Technology rocks because there is always a new craze, but sometimes trying to keep up seems like a full-time job. I spend an absurd amount of time watching online videos, reading blogs and talking to my friends and co-workers about technology, but I still feel like I just scratch the surface. I also spend a lot of time angry, frustrated and on the phone with tech support. My newest coping mechanism is to gain travel info every time I’m talking to tech support — asking the rep what city they are in and which tourist attractions are best. Even if you aren’t going to visit, the sites can be fun to Google — or Bing.
Here is my short “take it or leave it” list on some current technology trends:
Twitter: I just can’t find the motivation to tweet much. You can follow me @4onthefloor, but I only have a few posts. It turns out more twenty- and thirtysomethings are jumping on this trend than teens, but cable news outlets seem to love it. If CNN quotes @randomguy in a news story one more time … I say leave it and stick to Facebook. By the way, if you’re still on MySpace, “that is so 2008” — according to my 12-year-old neighbor.
Netbooks: Finally the laptop industry figured out that 99 percent of us just use our laptops to surf the Web and check our e-mail. At $300, netbooks are much easier on the wallet than the $1,000-plus you’ll spend on a laptop. For the Mac fans out there, Apple hasn’t jumped on the netbook bandwagon yet, but rumors abound about a touch-screen tablet in the near future. I’ll be first in line when that hits the stores. I say take it to the netbook trend if you’re in the market for a new machine.
Electrocorticography: ECoG is the practice of using electrodes placed directly on the exposed surface of the brain to record electrical activity from the cerebral cortex. This sounds a bit invasive for my taste, but for high-level quads, there is great potential to use the technology to control a computer, wheelchair or even a bionic limb. The reality is that an end user-ready system is still a ways off, but Emily Singer at Technology Review has a great article on the latest research into making a device that can be used by those with paralysis. See www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/22739.
Touch Screen Smart Phones: I love my iPhone (AT&T) and have heard only good things about the offerings from other carriers like the Palm-Pre (Sprint), Blackberry Storm (Verizon), and HTC Touch (T-Mobile). I’d take it if you are in the market for a new phone.
Google Voice: Google has finally launched Google Voice after buying up Grand Central and reworking their technology. Google Voice gives you a new phone number and an account to which you can add your home, office and cell phone. When someone calls your Google Voice number, it will ring through to any or all of your other phones. Users also get online voicemail with text transcription, the ability to customize voicemail messages by user, text messaging, and a ton of other features. As with most Google services, this one is free. If you aren’t worried that Google now potentially has access to yet another piece of your life, sign up at www.google.com/googlevoice/about.html.
Mount’n Mover: Diane at BlueSky Designs wrote me about a new product her small company is selling. Mount’n Mover is a system for power wheelchairs that provides a moveable arm to which a tray, reading desk, laptop, camera or other device can be mounted. I haven’t tried it, but it looks intriguing. Check out the video at www.blueskydesigns.us/mountnmover.htm.
Gaming: With limited hand function and an aversion to being blown up by 9-year-olds, I tend to shy away from first-person shooters with heavy online components like Halo. I go for puzzle and simulation games like Civilization or Sims, where how fast you mouse and type don’t come into play. Dawn of Discovery from Ubisoft is my latest obsession. It is sort of a cross between the old Sim City and games like Civilization or Empire: Total War. Dawn of Discovery has you building up cities, trade networks and armies on an island-spotted map around the 15th century — http://dawnofdiscoverygame.us.ubi.com/pc/.
(Alert: Shameless cross-marketing plug): Check out the forums at www.newmobility.com/bb and post your own “take it or leave it,” tech trend reviews, new products or the latest science news. Seriously, I want to know what everyone is into — and the Web is just too big for one man.