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Category Archives: Technology

[UPDATED] Is The Ability To Disconnect Becoming More Myth Than Fact?

Over the holidays my family went on a trip to Costa Rica on our annual family vacation. It was an amazing trip and it was nice to “get away from it all.” Except for one problem, it sees impossible to actually get away from it all. In the old days (old, meaning about 5-10 years ago when smart phones barely existed) when one went on vacation they would do exactly that and go on vacation. Vacation days were taken, and the point was to relax and get your mind of work. On this trip I expected to do the same thing and found it nearly impossible. I had important emails that I was expecting, and would need to respond to quickly. And, of course, why wouldn’t the hotels in the middle of the rainforest, that are only accessible by boat have wireless service? I was able to respond to emails and make sure things weren’t blowing up back home while I’m on a family vacation. And I hate myself for it.

The point I am trying to emphasize is that technology has become so ingrained in our culture that we are almost continuously connected to the point that when we are sleeping is our only break. Even when you sleep is becoming a connected part of your day with sleep trackers and products like Jawbone’s UP. There really isn’t a part of our daily lives that allows us to remove ourselves from technology. Personally, I think that’s a major issue. I am all for technology and its integration into the daily lives of people, to some degree. It makes things A LOT easier. The amount of time saved because of technological advances is invaluable. However, it promotes an overworked lifestyle that prevents people from having time to themselves.

Personally, I make an effort to spend part of every day completely disconnected from technology. What exactly do I do instead?

  • Go to the gym and unplug. Instead of listening to my iPod I’ll go music-free…except for the unmotivating Top 40 playlists continuously playing over the gym’s speakers. I focus on my breathing and stay tuned to how my body feels and how it can push itself to its limits. I love listening to music when working out, but there is a degree of separation once the tunes start playing that prevents you from being 100% focused.
  • I close my laptop, turn off the TV, put down my phone and have nothing to do with technology for the last hour before bed. I love to read. I will almost always be reading before bed. It allows me to escape into another world and unwind from a stressful day.
  • I’ll go for a walk. Self explanatory.
  • On more than one occasion I have just laid out on my couch and just stared at the ceiling, thinking. It’s amazing what any form of meditation can do for the mind. It’s almost unheard of for someone to just do…nothing. But it’s actually really nice. I dare you to try it. Don’t look at a clock until you believe 15 minutes has passed.

The thing about technology is that it is stressful. Being connected at all times takes a lot out of a person. Here’s something you should try: the next time you get a text message when you’re sitting at home don’t answer it. I bet you’ll feel at least a hint of anxiety caused by your thoughts saying “who is it?” “what does this person want?” That’s not healthy.

The ability to truly disconnect is becoming more impossible every day. We’re even getting to the point where we’re going to have augmented reality overlays in our contact lenses. Does this not bother anyone? The amount of information we receive every day is amazing. Do we really need that much more? We can’t retain but a small fraction of it to begin with, why overload ourselves even more?

Do you think we’re too connected? When was the last time you truly disconnected from every bit of technology you own?

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[UPDATE] I just read this article on Volkswagen. They shut their Blackberry email servers off after business hours to allow employees to disconnect. This is revolutionary and more companies should start embracing this. The stress caused by always being connected can cause real harm and VW is taking a huge step in the right direction to prevent their employees from getting burned out. Way to go Volkswagen!

(Coincidentally I also own a VW Passat so this makes me even prouder of the company)


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The Real Impact Of Steve Jobs Stepping Down

Steve Jobs has successfully CEO’d the hell out of what is arguably the most remarkable company the world has seen over the course of the last three decades, let alone ever. I won’t spend the time going into everything Apple has accomplished in this millennium but I don’t think I need to. Ask ten people a question like “Name the first music player/tablet/phone that you can think of” and I would guess 8 times out of 10 those people will answer “ipod/ipad/iphone” almost immediately. In short, Apple’s market penetration and name recognition is off the charts and by far one of the hottest companies around right now.

With the news of Steve Jobs’ stepping down from the CEO position at Apple, people freaked out to say the least, and the East Coast earthquake became the second biggest thing this week that rocked the world (pun undeniably intended). Already there are countless reports on the magic of Steve Jobs and what his resignation means to Apple, as well as the tech industry. Will Apple change as a company? Will their incredible devices and innovation slow down or stop altogether? Should I update my iPod software now before the world ends?

People can, and will, worry about what will happen to an incredible company when the person who has always been the face of that company decides to step down as the leader. What people need to understand is that Steve Jobs is going nowhere. His title has changed from CEO to Chairman. If you believe he won’t make important decisions or provide input on what Apple does in the years ahead, well you’re kidding yourself.

I’m not worried at all about Apple. What I am intrigued by is what I believe to be the real impact of SJ’s resignation: the effect it has on competition and innovation. Steve Jobs is the man every entrepreneur wants to become: the man who co-founded and molded a juggernaut that became, briefly, the most valuable company on the planet. Steve Jobs is also the man who has caused a level of competition to emerge, in an already uber-competitive industry, that has resulted in some unbelievable innovations. Even with competitors releasing incredible products to compete with Apple, it’s still just barely a competition. The iPod has a virtual monopoly on the music player vertical, the iPad is the leader in the tablet market, and the iPhone is the hottest mobile device on the planet. When devices with incredible specs are released into the market the first question people ask themselves is “is this the iPod/iPhone/iPad killer?” And sometimes they don’t even have the guts to go that far, they simply say “this device can definitely compete with Apple’s device.” Thing is, the devices that may perform just as well as Apple’s version, and possible outperform it, don’t have Apple’s branding behind it. So they lose. And for the last decade or so, every single one has lost. Sure, the products still may sell well, but they don’t touch Apple.

As Steve Jobs removes himself from the driver’s seat of the Apple bandwagon, I can see the greatest impact being felt in the areas of innovation and competition. Steve Jobs has affected how we view our gadgets and gizmos whether we like it or not. I am sad to see him go.

The internet is old news


I was recently on the Scoutmob website where they were advertising a deal for their new T-shirt. In order to get a shirt they write: “Unfortunately, you can’t order your Scoutmob shirt via the iPhone or Android app. This will only work the old-fashioned internet way. I understood that they are saying this in a joking manner, but the reality is that this description of the internet as “old-fashioned” is actually very true in many ways:

1) When was the last time you ever heard someone say “internet” with any excitement? Even a decade ago people were in awe about what the internet allowed them to do. Nowadays everyone and their mom (and dad, and grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, etc) is on the internet now. At one point in time it was “new” and “revolutionary” to sit for minutes at a time (minutes!!) while your dial-up logged in on AOL. But now I see my grandmother getting impatient after 5 seconds of waiting for a page to load. Back when I was younger it was a big deal to be able to simply find out information (without Googling it…wtf were we doing back then?); I am only 22…that’s how fast things are moving.

2) While phones and tablets and game consoles are now jumping on the internet bandwagon full force now, it’s what is now capable on phones with things like QR codes and Stickybits, mobile shopping, social networking, etc. that are captivating the entire population. The internet is now just a means to an end, rather than the innovative service that once was.

3) The internet has simply become so mainstream that simple use of the internet is no longer an action. With words like “Google” “Youtube” and “Tweeting” becoming verbs, simply logging on isn’t a big deal. The realization of something like the internet being taken for granted is pretty profound if you think about the hundreds of millions, or billions, of people who use it daily. “E-mail” and “screen names” are not obsolete, yet, but they aren’t the go-to choices for communication for many people.

What does this spell for the future of communication? Something as revolutionary as the internet is now an expected luxury, more of a right instead of a privilege. This isn’t meant to preach any morals or points of views specifically, it is just an observation of how fast our world has progressed even in the new millennium. It’s astounding how quickly societies can evolve, and its a great testament to human willpower and ingenuity don’t you think?

Ask yourself this and I bet you can’t remember: When was the last time you went even one week without being on the internet? Post your answer in the comments.

Sony Ericsson Developing PlayStation Phone

For those of you who are in tune with the video gaming world, it is well known that the Nintendo DS is the supreme ruler of mobile gaming. Sony, with it’s PS2 absolutely dominating the console market in the early 2000s tried to get into the handheld gaming industry by introducing the PlayStation Portable, or PSP. The device isn’t of bad quality, it’s just worse quality than the Nintendo DS and has not caught on in the market like Sony is used to. However, this may be about to change.

You haven't won yet Nintendo...maybe

Sony Ericsson has been reportedly “actively” developing a new gaming platform that is very similar to the PSP, but is also a phone. This could be a revolutionary product, provided that it is well made and does the whole phone thing as well as game playing, since there is no other device like it currently on the market. The mock-up of the product below is not the final version, so we can’t know exactly what it will be like but it gives you an idea:

Sexy = PSP phone

And if you’re observant, or just have a phone with it, you may recognize that the phone is running Android in the above picture. Yes, the PSP phone will be running Android, and not any lame Froyo 2.2 version either, this guy is rocking Gingerbread: Android 3.0. I like to compare it to the Terminator in T2 vs. the Terminator in T3: Awesome cool guy who can do stuff but gets blown apart and melted vs. Super sexy model chick who is the only girl with a “gun” that you look at with envy/arousal. Android 3.0 with a custom skin will make this phone not only the first with a great gaming platform, but (possibly) one of the first with a super sleek look on the increasingly popular and customizable Android platform. I am stoked about a product like this because, while being a loyal Sony customer (never had any console except PlayStations), I never purchased a PSP because it didn’t offer many games I was interested in playing while on the go. Now there’s a phone attached to it with a great operating system, and one that is extremely powerful, so I will find it tough to argue against buying a product like this.

Oh yeah, and it’s rumored to be coming out as early as October this year.

What do you think, world? Is Sony going to be giving you something that you want? Read more details about the phone on Engadget.

Token multi-touch table is the coolest thing you can’t have

DJ Booth...or Light Show?

The Token multi-touch table is the most futuristic-looking, most envy-causing table to ever exist….period. The table has incredible response sensitivity for a prototype product like it, and the colors are incredible. It uses a rear projection system it seems, and the table looks great in the light…visibility is very good. The real magic happens when the lights turn off. Check out the video below and you’ll see what I mean:

“emulator” on töken concept from yöyen munchausen on Vimeo.

If that didn’t make you at least smile and say “What if?”…It’s a light show in a table. Wow. If this becomes commercial I’m buying it, hands down. How about you? Post in the comments.

Found on Engadget .

Channel Minority Report with this awesome new tech

Channel Minority Report with this awesome gesture-based technology…you know you want to: http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/gesture-based

Convenience vs. Independence: 3…2…1 FIGHT!

Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners Inc., recently posted in his blog about the iPad, and it’s greatness (read it here: http://tinyurl.com/26yf9lu). A quick excerpt from the post reads:

The iPad *Yaawn*

“[The iPad]’s too easy. Too accessible. Both too fast and too long-lasting. Certainly there are some kinks, but nothing monumental. For the most part, it does everything I could want. Which, as it turns out, is a problem.”

You might be saying to yourself…nothing he says can possible be a problem. Well first, read the damn blog, and second, realize that he is completely right. The iPad is one of the most recent, but just one of thousands, of new technological developments designed to have as many people looking at screens as possible (kidding…obviously it’s intent is to have everything you’d every want at your fingertips).

[A ready-made topic for a future post: Adults need to realize it’s not just their kids having too much screen time.]

The question is: Does having technology like the iPad, or smartphones, or any technology making things easier really help us out in the long run? This is debated below. Let’s meet our fights: INNNNNN the red corner, we have Convenience!!! and in the Blue Corner, Independence!!!! Let’s see what each side has in store for us tonight.

Convenience: What would the world today do without technology? It is possible to be sitting in your house at 7pm, bored with nothing to do, and be out of the house fifteen minutes later knowing where the party is at, the first and last names of every attendee (as well as the maybes), what to wear/what the theme is, and who to pick up on the way. While heading there you can find out exact directions where to go, how long it will take, any traffic you might encounter, and the best detours around said traffic. Need to stop and get some booze? You can find the nearest liquor/beer store and what brands they sell. Oh yeah…this is all done on your phone. How can life be any easier? Technology makes the world easier, more efficient, more streamlined, and just plain faster. The convenience technology provides is incredible and can make life so stress free and easy to manuever through. In something that is able to fit in your pocket you have access to all of the information in every library in the world, every restaurant in your city (as well as their menus, contact info, pricing, and if they have valet parking or not), and every book you could ever read that isn’t in any library. Oh yeah, and you can…ya know, call people sometimes too.

Moving away from portable electronics, imagine the technology that can hold trillions of byte of data on a single compact disc, or a card or chip that holds all of your medical records in one convenient place. Technology is sweet isn’t it? Anything you have ever wanted is within reach, or a click away. How convenient is that?

Well let’s just see…

Independence: I recently had a conversation with a friend about our phones, and the fact that the iPhone is also your iPod came up. He thinks that’s terribly convenient and I think….hell, if  I lost or broke my phone, I would also lose all of my music. Yes, it’s backed up on a computer but the device I use to listen to it is now broken. The phrase “2 birds with 1 stone” comes to mind. In today’s world…there’s no longer just two birds; break your iPad or smartphone and you potentially just kicked an entire damn flock. Imagine in one fateful and heart-wrenching snap you lose your media player, computer, phone, camera, and alarm clock. Now you’re going to be late for work, can’t be contacted or call anyone for help, you’ve got nothing to document your helplessness with, and you can’t put said documentation up on Youtube because your internet access is gone too.

Where’s the fun in that? Yes, I get the pros of convenience and all-in-one products…but there is so much risk involved. I stand by what I say when I claim that I will never combine my media player and phone into one. If I got an iPhone, I would still have another iPod. The convenient nature of combining all forms of connectivity into one device is appealing but the risk is staggering. Imagine the businessman who loses his Blackberry and suddenly misses out on all of his emails about important deals and loses a ton of money because he has no other form of email access except for at the office?

As a race, human beings have become to dependent on technology and the convenience it brings. Read any article about a major power outage (here’s a good one about the huge regional blackout in 2003: http://tinyurl.com/2cpums). Read the excerpt below and fully understand our dependence on technology:

“The outage stopped trains, elevators and the normal flow of traffic and life. In Michigan, water supplies were affected because water is distributed through electric pumps, a governor’s spokeswoman said.”

Read that again…focus on these words “The outage stopped…life.” This is strategically singled out for the most dramatic effect but understand the words will still printed and the message is still there. When we lose electricity, life stops; the message is clear. Am I suggesting a Fight Club scenario not just focused on Credit Card companies and banks? Of course not, but it does make one think twice about becoming so dependent on things out of most of our control.

I will admit, I have a smartphone that I use for internet, a camera, contact book, alarm clock, etc…and I am typing this now on a computer that keeps me connected to everything and everyone. But I also have the highest insurance available to make sure I don’t lose what I have invested in because I realize that if I lose one of them, I could lose a lot more than just the hardware.

One last thing. I do realize this is a very extreme view of both the convenience and lack of independence that comes with advances in technology. Society evolves, and we all need to accept the evolution instead of fight it because it can lead to great things. But it also worries me that people rely more on machines and surgeries to be healthy than just playing outside, going for a jog or swim (while listening to his or her iPod/iPhone of course), and eating right. Every time I see someone get red in the face and screen at their computer or phone because they just got disconnected…it makes me wonder, why get mad? There’s risks involved with these conveniences, and you must know that before involving yourself with them.

Whoo! That’s a doosie and my hands are tired from typing…so this is an abrupt end, but I promise more lighthearted and hopefully hilarious topics in the future. Goodnight!