We all understand that technological progress has its dark trade-offs. See: pollution, carpal tunnel syndrome, the fact that our telecommunications system has facilitated the ascendance of the Kardashian family as living gods. But given the cornucopia of newfangled doodads we're immersed in daily, we tend be less aware of when our gadgets start sucking a wee bit more. What products are we talking about? Well ...
We'll cut right to the quick. When it comes to audio quality for longer conversations, smartphones rank a rough third behind landlines and two cans connected by a string. The problem is that we're willing to accept this lack of clarity in favor of being able to slide our phones into our skinny jeans.
Your genitals aren't the only thing being awkwardly restrained by these things.
See, companies "often shrink, flatten, and cover speakers in plastic to improve their phones' overall functionality," which means that your general audio quality is being sacrificed for better performance of whatever Civilization V knockoff Kate Upton's boobs are selling now, as well as the ability to fit the damn thing in your hand. While there are scattered reports of new technologies on the horizon which promise to remedy the situation, there has been absolutely jack shit accomplished over the last couple of years.
Promises of distant solutions are one thing, but the truth is that manufacturers likely don't give a gurgling shit. They've predictably gone the more profitable route by concentrating more on making phones into Fruit Ninja-ing, genital-uploading mini-computers rather than enhancing their usefulness in regards to the original purpose Alexander Graham Bell intended for them.
Library Of Congress
If he didn't want telephones to have alternate uses, he wouldn't have made the receiver look like a Fleshlight.
Complaining about an innovation as wonderful as the smartphone can seem overly whiny, and we realize how wonderful it is to live in a time in which you can be virtually anywhere on Earth and stream any season of Friends on a pocket computer. It's just that on the off chance you need to dial 911 over a raccoon infestation, it'd help if your phone's audio quality ensured that the dispatcher could decipher your muffled screams.
As far as shapes go, circles are rather fantastic. This is why we've used them so often for things we need to rotate through. It's simply a quick turn from 97.5 WHOA to 98.1 WHAT on the radio, and all is right in the world.
However, starting around the time Steve Jobs got bored with his iPod's revolutionary clickwheel, touchscreens began to take over the world. What used to be an interactive museum gimmick was suddenly a regular part of our lives. But if customer feedback is to be believed, touchscreens suck.
Happy Shopping Life
Well, not literally. That's at least a decade away.
It turns out that touchscreens can often be a whole lot less responsive than a good old-fashioned dial. Coupling this with the fact that the display setup is often a confusing jumble of boxes and text (not exactly a plus when you're trying to maneuver through rush hour traffic), our collective anger could rival Yosemite Sam trying to escape from a straightjacket. Irate customer feedback has prompted companies like Ford to bring knobs and buttons back to replace many of the annoying features of the touchscreens, as this automotive strategist explains: "Ford is making the change due to negative feedback they've received regarding several aspects of MyFord Touch. The system can be sluggish to the touch, while knobs and buttons obviously have a much quicker response. The four-quadrant system is also very text and information-heavy, making it overwhelming and confusing for some to do even simple tasks."
On the bright side, the subwoofer levels are now perfect.
Axel Schmidt/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Back in the '90s, headset gaming crashed and burned due to hardware that everybody assumed screwed up your eyes and, more importantly, crapsack games. Technology has since caught up with the concept, and we're ready for all the
porn incredible adventures we could only have imagined before. The problem is that the novelty is going to wear off fast, and what we're left with is a gaming system that makes Mario Kart 64 look like the goddamned Mona Lisa.
That up there is a demo for Lucky's Tale, a third-person platforming game created by one of the people behind Words With Friends and designed solely to show off the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. This would be cool if you the gamer were actually the main character, but you're really only hovering in space above it, like some kind of ghost that respects boundaries. There have been plenty of positive reviews, but we're also sure plenty of people like roller coasters after a 90-second ride, but not so much after riding in one for three hours straight.
"Target one of 675 completed."
What developers have found is that player-character mobility and exploration options will likely have to be scaled way back, since "excessive camera movements make the player sick." Lucky's Tale deals with this problem by forcing the player to engage with the environment in the most basic way: Going from one goal to the next via the exhilarating, singular option of traveling in a straight line.
It does seem like it could be a powerful tool when interrogating acrophobes.
As it stands, keeping things aggravatingly simple is something that all virtual reality games are likely going to have to do, if for no other reason than to keep their customer base from choking on their own puke. This is, of course, assuming that increasingly intricate VR doesn't utterly shitbox your brain, but that's a story for another article (which we already wrote).
"Hey! Hey! It's not too late to bring ME back!"
The invention of the 3D printer has been touted as the greatest breakthrough in mankind's never-ending quest to one day never have to go to a store again. However, keeping one in your house can be about as safe as adopting a family of stray mambas.
3D Systems Corporation
Sadly, it may not in fact be the worry-free, endless conveyor belt of objects to jam up your butt that was promised.
See, objects concocted in a 3D printer aren't smooth at all, and are in truth rife with microscopic nooks and crannies that are perfect for storing whatever manner of filth they come in contact with. Repeated physical contact with a 3D-printed object (you know damn well where we're going with this) can result in a veritable potluck of bacteria and viruses, and their porousness makes them more difficult to clean thoroughly.
To use an even more innocent example, say an unsuspecting "cool mom" used a 3D printer to make some cool-looking forks and spoons for her kids. Unfortunately, scientists would warn that she'd better be extremely careful about it, unless she wants to spend the rest of the day explaining herself to Child Protective Services. Making flatware that won't shred your mouth parts is technically possible, but you'd better pony up for some specialized material, unless you want to risk your children showing up at school looking like you've been putting powdered glass in their popsicles (while simultaneously poisoning them with toxic chemicals).
Tri-fork? Not you too!
Last but certainly not least, merely having one of these printers in your house can give you the kind of symptoms that used to require decades of working maskless in an industrial plastics plant. See, the 3D printing process puts out plenty of toxic fumes when things heat up. An analysis revealed that it can fill the air with "ultra fine particles" that can cause a laundry list of ailments, such as "lung function changes, airway inflammation, enhanced allergic responses, altered heart rate and heart rate variability, accelerated atherosclerosis, and increased markers of brain inflammation," which you'll notice is about double the length of the warning label on a pack of Marlboros.
Given that you're reading this article on a screen instead of settling for the magazine that was left after all the copies of MAD were sold out, it's safe to say that digital words are the way of the future. Even academia has come around -- there are probably more college students today who have never seen the inside of a real book than ... wait, no. Can't be.
Shockingly, it turns out that the people whom you might expect to fully embrace the new technology -- college-age millennials -- prefer paper books. Heck, according to this survey, e-books only account for a measly nine percent of textbooks bought on campus, while 87 percent were in old-timey print.
Some people have theorized that perhaps it's a money issue, but while textbooks are still a monumental scam, modern students reportedly "prefer print for both pleasure and learning," and it's baffling the shit out of the people in academia who study this sort of phenomena for a living. Another survey, this one administered by Hewlett Packard to students at San Jose State, came up with similar findings. They found that when students were offered e-books free of charge, a quarter of them opted to pay cash money for the paper versions instead.
And to get a quarter when they sell them back at the end of the semester.
It seems that students tend to skim over things and find it harder to keep track of important sections while studying digitally, while print books make the whole process of earmarking and mentally cataloging information more efficient. A good illustration of this came from one student's response to a survey question which asked what was the worst part about reading a physical book: "It takes me longer because I read more carefully."
Finally, lest we think that today's college students are the last vanguards of paper books, whatever the hell we're calling today's children seem primed to carry the torch. In 2014, almost two-thirds of all schoolchildren said that they'll "always want to read books in print, even though there are e-books available". And that's up from 60 percent in 2012.
Maybe we should start that magazine back up again.
It's still up in the air as to whether technology will ever succeed in making public bathrooms less disgusting, since human biological functions are inherently chock full o' poo. But by eliminating the need to touch the same handles that Coughy McSalmonella did, automatic faucets were supposed to be inherently safer. And they are, unless you count all the cases of Legionnaires disease, an infection that causes a 'roided-out form of pneumonia.
It doesn't seem to make much in the way of immediate sense, but electronic faucets have been found to be teeming with infection in hospital environments, and some facilities have begun to put the old versions back in place in order to save lives. As Johns Hopkins infectious disease expert Dr. Lisa Maragakis put it, "Newer is not necessarily better when it comes to infection control in hospitals."
Virginia Commonwealth University
Catheters being the lone exception to that rule.
So how is this possible, when we aren't even touching them? As it turns out, newer faucets have a "complicated series of valves" that are required for them to perform their magic, which also makes it very difficult to keep them clean. And because a janitor can't exactly flush the crap out of these faucets every time they're used, they become a breeding ground for all manner of transmittable filth. The moral of the story? Human innovation is basically a curse granted by an enchanted monkey's paw, and technology reached its zenith with the hoop and stick.
Toronto Public Library
"Fuck your iPhone!"
Be sure to check out 5 Things Technology Will Never Fix (And Why) and 6 Sci-Fi Technologies You'll Soon Have on Your Phone.
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