A high school friend who I’ve not seen in several years posted on social media about a new Fit Bit she received as a holiday gift. My wife and I like to give Fit Bits as gifts because I believe they have the potential to be life altering.
I know this since I received a Fit Bit last Christmas and I am more aware of my moving around (or lack of moving around sometimes) than ever before. Since I am a naturally competitive person I am interested in reaching new milestones and making sure that I don’t backslide on my activity. I have not the patience nor interest to list my food/calorie intake. I know when I am overdoing things eating and drinking wise. This year it started before Thanksgiving.
But the Fit Bit has also led me to using a standing desk in my office. Now that I have been using it for nearly a year I cannot believe how conditioned I was to sitting down all the time. These days I get so tired of sitting that I have to stand up. People see me standing up in the office and tell me that they are thinking about getting one for themselves. So technology is potentially changing the lives of those with whom I am interacting. Not bad, right?
This Christmas I received two tech gifts that already I can see will have a lasting effect. The Amazon Dot (which my secret Santa – thanks Lindsey) got for me, is something I put on my wish list and I am really glad I did. The utility is good right from the start and I am only scratching the surface. I don’t know if I am ready to order things on Amazon via Alexa just yet (although my Prime account is set up for that to happen) but I am sure to at least try it out very soon.
The Amazon Dot uses are many and go beyond ‘Alexa – what was the score of the Knick game last night?”. But even that alone is useful, and easy. Definitions of words and questions via Wikipedia about ANYTHING are also fast, easy and accurate. Instructing Alexa to play “Black Friday, Steely Dan“ on Spotify delivers quickly and again, accurately. Do not underestimate the value of accuracy as part of overall utility.
I don’t mind typing but am already surprised at how easily I would curtail some of my typing. I like Google Now very much but saying ‘Alexa’ just feels better than having to say ‘Ok Google’. I felt the Amazon Echo was too visible and can Bluetooth the audio to external speakers so not having the larger Echo speaker is not a problem. One review of the Amazon Dot can be found here.
Keep in mind that Alexa is always listening or as Amazon puts it ‘ready to listen’. The Amazon Echo is already potentially material evidence in a murder case , although it is unclear if that is Alexa recorded voice data that could later be used as evidence. I feel it’s unlikely that your casual conversation from last night is recorded for posterity. Mainly due to data storage – as in how much data could be saved and accessed?
The other potential life-changing gift I received is the Samsung Oculus Virtual Reality device. Designed to be integrated with my Samsung smartphone (hey not everyone has an iPhone), I’ve not yet used the device all that much due to a glitch that caused my phone to overheat and reset. But while I was using it the VR was sharp if not a bit disorienting since you have 360 degree POV in whatever you are watching but you cannot see yourself move within the virtual ‘room’.
I’ve used Google Cardboard and the Oculus is much better. The potential uses for VR are many and well documented. In my case real utility of VR will also come in the form of my being able to have virtual dinner with my daughter who lives in another city. That’s still a bit into the future but it’s so close, yes I can almost taste it. But already I can tell that Oculus will change the way people have certain experiences.
Google Maps changed my life a few years ago since now I almost never travel to any place without checking Google Maps as to how long the trip is predicted to take, and then I keep it on while I am traveling (mostly longer distances) so that Google Maps can redirect me to a faster route if one is available (I always say yes to a faster route – who doesn’t?).
How is technology changing your daily behavior? I’d love to hear. Happy New Year!