the great limitation of consumer technology
I've been a reader of the Verge since This is my next, and I love it. It's basically my homepage. I've never really contributed, but wrote this post on my blog and wanted to hear the thoughts of other Verge readers.
Perhaps I’m writing this out of frustration, after a day of increasingly unreliable technology, and the way it has made my day more difficult. Or perhaps, I’m writing this because I truly believe consumer technology needs to go from the cool and experimental to the practically functional.
This post is largely inspired by Google Glass, the awesome concept about to be consumer product that Google has been experimenting with. Of course I want one, much like any technology enthusiast, but I don’t think it will be practical more than a GoPro is practical. First, I’m not going to spend a ton of time walking around wearing these since they look pretty ridiculous. Technically speaking, these wouldn’t be practical because of the Internet connection that it seems to have to rely on. That, is the problem that plagues the practicality of almost any awesome consumer product.
This past week has been a difficult one, due to a recent blunder by the school’s IT department, rendering the student body without a reliable connection to the web. This blackout went on for about 4 days. I instantly regretted not springing for an LTE 4G enabled iPad, seeing as it was just as useless as my MacBook without an Internet connection. For classes, I take notes on my iPad through my Google Drive app, which relies on wifi for editing and creating documents. In practice, it’s fantastic. Everything is saved instantly, and I can access all my documents from multiple computers just by logging into my Google account. Without wifi, however, this functionality quickly becomes a hinderance. There I sat, offline, having limited access to all my files in the cloud, all because the wifi had shut off.
Here we are shortly after the Playstation 4 announcement, where Sony announced that you would be able to stream games off the Internet. I want to live in this mystical land that has such a fast and steady Internet connection, because honestly, I can’t imagine what that looks like. I don’t think a place with tons of bandwidth and fast connection exists in the United States, and if it does, the vast majority of users don’t have access to it.
We claim to be advancing consumer technology, making it more accessible for everyone, but we still have to rely on the subpar connection we all have in our homes. The more we move into the cloud, I’m worried that we are driving ourselves off a cliff. Developers and startups are becoming increasingly ambitious, but I don’t know if the wifi connections of most people can handle it all. We are increasingly limited by this country’s lack of bandwidth and strong connections to the worldwide web, and I believe it is going to stifle innovation and ultimately the productivity and creativity of the nation as a whole.
So why does consumer technology suck? The weak wireless connections, which we are forced to rely on, work about 80% of the time. Functioning 80% of the time is not nearly enough for an entire population to be productive, and it needs to improve. Otherwise, we will see increasing innovation and creativity that is completely ruined and thrown away because of factors the developers really can’t control. We are all victims of this enormous first world problem, and just because it is a first world problem, doesn’t mean that it isn’t a dire issue.