Innovation in Technology: A Salty View On The State of Affairs

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Prans

by Prans

Technological Possessions in 2017

I own a high-end gaming laptop, a Moto Z Play, an NVIDIA Shield K1 tablet and soon enough, a GameBand smartwatch.
Cool cool cool…

Not!

These devices, albeit relatively new, have all one thing in common: they are mere rehashes. The Moto Z Play? It’s a smartphone, with MotoMods gimmicks for the sake of “innovation”. The NVIDIA Shield K1 tablet, it’s a… (surprise surprise!)… a tablet! Basically an over-sized phone to appeal to consumers who want to “read on the go” and feel more “productive”. The smartwatch? A gimmicky replacement of our grandfather’s trusty analogue watch that drains you phone’s battery with bluetooth so you can be lazy enough not to reach for it from your pocket/wherever. The laptop I’m writing this article on? Come on! It’s the same as everyone’s; just different processors, GPU, OS but the core is the same; even the form factor is universal for God’s sake! Moore’s law won’t hold for long either, so no need to give them credit for getting ever smaller. That’ll stop soon enough.

This pattern isn’t restricted only to technology that I own and mentioned either. For instance, both the Kindle and Kobo e-readers’ displays are manufactured by the E Ink company, Intel processors are in each and every PCs, laptops and even Macs! Smartphones have one or the other chipset now. Even video games are plagued by remakes and rehashes. 2016 brought us titles like Assassins Creed: The Ezio Collection, Bioshock: The Collection, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD. Wow, no one asked, no one cared but we still consumed. And without the few hits like Overwatch and some indie surprises like Hyper Light Drifter, 2016 might as well have been renamed ‘201x The Year of HDs, Collections, Special Editions and what not!’. We’ve even had 3 console revisions in 2016 alone; two being slim versions and one offering more power for more ‘HD feel’. See what I’m getting at? It’s just shameless re-branding and repackaging products. Nothing stands out any more!
Sad mac

When Is The Future?

If this trend continues, I’ll be walking around with a smartphone, a tablet and a smartwatch come 2050! I don’t want to carry any of those with me! It’s 2017 baby! I want my paperweight foldable-LCD newspaper in my back pocket, while I check the time on my convertible smartwatchphone while cruising on my hoverboard!

Scratch that! I want all of that in smart lenses! I don’t wanna carry anything!

Delusional wishes you say? Think again! Foldable tech is a thing! Smartwatchphones are a thing! See for yourself:

Heck, even rollable displays are a thing:

Smartlenses are under development too! Google, Sony and Samsung have jumped into the bandwagon and have all issued patents pertaining to that technology.

… In theory, at least, we are moving towards some form of innovation. But in practice, they exist only as prototypes or concepts. But why stagnate on those stages?

Where’s The Innovation?

Of course, tech companies aren’t charities. They are for-profit businesses and have a capitalist agenda. They just fill the gap in their product line until the next gimmick comes out advertising their “new” product as having better camera, better battery, better display, mods (see MotoMods), and the like. But true innovation is a rarity these days. It’s been a decade since we experienced the wow factor of Steve Jobs’ iconic iPhone reveal:

https://youtu.be/x7qPAY9JqE4

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Where’s The Excitement?

When was the last time you experienced this aforementioned feeling about technology?

I did, and quite recently. It was in October 29, 2013 when Google announced the Project Ara. “This is it! This is going to change the phone market forever!” That was my response when I heard of the news; modular phones would disrupt the smartphone market. Thing is, that was in theory. And as it turns out, they murdered the modular phone concept. The LG G5 was a joke, barely any “friends” were developed other than what came with it. The Moto Z followed a similar, yet somewhat more successful path, because it also factored in the more casual smartphone owners. But the most heartbreaking story of it all was the shelving of the ambitious Project Ara. The latter was the heartthrob of most tech enthusiast. We were even promised consumer unit shipping scheduled for 2017! But alas! The profit weren’t deemed profitable enough and the whole initiative succumbed a miserable end, to every fans’ dismay :'(

google project ara dead

 

Too Casual?

And when you learn that a staggering 47% of smartphone owners use their smartphones to make only calls and texts, you, fellow technophile, surely can’t help to ask to yourself or aloud “WHY DO YOU NEED A SMARTPHONE???” Right? Get a “dumb” phone and let the smartphones for those who’ll actually use them, read: tech aficionados! This will enable the industry to tailor the phones to each market! Dumbphones can be made lighter, sturdier, have infinite battery life, work as a self-defense tool etc. while smartphone companies can truly develop their phone’s potential, let their creative minds make phones for techies by techies.

Now tell me, did you, casual smartphone owner, care about what was lost with the Ara? Did you even know about its mere existence? Were you aware that it aimed to be a game changer, turning the smartphone industry on its head? Instead of buying “new” phones every year or two, you’d just be replacing the parts you’d need to upgrade and for the aforementioned 47% of users, that would probably mean changing only batteries every 2-3 years or so. Do you realize the positive impact that would have on the environment, industries, economies and for you financially? But nooooo! You need fancy new phones every 6 months so you can take a selfie as a toast! And for this demand, smartphone companies have to abide and supply! And hey! They aren’t complaining either! The task is easier and more profitable for them! It’s a clear ‘profit over innovation’ strategy. Marketing at its best. Technology at its worst.

heisenberg banana phone breaking bad

Doomed?

So should we techies, and by a stretch, innovation as a whole, give up on the leading companies, who can actually make a significant impact, to satisfy our needs and wants in innovative technology? Are we destined to rely on individual efforts to fulfill this role? The “VR revolution” was kickstarted (literally) by then-indie Oculus Rift , garnered immense support from the gaming community and only then other big companies followed suit. Something similar might be brewing with the Tobii Eye Tracker 4C. At the end of the day, everything relies on us, the consumers. If the demand for innovation is there, then the industry will abide. If not, then it will stagnate and we’ll be stuck with mere rehashes. The choice is ours. Let’s make a difference! Or not. Because the choice is still yours…
To end this article in an aptly generic way (considering where we’re headed), here’s a quote from the wise man who was John F. Kennedy: “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

Note: This article might seem salty to a lot of readers (even the title points to it as being a rant). Fear not as it was intentional but I hear that a more rose-y article will be up soon. So keep an eye out for that!