It’s good to be a tech geek, and being an early adopter of new technology has a lot of advantages. However when you’re used to multi-touch gestures, augmented reality, wireless connections and all that it might make dealing with old technology “interesting” to say the least. At least for me.
If you have a tablet or a recent smartphone and use it a lot, you start to take certain features for granted. Being able to rotate a device to switch from portrait to landscape is one of those things, and interacting with on-screen elements is another. A few weeks ago I visited my grandma who doesn’t even have a computer, and to my delight she had a digital photo frame she’d gotten as a gift that I figured would be a much easier way of browsing pictures than those paper photo albums she had. My first instinct when there were no visible controls was that the device was a touchscreen device, so I started tapping icons on the screen. Nothing happened. I tried a few more times, until finally I discovered that it had a touch sensitive frame, not a touchscreen. I got into browsing pictrues, and after looking through a few in landscape mode I came across one in portrait format. I instinctively turned the photo frame 90 degrees and when the picture didn’t rotate with it, I started shaking the thing until i realized I wasn’t using my iPad and that the thing probably didn’t have an accelerometer.
These sorts of mishaps have become pretty standard for me over the past couple of years, with increasing frequency. I’ve been known to reach over to my computer screen to tap the close button on a window, though in my defense I was tired as hell. At one point last year I had been playing Tom Clancy’s EndWar (voiced control strategy game) on my PS3 for a bit too long and I caught myself trying to control various gadgets using voice commands afterwards. It doesn’t help that I frequently use both the iPhone’s voice command feature to start playing songs without having to unlock my phone (you need a pin to unlock the screen, voice control works regardless) and Dragon Dictation. I often lie in bed reading RSS feeds or whatever on the iPad while watching TV shows on my computer, and whenever an episode is done and I need to put on another I feel as though there’s some grave injustice at play with the computer not being able to accept simple voice commands like “play file QWERTY.avi”- after all, my iPhone understands that sort of command.
Lately I’ve also been playing a bit with the Playstation Move, a more accurate Wii-like motion controller for the PS3. Most of you have probable used a Wii, so it’s a lot like that, just slightly upgraded. Add that on top of multi touch gestures like you have when using the Photos app on the iPad and you really have that whole Minority Report feeling going. When you’re used to navigating menus using various hand gestures like that, going back to a keyboard and mouse is sort of like being handed a stick, a piece of wood and a string and be told to make fire. I have on a few occasions picked up my mouse and pointed it at the screen, again when I’ve been a bit too tired (as you might have gathered from the posting times of some of the articles on NBT, I don’t have a very stable daily rythm). Thank Thor that I don’t have an Xbox and a Kinect, as that would really mess up my half-asleep technical abilities.I’m eccentric enough as is, I don’t need to be up at 4AM trying to flush the toilet by flicking my hand upwards in the direction of the puller.
One final situation I remember was a couple of weeks ago when I was visiting family and a friend of my dad had a picture on his cellphone that he wanted onto a computer. I hadn’t seen what cellphone he had so when my dad asked if I knew how I immediately assumed he was one of those people who have smartphones but can’t use them, and started listing options in my head: email, Dropbox, Flickr, Facebook, memory card etc. Turns out it was a (very) dumb phone, and the only options available were “MMS” and “Bluetooth”. I ended up sending the photo to my laptop which has Bluetooth (think it’s the first time I’ve ever used it) only to discover he’d taken the picture with the resolution set to 120×160. It made me think back on my previous cellphones and how ridiculously backwards everything was with getting any sort of file onto and out from the phone. Not that they could use many file types to begin with. Just 5 years ago, what then constituted a smartphone won’t constitute a doorstop in today’s tech world. Scary, especially when you imagine what it would be like in 10 years looking back at the top-of-the-line tablets we write about these days.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t know how to use a keyboard and mouse anymore, but it seems like the new generation of devices have suddenly leaped a few decades ahead in terms of how everything is controlled. It definitely messes with your head when you use both types of technologies a lot, and as much as I love my computer I have a hard time not looking at it as something that is just recent enough to not be steam powered. Everything moves so fast that if you’re lucky enough to keep up, you’re just going to look even more like an alien to those who can’t, standing there waving at the TV to try to change channels.So, I wonder, do any of you feel like you’re from the future, or is it just me who’s going crazy trying to control the microwave with voice commands?