You may be emotionally attached to your smartphone, and feelings of love, addiction or separation anxiety can arise. But what if you were also physically attached? What if you and your iPhone were so close that you became … one?
The idea of humans merging with machines may not be too far off in an increasingly smaller and smarter world. When technology goes nano, the human body itself will become the platform.
“When the product becomes bionic, in the end there is no product,” the designer Philippe Starck told The Times.
The digital age has created a process of “dematerialization,” he said, and eventually humans will be implanted with microchips, and become the product. If the body isn’t quite there yet, the design world is trying to get as close as possible. The iCon Bed from Hollandia has a headboard equipped with speakers, an amplifier and docking stations for two iPads. The D’E-light by Flos — designed by Mr. Starck — is a sleek table lamp equipped with a dock for Apple devices. Andrew Shabica, a product manager for the company, said it made sense to take an everyday object like a lamp and combine it with the iPad or iPhone, “which has become a staple of our lives,” he told The Times.
As technology gets embedded where we sit and sleep, it’s also getting into what we wear. What keeps us from truly becoming one with our phone is that other people can tell when we are using it. If only we could text stealthily. Researchers at Microsoft have created a prototype for a touch screen that can be used to send messages while it’s concealed in a jacket or pants pocket, reported The Times. The wearable technology, called PocketTouch, can interpret signals through cloth. Handle a call by tracing a message over your pocket like “Running late. In a mtg.” all while maintaining eye contact.
A little creepy? Perhaps.
But not any more so than a pair of glasses that can project information about who or what you’re looking at, without anyone else knowing. Later this year, Google is expected to start selling augmented-reality glasses where the lenses operate as a kind of see-through computer monitor. Through a built-in camera on the glasses, Google can stream images to its computers and return information to the wearer, whether it’s about a landmark the user is looking at or — once facial recognition software improves the identity of a person.In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for our screens, and we’re immersing ourselves in them more than ever. To handle a data assault, many people are adding a second or even a third computer screen at work. Matt Alfrey, a trader in Portrtland, Oregon, said he can scan six monitors, which are a blur of messages, headlines and stock tickers. Even though he sits with other traders, he says he feels isolated. “You’re sitting behind a wall,” he told The Times.
On the other side, with his own wall of screens, is a colleague who lives in Mr. Alfrey’s neighborhood. “We joke that I’m more likely to see him in the neighborhood.” But for multiscreen multitaskers, a single monitor is too slow. James A. Anderson, a professor of communication at the University of Utah, uses three. “You don’t have to toggle back and forth,” he told The Times. “You can take in
everything with the sweep of an eye.”
And that’s just how life may be soon enough.