Personal tech only gets more maddening in 2018


POSTED: Sunday, May 24, 2009

Traveling with my buddy in his time machine to the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show to give readers a first look at beyond-the-cutting-edge consumer products is not without its petty annoyances.

For one, we keep bumping into Mr. Spock.

That guy just can't keep his foot out of the time-space continuum, whether it's a mission to stop some alien from sabotaging the late 20th-century space program or just a quick trip to tell his younger self to wipe the mustard off his cheek. If he loves Vulcan so much, why doesn't he just find an appropriate parallel universe and stay there?

Plus, he drives like a 109-year-old—and who can pass a guy with a pair of 40-ton extinct whales strapped to his hood?

“;C'mon, move it, grandpa!”; I finally yelled at him this time. “;You're going forward in time so slow, we'll be 10 years into the past once we get there!”;

He just stuck his arm out and gave me some sort of hand gesture ... and it was NOT “;Live long and prosper”;—I know that one.

But we got there, eventually, gleaning some new clues into the future of personal tech, such as:

Palm PrePrePre: In the present day, Palm finally got the smart-phone formula right with no time to spare: The only way to compete with the iPhone is to overpromise, tease, delay, fake shortages and literally not let anyone touch the prototype. And, when finally releasing it, always sell it at a terribly inflated price.

They took this formula and ran with it all the way to the 2018 CES. During the Palm PrePrePre's so-called “;unveiling,”; it remained housed in glass the entire time. And while I might understand surrounding it with riot police armed with plastic bullets or a flaming moat of tar, both were just overkill.

It will be manufactured at a rate of six per year and sell for $52,000 (after a $31,000 mail-in rebate). Even at that price they expect shortages, since it not only cures a dozen different blood diseases, but also comes with both Java and Flash functionality.

On the downside, even though you'll be able to bring it home after June 20, 2019, removing it from the box will violate its User Licensing Agreement.

Wolfram Omega: Ueber-scientist Stephen Wolfram's online computational answer site (wolframalpha.com) just flipped on days ago, and never has something so accessible befuddled so many so fast. Its primary goal is to produce direct answers to complex transcendental problems; its secondary goal is to make most of the educated world feel like it's had a lobotomy.

And in 2018 it only gets more opaque in its Omega stage. After entering my age, credit score and body fat index, it spit out a 20-slide PowerPoint presentation proving that God doesn't exist. Hard to argue with it—it showed its work.

DIY Robot: Catering to ambitious-yet-busy do-it-yourselfers willing to accept the broadest definition of the “;yourself”; part, engineers have developed a robot that will work, or at least serve, in their stead. Simply turn it on before you leave for work, and this somewhat motivated android will spend the morning watching the DIY Network, learning how to waterproof a deck or construct interlocking stone walls, and then maybe get around to starting it sometime after “;Oprah.”;

The DX model can further mimic typical DIY's work-mode characteristics, from mumbling under its breath to complaining to your spouse about lower back pain, to spouting out profanities in front of the neighbor kids.

Finally, the Super DX model includes all the above features but completes the circle with a GPS transmitter to eventually Skype Out emergency calls to the nearest professional contractor.


Follow columnist Curt Brandao's Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/digitalslob.