Posts Tagged: futurism

The Apple TV as gateway to the Smart Home

Throughout much of the Aughts, Apple had pushed the digital hub metaphor to it’s minions. In this scenario, the PC was the center of your digital universe. Your music, your photos, your movies… they all ended up on your computer (or iPod). It worked. But Apple sought to market the future and they recognized that our need to be mobile and free of the desk led us to the cloud. iCloud became the center of the digital hub and the PC got demoted to being simply another access point. A tool.

And yet… my Apple TV sits in the living room and has so much potential.

The TV, being the biggest screen in the home, puts it squarely at the center of your digital world. A gateway to consumption. But it’s also, quite literally, the center of your home. You spend most of your time in front of that tube whether you want to or not. Granted, you could make a case that the kitchen is the center of your home too, but its more of the heart. We’re talking about the brain.

The Apple TV sits there right along with your TV. Sitting on a goldmine of potential to become the brains of your entire house. The Smart Home. While this has insofar been a nerd’s fantasy or a promise of the World’s Fairs of the past, Apple is the one company poised to unify that vision. Many companies have tried to make this dream a reality, but in doing so, severe fragmentation has occurred. Trying to unify all of the myriad protocols takes an engineering degree. Basically it’s really fucking hard to pull off.

Apple could very easily come in, use the proliferation of iOS/iDevices that already exists, and along with a common standard like Wi-Fi, finally consolidate the masses. It could create its own smart home ecosystem and finally make your home the Einstein of the block. Throw in Siri and you have a house that is voice activated, proximity aware (with iBeacons), and almost turnkey in getting things set up. License the standard to appliance makers, electronics companies, device creators, etc and lets get this thing going!

Imagine watching TV and asking Siri to preheat the oven. Or coming home and having her greet you with a friendly hello, options for dinner, and a reminder to take the clothes out of the dryer because they’re done. Or lowering the temperature just by asking. Or setting the lighting in the room for love….

Apple, fill this void. Wearables are cute, but the living room, and by extension, the home, is the next great space for tech.

Extending Siri

With iOS 7, my relationship with Siri has finally settled into a more stable- she lets me stay out late with my friends/I do the dishes and not throw my clothes everywhere type of arrangement. It seems many of the under-the-hood updates in iOS 7 has made Siri much more useful and more accurate. But as with all relationships, it’s not just the software… it takes work. You have to learn how to use Siri and train her a bit and she’ll reward you. I have found using Siri to be much faster for many things. Including things that I used to say, “Siri sucks, it’s faster to just do it myself.” I get it now. And so does she apparently.

So I’ve changed my tune. Siri is pretty great. And now I want more. There’s so much possibility, and I want it all now now now!

Lets list of all the ways Siri can be extended or improved by adding new services.

No brainer. Before you ever whip out Shazam, you’re usually turning to a friend to say, “What song is this?” Why not just to turn to Siri?
You: “Shazam this song?”
Her: “Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus.”
You: “Love it, let’s buy it from iTunes.”

Getting a car or taxi from Uber is already so easy, this one is ripe for the Siri treatment. Afterall, personal assistants book cars all the time anyway.
You: “Siri, have a car pick me up from here as soon as it can.”
Her: “Got it. The car is booked and will be here in 10 minutes.”

We can already book a table with Siri via OpenTable, but we’re being lazy tonight. We’d rather order in. She could already have a list of your favorite places to order from and could ensure she’s getting the complete order before placing it.
You: “Siri, let’s order in the red curry from my wife’s favorite Thai place.”
Her: “Sure, do you want a large or small?”
You: “A large please.”
Her: “Anything else with that?”
You: “I’ll get a side of brown rice and lets add pork to that red curry.”
Her: “Order updated, ready to place the order?”

Apple TV
I like my Apple TV for the most part. Gives me access to loads of content and connects my plasma to my iOS ecosystem. But navigating it is such a chore. Anything to ease this pain and speed things up would be welcome. That’s why I need my girl…
You: “I want to watch a movie, what are some new releases on my TV?”
You: “Start iTunes Radio on the TV”
You: “Start the screensaver on the TV”

In the future, if Apple were to go this route, integrating your cable system into Apple TV would make this even better…
You: Switch the channel to AMC.
You: “DVR the next episode of Girls.”

I watch Netflix almost exclusively on my Apple TV as well, but Siri could make discovery on Netflix much easier (and fun). Netflix has been testing out “Max” on PS3, which helps you decide what to watch in an irreverant, gamified way. Siri could function in a similar fashion.
You: “I’m in the mood for something light. Something with Hugh Grant.”
Her: “How about one of these movies from Netflix?”
You: “Lets do Love Actually.”

or simply
You: “Go to my Netflix instant queue”
You: “Search Dark Comedies on Netflix”

Home Automation
We’re getting into Minority Report/Iron Man territory here. With iOS 7, changing settings on the phone was opened up to Siri. Let’s go a step further and change the settings on our house! (And while we’re at it, why not make an updated Apple TV the main brain of your smart home?) Ask Siri to turn on lights. Turn on the TV. Start brewing coffee. Preheat the oven to 350 and let you know when it’s ready.
You: “Siri, it’s cold in here, can you raise the temperature a few degrees?”
Her: “Glad you asked, I was cold too, I’ve raised the temperature to 71 degrees.”

Here’s a little taste of what this could look like.

or this

Now it’s your turn. How else do you see Siri improving your life or making things easier? How else can we extend Siri with services that already exist?

Scientists Create First Memory Expansion for Brain

In case you missed it… We’re cyborgs now. Will human evolution continue on this human-augmented path from here on out? As we now look to perfect our bodies using “unnatural” means, will the natural evolution stop working so hard? Or am I still losing my small toe?

Scientists Create First Memory Expansion for Brain.

Video Chattin!

A conversation about the state of video conferencing, presented in chronological order…

With Facetime in the hands of tens of millions of iOS users… Google+ creating a new term with video “Hangouts”… and now it looks like Facebook is going to have major Skype integration…

30 years later, are we FINALLY entering the video chat era?

I don’t see video chat taking off anyway. It’s uncomfortable. Voice is easier/better b/c you can divide your attention without harming communication.

Maybe the kids will like it…

I agree with Dennis and I think the shift away from telephone calls to texting shows that most people, even the kids, want to multitask or have asynchronous communication. I’m sure there will be a good number of people and some interesting uses for video chatting but I don’t think its going to become the dominate communication form we originally thought it would be.

and thanks Greg from starting a conversation on gmail instead of g+, I feel like i’m missing the party.

It’s funny you say that. As I was writing that email, I stopped and said to myself, “Should I turn this into a blog post? Nah” “Hmm, I don’t want to post to Facebook, because I’ve already posted something today…” “I’ll just send an email.”

With all of these broadcasting options, I went with email. Go figure.

FYI, I’m about to tweet it.

I might have already sent this once before (or twice…?), but the great, late David Wallace nailed this topic in his 1998 near-future, quasi-scifi, novel, Infinite Jest: A Novel.

e.g. –
The answer, in a kind of trivalent nutshell, is: (1) emotional stress, (2) physical vanity, and (3) a certain queer kind of self-obliterating logic in the microeconomics of consumer high-tech.

First, the stress:

Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation […] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet — and this was the retrospectively marvelous part — even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end’s attention might be similarly divided.

Put a shirt on.[…] Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener’s expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges. Those caller who out of unconscious habit succumbed to fuguelike doodling or pants-crease-adjustment now came off looking extra rude, absentminded, or childishly self-absorbed. Callers who even more unconsciously blemish-scanned or nostril explored looked up to find horrified expressions on the video-faces at the other end. All of which resulted in videophonic stress.

And then vanity:

And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn’t. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair-checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.

I just saw your tweet! Whoo hoo!

is Infinite Jest 1000+ pages of shit like that?

Actually, I think it’s just shy of 1,000 pages. But there are footnotes.

Bryan, when you say “shit like that”, is that good or bad?

I think it’s the shit.

I guess without seeing my face you could not tell that I was using the word “shit” in the positive light.

Sent from my iPhone

Thanks to Dennis, Bryan, and David Wallace for participating.

Are we slowing down?

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. With the shuttle retiring in June, this might be the first time in human history our species is decelerating. What gives humans? Check out the entire article here.

Advanced Food Service

This place is the tits.Working during the week between Christmas and New Years, at least for me, means cleaning out files and long lunches. During one such lunch, a few collegues and I went around the corner to FoodParc. FoodParc is the future of lunch dining. Quick, easy, and pretty much self-servicing.

You walk into the restaurant (err cafeteria) to find a bright and sterilized atmosphere. White and neon. Like the Korova Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange. Minus the nude statues and LSD. A human greeter points you to the computer kiosks where you order your food. On the touch screens you are given a choice of several cuisines with the option to highly customize each one. When you are satisfied, slide your credit card through and take your ticket. While it’s unclear whether or not they actually take cash here, it’s definitely frowned upon. A welcome policy. Cash is clumsy, slow, and unsecured. Let’s embrace credits people.

With ticket in hand, you wait at the designated location for your meal to be prepared. A human behind the counter calls your number and gives you your lunch. No waiters. No tipping. A quick turnaround. I am a bit conflicted by this. On one hand, I’m a friend to the waiter/waitress. I’ve been in the trenches. I know what it’s like to deal with the dregs of the Earth while you’re finding your way. At the same time… not having to deal with a cranky post-graduate lazy bastard who would rather be smoking weed then waiting on you is welcome. Or worse, dealing with an overly bubbly and scripted automaton that has been drinking the company kool-aid and revels in his/her flair. Either way, there’s really no sure technique for figuring out which one will spit in your food, so better to take them out of the equation altogether.

There is ample seating for you and your friends to sit down and enjoy your lunch. When you’re done, leave it on the table. A human busboy will take care of it.

None of this is especially groundbreaking. You can find self-order kiosks at Quick Chek. But I do appreciate the way in which FoodParc has organized it. A nifty, interestingly-designed restaurant. An intuitive traffic pattern. And food that is decidedly not bad. The food is cheap. Probably savings passed on by not hiring workers in a recession. The way I see it, you have to start somewhere. If we are indeed going to live in an advanced society, we are going to need advanced food service.


Ever since I went to Disney World for the first time, I’ve been intrigued by futuristic animatronic spectacle. There’s something about the innocence in the first half the 20th century, especially when it came to postulating the future, that is really endearing to me. Of course I didn’t live through it, but going back to look ahead is a strange and wonderful exercise.

General Motors’ Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair is the best example I can come up with. The General Motors Pavilion was a beautiful art deco experience and it’s main attraction was Futurama. The exhibit envisioned a world of tomorrow (the ’60s) with interconnected superhighways and futuristic urban landscapes. Visitors were strapped to a conveyor belt and shuttled around fully functioning miniatures in a model of the United States. Exposed to a wonderous and achievable world of the future. A lot of it was ultimately realized, but a lot still remains science fiction.

And of course, the 1939 World’s Fair had robots. Elektro was a gold-plated terror standing nearly 7 feet tall designed by Westinghouse Electric. Sure it was a bunch of parlor tricks and by all accounts benevolent, but Elektro must have blown minds back then. They didn’t know any better in 1939. I suspect many a child left that World’s Fair with nightmares after meeting Elektro. This thing could recognize voice commands, blow up balloons, and of course smoke cigarettes. Watch the video below. After counting on it’s fingers, Elektro is rewarded with the following command; You. May. Now. Smoke. This. Cigarette. Go. On. To which the presenter lights his cigarette and says to the crowd, “And folks he’s only two years old too. Just learning.”

I don’t know what Elektro did to piss off his makers, but eventually, his head was given to a retiring Westinghouse engineer and the rest of is aluminum body was sold for scrap.

I bet you didn’t know that there’s a World’s Fair going on right now in Shanghai. When’s New York going to have another?