Thoughts on Technology

Another blog entry bleed over from my  library blog. I write about technology advancements on Tuesdays, and I had some thoughts that I thought some of you might be interested in, as well. Here’s the post:

The past week or two have been big ones in terms of technology updates. It all started last week with Apple’s announcement of iPhone 4, the latest version of their hit smart phone. This new iteration comes complete with a higher resolution screen, a front facing camera (making video phone calls possible), a high resolution camera on the back (for HD video and picture taking, and the ability for multitasking (running more than one app on the phone at the same time). In addition, Apple brought its popular ebook app (iBook) to the iPhone (it was previously only available on the iPad). Of course, the impact this will have here in our neck of the woods isn’t too terribly big. iPhones, of course, only work with AT&T, which isn’t a carrier out here. What’s the point in having an expensive piece of technology if it’s unusable? My personal dream is for Apple to ink a deal with Verizon, at which point I’d switch my current cell phone over to an iPhone. There were rumblings that such a deal might be in the works, but alas, it was not to be.

One might wonder what sort of steps Mantor is taking to prepare for the rush of people using smart phones to access our content. Well, let me answer that question with some statistics. In the past year and a half, we’ve had over 130,000 visitors to our library website. Of those, 35 came from a smart phone or an iPad. That might as well be 0, as far as percents are concerned. The fact of the matter is that the smart phone revolution hasn’t moseyed its way up here to Western Maine yet. When it does, we’ll be ready–have no fear. I’d love to develop a mobile web page, for one thing–but until I see usage that warrants me devoting a chunk of my time to doing it, I just can’t justify the effort.

Moving on.

In a different vein, this week is the Electronics Entertainment Expo, also known as E3. It’s the biggest showcase for new and upcoming video games. Big names like Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony reserve some of their biggest announcements for this venue. This year promises to be the year of motion sensing, with Microsoft and Sony both launching new motion sensing peripherals to their gaming systems. Think of it like the Wii, but more refined. What does this have to do with libraries? In the near future, not so much (besides the possibility of libraries hosting game nights that use these video games to draw in new users). In the long term, possibly a great deal.

Allow me to explain. Think of most sci-fi movies you watch. They often have some sort of advanced technology for interacting with computers and information. Whether it’s using your whole body to maneuver through files (ala Minority Report) or speaking to the computer to get it to do what you want (ala Star Trek), people in the future don’t use silly things like mice and keyboards to interact with technology. Imagine a library where you tell it what your research question is, and it assembles all the needed resources and delivers them directly to you. Or maybe a library where you can browse the shelves from your seat, using your hands and eyes to virtually move through the stacks.

I’m not sure how much of that is realistic. So much of this motion capture and voice activated technology is so new, I think a lot of applications are being developed for it that just don’t make sense. Think of the early days of motion pictures, when people would go to the theater to watch a film of a train. No plot, no action–just a train chugging along. These people could just as easily have gone to the train station and watched a real live train in person–arguably a better experience, and free to boot–but the technology was so new, it was cooler to watch a train on film. Time went by, and we no longer have people staring entranced at filmed trains.

What I mean is that often when a new piece of technology comes out, we use it for things that make little sense. There are cases where using a pen and paper is much more reasonable than using a laptop. The same will apply to motion capture. Why should I have to stand somewhere and flail about with my arms and legs when I can accomplish the same task with a single mouse click? See what I mean?

In any case, I’ll be following these advancements closely–so you don’t have to. 🙂

Heard about something that you’d like my opinion about? Think I’m off base on something I’ve said today? Tell me about it! What technology are you looking forward to?

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