approach of “look what we can do” rather than “look what we can do for you”.

    A smartphone is a good example of something designed with a purpose and has evolved into a useful swiss army knife type tool because the format works. All forms of communication, calendar, music, video, maps, even reading a book are all possible, with reasonable success. Heck, I can even tell the time and set an alarm.

    I remain unconvinced that a smart watch does anything of value beyond what my dumb quartz watch can do (same battery for 8 years). It can’t replace my phone, so I have to carry that, too.

    Besides, I find most smart watches, including the Apple one, quite ugly and devoid of individuality. Maybe I’ll just stick with an mp3 playing lightbulb. Add 4 more lamps and I’ll have surround sound!

  2. Steve2 says:

    Latest news suggests that Google Glass
    Is being rebooted rather than put to rest, see http://www.techradar.com/news/wearables/job-postings-hint-google-glass-could-return-as-a-whole-family-of-products-1294040

    I had great hopes that Google Glass would be an innovative and life enhancing device which could help people who were deaf and hard of hearing- subtitling live conversations and allowing people to be able interact with others where previously they might not be able to seems to me to be entirely the sort of function we should aim for with radical new technology. A close family member has suffered a substantial hearing loss and has an uncertain future so this is an area that is important. Linking google glass to other tech and creating live universal wearable translators would make them buckets of cash on a global basis, so there’s plenty of need for this kind of wearable tech- just needs the company to be a little more imaginative than creating 3d games!

  3. Helen Martin says:

    Why don’t the techs look out there for problems to solve instead of entertainment to provide? Hearing aids are getting better all the time but for the truly and especially the newly deaf something like your suggestion would be a life saver. The ASL community works for those who go deaf young but until we mandate the language for schools it doesn’t work for everyone. How about sensors for the blind? A talking map? (although I suppose they figure that satellite navigation works. I wish it did. We were guided into a farmer’s field on the Somme and I had no desire to experience the area’s mud first hand.)

  4. DC says:

    Would something like Google Translate not be a step in a positive direction. The latest incarnation can translate speech to text in pretty much real time and English speech to English text as well as translations to/from foreign language.

    Not tried but I expect it would struggle with a group conversation.

  5. Peter Lee says:

    Steve2 – Google Glass was never scrapped in the first place. What happened was that they discontinued the “Explorer” programme, which was essentially a public beta of the product. Google bought a company called Nest primarily to poach their CEO, Tony Fadell, who was one of the designers of the original iPod as well as the Nest products, an he’s been assigned to Glass to produce the next version of the product. Typically the media saw that the Explorer programme was ending and reported that Glass was dead, when in reality it was nothing of the sort.

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