“Buy Focals”

File Under: You Heard it Here First

Over the years I’ve come up with a few “clever coinings” for phrases that capture some new aspect of our technology-enmeshed world. I swear I was the first person I knew to use the term “linkrot” to describe the broken links that invade Web pages. This was back in 1994, but by the time I got around to searching it, many people had been using the term. Most likely this was just the amplification of many minds engaged in a similar online reality so it’s no miracle that more than a few people more-or-less synchronously come up with the same idea. Sort of the typing monkeys coming up with Hamlet’s “To be” sollioquy – given enough monkeys…

Linkrot was followed by a few concepts:

A New 3Rs: instead of Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic – learning in the Web era should be “Real, Rich and Relevant.”

The New WWW – Whatever, Whenever, Wherever: This is the mobile Web, but with a particular understanding. I published an article on it in Educational Leadership in 2005. The main point being that such pervasive access of immediate gratification – especially for children and teenagers – was that the “Whatever” aspect was not voiced in amazement, but the apathetic “whatever” so often heard by teens and immortalized in the Nirvana lyric: “Oh well, whatever, nevermind.”

Along these lines I also spoke sometimes about “Jiminy Click-it” that little voice of conscience that can’t be heard over the siren song of the New WWW.

Around the era of the invasion of Iraq, mobile phones were becoming more ubiquitous and I referred to them as the most lethal WMD – Weapon of Mass Distraction. And for the past couple years I have posed the question about youth and their digitally connected gadgets: “What do we expect when they are left to their own devices?”

Which brings us to the point of this post (no, it’s not for you to pity my monkey-mind obsession with coining new phrases). I want to (finally) go down on record as the first one to refer to Google Glasses as “Buy Focals.”

The Google Glass Project video points out how utterly helpful these cool specs will be, but, of course, their real intent is to support ubiquitous consumption and know what you want before you do.

Nothing wrong with that – who wants lame search results? But the developed world’s penchant for purchasing could be questioned on an individual basis. Will this happen? How quickly have “smart” phones become pervasive? And isn’t 24/7 access to Facebook and Angry Birds what makes phones so amazing? Such “must haves?”

Then again, I’m the weirdo with no TV or game console in the house (but tons of favorite Web sites, podcasts and apps). Alvin Tofler in Future Shock said that one of the hallmarks of the future (read: “where we are now”) would be that anything would be available for us to choose from – I don’t think he expected us to want it all!


New Tidbits on Apple Tablet

About a month ago the reality of the long anticipated Apple tablet was solidified when word got out that Apple had been talking with people like the NY Times to shape their content for an enhanced reader. Today the NY Times ran a short article confirming its part of the bargain and referenced the video below from Sports Illustrated / Time Inc.

To me this is – like the iPhone – a game changer that takes advantage of what is currently available (Kindle, Touch, NetBooks, Web 2 / AJAX) and puts the experience into a lovely package complete with interface tweaks we never knew we wanted.  When the Mac Tablet is made of bendable plastic, the game is over – Apple (and everyone) wins!

My “Space” & Social Roadworking

Two recent articles highlight tech advances that will transform the way we drive and park our cars.  The New York Times, John Markoff writes, Can’t Find a Parking Spot? Check Smartphone. Ready for testing in San Francisco, a new system of electronically tagged and WiFi’d parking spaces will try to curtail some of the desperate circling motorists using only blind luck to currently find an empty parking space.  As evidence of the problem requiring this solution, Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, studied one LA business district and calculated that

“cars cruising for parking created the equivalent of 38 trips around the world, burning 47,000 gallons of gasoline and producing 730 tons of carbon dioxide.”

Another study of New York traffic “reported that 28 percent to 45 percent of traffic on some streets in New York City is generated by people circling the blocks.”

Streetline, the company behind the new approach, glues a 4-inch-by-4-inch piece of plastic to the road for each parking space and provides software that shows open parking spaces on Web sites that can be accessed through wireless devices like smartphones. Tod Dykstra, chief executive of Streetline, says

“The broader picture is what we’re building is an operating system for the city that allows you to talk to or control all the inanimate objects out there to reduce the cost and improve quality of city services.”

Call me a parking skeptic, but the broader picture I see involves goes something like: instead of two people racing and chucking U-turns to secure the same space, we get 17 Kamikaze commuters checking their iPhones and PDAs as they converge on the the same spot.  I reckon it’s a good “unintended consequences” exercise.

The second article comes from London’s Telegraph and describes a related use of WiFi, but this time it’s our cars who get to use the bandwidth.  In Listen! It’s your road speaking, we learn how wireless masts attached to street lights turn the road into a high-speed network allowing cars to communicate with each other.

Hermann Meyer, chief executive of ERTICO, the partnership behind the project, said: “At the moment cars receive information on their radios and GPS, but we want cars to also transmit information both to the road infrastructure and to other cars around them. We are aiming to improve traffic flow.”

Sounds like Road 2.0 or maybe the realization of the Information Super Highway? Expanding this example of Tech’s Appeal to Digital Crumbware is a natural, but not only do the traffic authorities know exactly what we’re up to, but as our travel syncs with Whim Commerce and we get the 21st Century version of the old Burma Shave signs… individually targeted to your sense of humor, of course.