I think a lot of us, when we muse about artificial intelligence, fret that machines will become sentient and self-reliant. When we think about robots, we worry that, like Transformers, they will be hulking, dangerous machines or, like in Westworld, androids who can crush our windpipes.
Just before Christmas I got a pair of Apple AirPods. They're white, completely wireless earphones. AirPods are almost identical to Apple's wired earphones except that in lieu of thin cables, small white cylinders extend from the AirPods themselves. When you wear them it looks like you laughed and the milk came out your ears.
A few of my friends don't get it. "They're just dorky wireless earphones," they say.
And, they're wrong -- not because they don't look dorky, I'll give them that. They're simply incorrect because they're using the wrong frame for the things that now extend like candy cigarettes below my earlobes.
Once again it's time to buy gifts for the gadget nerd on your list. And, once again I'm here to offer sage advice to prevent you from getting him or her the totally, completely wrong thing.
As I mentioned last year, picking a gift for a nerd without guidance is about as safe as juggling flaming chainsaws drunk.
This year, computer, tablet and smartphone ports have gotten more confusing. Does your lovable nerd have a phone with a headphone jack or just a Lightning port? Does her laptop have USB-3 or USB C ports? Does that same laptop have HDMI, mini displayport or Thunderbolt output to a TV or monitor? Choose wisely.
This week a photo of a racist letter made the rounds on social media.
We are writing to you as the newly organized Neighborhood Town Watch. We understand that you currently wear a scarf on your head and we would like to put you on notice that this will no longer be tolerated in our neighborhood.
Now that America is great again, we would like to offer you two opportunities to avoid any consequences on your poor previous decisions. First, you can take your radical attire of and live like all Americans. Or, your second option, you can go back to the God Forsaken land you came from.
America is Great Again,
Neighborhood Town Watch"
Last week both Microsoft and Apple released new input devices: a puck and a bar.
One day before Apple's Macbook event, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Surface Studio. It sports an industrial design that would fit right into a Black Mirror episode. It's basically a huge touch screen that can cantilever down to a shallow angle. It then becomes a bright, interactive table.
Imagine the houses in your hometown all have cardboard doors, or leave their doors wide open. Now imagine inside all those houses there are safes, jewellery cases, storage lockers and desk drawers all protected by locks made of paper. As you would expect, all of those houses and lockers and drawers would be easy pickings for professional burglars or even for unskilled thieves looking for something to pawn.
Now, imagine instead of stealing anything, the home invaders hid tiny devices inside all those poorly locked containers. Let's suppose those devices could make phone calls whenever and to wherever the invaders chose. Maybe the gizmos lay hidden in all those storage lockers and desk drawers, in all those homes, for years -- undetected and benign.
Sometimes it feels like our technical knowledge has smeared us, like a palette knife, across an unfortunate expanse of time.
When broadcast radio first arrived in people's homes in the early 1920s, astonished listeners, we are told, exclaimed: "Well what do you think of that, Martha! It's just like the orchestra is right here in the parlour!" Or, words to that effect.
Last week I attended the annual Association of Science and Technology Centers conference. One of my favourite parts of the conference is the exhibit hall. That's where vendors and science centres from all over the world present devices, services and travelling exhibits they hope will entice attendees.
This year, two products really stuck out for me. One was a virtual reality (VR) experience, the other augmented the real world.
Last week Apple introduced stickers and automatic emoji to its popular iMessage chat app.
Neither are new to chat platforms. But the move will introduce a large swath of smartphone users to a world where pictures are worth, if not a thousand words, at least a few of them when screen real estate and time are of the essence.
Stickers, if you are unaware, are relatively large cartoonish images which can be inserted into conversations in lieu of, or along with, words.