I think you could safely say I’m an early adopter. Every day I scour articles on tech blogs, searching for the latest tidbit on emerging technologies and software applications that I can’t wait to get to market or, if it’s already available, to proliferate. Most days are duds. I’ll scan hundreds of headlines without a single one delivering information tasty enough to raise my eyebrows. But here and there I’ll get a quick fix: Either new information about something I’ve been following for a while (!) or something entirely new (!!). Mining the blogosphere for tech news gold like this has practically become a full-blown hobby of mine, so I decided to take it one step further by periodically jotting down the handful of tech items that I’m currently salivating over. It’ll be interesting to see how my list evolves over time as my interests change and the tech itself fades or flourishes.
So, in order from most imminent to least, here’s my current list of fantasy tech:
This one’s gonna get very exciting very soon. In just a few weeks from now the U.S. Supreme Court will determine the fate of Aereo’s entire business model, which has been operating in something of a legal gray area. I subscribed to Aereo as soon as it became available in my area. It’s a great idea, even though I found I didn’t use the service enough to justify paying for it. Plus, there were a couple limitations I found hard to live with. First of all, the Roku app felt very raw. Most Roku apps allow you to scan forward and backwards while displaying thumbnail screenshots as you go, but Aereo just showed a black screen with a textual indication of how many seconds you were skipping. It was also slower to buffer when you resumed playing than I’ve come to expect from a streaming service. Together those two issues made skipping commercials totally reminiscent of the days of cassettes, trying to find the one good song by strategically fast forwarding and rewinding at guesstimated intervals. I fully expect Aereo will eventually improve this - if they haven’t already done so. The other complaint I had is that you couldn’t watch your recorded TV unless you were physically located in your service area. I live in Houston, but spend a lot of time in Austin and when I wasn’t home - too bad, so sad - no shows for me. I completely understand why this limitation exists (legalities), but it’s a bummer nevertheless. And still, despite rarely using it, I remained a paying subscriber for several months simply because I so strongly support Aereo’s legal cause. What’s really interesting is that no matter what the Supreme Court decides, there will likely be significant consequences. If Aereo loses, will all cloud DVRs be illegal? If they win, will broadcasters actually stop broadcasting? We will see, and pretty damn soon!
Update: They lost. Lame. Share your displeasure here.
2. No Wait App (Or something like it)
My father hates waiting in line for restaurants. To him, it’s never ever worth it. A perfectly decent alternative must be nearby, one with a shorter wait. I can’t say my feelings on the matter are quite that strong, but I definitely prefer being seated promptly versus standing around for 45 minutes. (Unless there’s a bar. And I’m with friends. And in no particular hurry. Toooootally different.) If something like No Wait went mainstream, hovering around the entrance of your favorite restaurant for a table might become a relatively rare occurrence. (Except for all the drinkers and their friends, all of whom apparently have nothing to do.) Instead, you’d load the app, and either pick a place that has no wait (<–Ha! See what I did there?) and head there immediately or put your name on the list for a place that does have a wait, hang out at home or wherever your little heart desires, and go to the restaurant when it’s your turn to be seated. I think that would be very cool. I keep checking, but so far no restaurants in my area that I’m interested in trying have signed up. My only consolation is that No Wait lets users vote on nearby restaurants that should get in on the action.
3. Digital Wallets
Keeeeeeeeeeys, wallet, phone, knees and toes, knees and toes.
That’s my mantra whenever I go out. I can NOT wait until I don’t need to carry a damn wallet around anymore. It feels like we’re THIIIIIIIIIIIIIS close to being able to use our phones for credit and debit card transactions. After that, all we need are digital driver’s licenses. (“All.” With air quotes.) Lots of people don’t need to carry cash on a regular basis. (I like to assume that most people are just like me.) And then: no more wallets! Yahoo! One less thing cluttering my pockets. Of course, if your phone battery ever dies or gets dropped in the toilet, you’re kinda screwed.
“License and registration, sir.”
“Yeahhhhh, about that, officer. You see, I was in the bathroom…”
Then again, by the time the DMV gets around to shifting away from physical licenses, surely traffic cops will be able to look you up with iris scanners or something. On the OTHER hand, if we had self-driving cars, traffic cops themselves might become obsolete! Which segues nicely to number four on my list…
4. Self-Driving Cars
Back To The Future prophesied flying cars by 2015. Ain’t gonna happen, but I think it’s probably a bad idea anyway. There are enough asshats on the road already, and that only involves moving in two dimensions. I can’t imagine gridlocked skies where everyone is moving up, down, backwards, and forwards. But self driving cars - terrestrial or otherwise - now that’s something I can get on board with! There are few things in life I despise more than sitting in traffic. The other day I woke up on a Saturday morning to find I was out of coffee. No problem, I thought, I’ll just hop in the car and head to the store. I can be there and back in 20 minutes. Ha! Traffic, construction, and lane closures, oh my! Nearly an hour later, I finally got my fix. (I’m only exaggerating a little bit.) I might be projecting some of my own personal frustrations on to the reality of what self-driving cars will ultimately offer, but I’d like to think they will automatically take into consideration things like traffic and lane closures when routing a trip. Certainly they will handle three lanes merging into one better than my fellow drivers did the other morning. That, at least, would have kept the flow of traffic moving along.
I wonder about all the ways self-driving cars would potentially alter transportation. Would speed limits go up? I assume my automated driver would be able to handle high speeds better than mere mortals. Will traffic cops disappear altogether? Will we still need auto insurance? Will traffic congestion disappear? I suppose, even if it did not, at least I could read a book or watch TV while I’m in the car.
Most of my family lives 1,600 miles away in Southern California. My girlfriend currently lives 167 miles away in Austin. I spend what feels like a lot of time and money on the road and in the air. In my wildest fantasies, a hyperloop really would be as inexpensive to build and operate as Elon Musk proclaims and, consequently, passenger tickets would be substantially less jarring than what I currently experience every time I book a flight. However, I predict I’ll be scanning headlines for concrete news on this topic for many years to come until either someone decides to build one or the idea slowly drifts away. Given Musk’s history making the impossible possible, I’m allowing myself to maintain hope - even if it is a bit quixotic.