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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Weird and scary tech

Wired Desktop

TECHNOLOGY can be both disruptive and beneficial.

However, the main goal for developing technology is the convenience it brings to allow us more time to pursue more productive activities. Communication becomes instantaneous, production is faster and life becomes easier.

At least, that is the plan. And it becomes so compelling that it becomes disruptive--that is, it changes the way things used to work and therefore creates new opportunities, as well as kills old businesses.

If you hit pay dirt, then you have a great startup and people will come in droves to fund it. So we have stories on Facebook, Uber, AirBnB, Grab, Netflix, Spotify and the like. However, in the last one or two years, there has been a dirth of startups that have made it massively.

Sometimes many weird ideas come out. I remember a mobile app and all it said was “Yo!” It was thought of as a great idea and got funding. One of the popular ones that famously did not make it was a company called Juicero. It was a brilliant example of an overhyped product that failed. Juicero worked as a WiFi connected juicer that provided the user with a glass of freshly squeezed juice every morning. A pod containing pre-chopped fruits and vegetables is placed in between Juicero’s plates, which squeezed the sachets to release the liquid.

Geared toward rich Californians who have hopped onto the health and wellness trend, all was well until Bloomberg burst its bubble by likening Juicero to squeezing ketchup out of a tube. The only thing it had going for was its appearance. A sleek machine with clean modern lines, Juicero’s whole aesthetic was similar to Apple’s designs. It was a subscription service for juice. Buy the product, pay for the pods.

You would really be better off just buying a drink from a shop. But then sometimes, rich people pay a lot of money to be cool. Who knows? We don’t really need an iPhone, but hundreds of millions own one.

*****

Last week, we attended Xiamen’s China International Fair for Investment and Trade. This is the 20th year it has happened and it has grown tremendously that this year promised to have over 5,000 exhibitors and well over 150,000 attendees.

What impressed me was the technology at work. Before we went in, the host gave us our ID cards. However, they did not scan these. The device scanned our faces, recognized who we were, flashed our names, and let us in. It was technology in action and it was quite impressive and scary.

China is in the forefront of facial recognition technology and has deployed it in many public places to identify people. Some police have reportedly donned glasses that scan people’s faces and inform them whether the person is on the wanted list or not. Scary, but the technology of big brother snooping in our everyday lives is now possible.


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