Garbage@CES

From my blog:

There was a point a few weeks back that I thought it might be a good idea to go to CES. Business-wise, it probably still is a great opportunity I passed on. There are a LOT of business contacts to be made at a gig like that. The thing about it that makes me think that it was better NOT to go is the amount of garbage that seems to be flowing out of that place right now. All the tech blogs are gurgling over with press release after press release barking about the next piece of landfill to be produced by XYZ, Corp.

I am not sure what has happened over the past couple of years. My tolerance for technology has diminished significantly. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great tech toy as much as the next guy. But there is something that is starting to spin in my gut. That feeling I get when something just ain’t right. I sit wondering what the purpose of another 1 Gig MP3 player with an “amazing new interface” really does for the world. I sit wondering, “Why do I give a shit whether my LCD TV screen is 35 mm thick or 3.5 mm thick?”

The world of technology has run aground. It is producing one piece of crap after another with no real purpose. Moore’s law seems to apply to the sheer amount of stuff people can produce in a short period of time as well as the doubling of processing power every 18 months. Where does it end? What products out there are making a difference? What technology is something more than a cleverly designed piece of plastic that does something more than double your capacity for holding songs or videos? What product is something more than being 10 mm thick?

Am I asking too much? Wasn’t technology something that is supposed changed our lives? I thought technology was more than what CES seems to have to offer. What am I missing?

We’re not going to become the Luddites of the new millenium are we?

No, this isn’t something as fundamental as that. I am not talking about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Scroll through Gizmodo. Tell me what you see? Do you really see anything that is inspiring?

I asked what I am missing. Tell me, what am I missing?

I agree with you, but I think whats exciting about is when you say “OK now we know we can build a paper thin screen, how do we do something more useful with it then making it easier for your grandma to wallmount her HDTV”

Right…so what am I missing? Is there anything in there other than that?

So far I haven’t seen it. I look at most of this stuff and yawn. Actually, what I really think is…“wow, that’ll be land fill in about 18 months”.

I’ve been looking through the stuff all day and so far I have yet to see it either. I remember seeing the preview of Windows Mobile 7 and thinking “Wow, it’s going to take them 2 more years to knock off the Iphone interface?”

So far the only things that have gotten me fairly excited have been:

The Casio camera that can shoot 1200 FPS, even if its only at super low res, thats stil pretty staggering, esp in a consumer level device.

The Alienware super widescreen monitor. The resolution seems like it’s probably too low for serious CAD use, but the concept for gaming seems like it could be pretty awesome.

The slew of UMPC’s coming out.

Admittedly working for a company that’s predominately known for making cell phones we probably contribute to that landfill, considering most phones have a 6 month-2 year lifespan at best.

I think the whole idea of UMPC’s and these laser projectors could have some pretty cool implications in the future. The idea of being able to have a PC with near-desktop performance and a giant display that all fit into your pocket is pretty exciting.

Maybe you need to think harder or just bigger picture, especially in the sense of where and what these technologies could lead us to? “…an “amazing new interface” really does for the world” - you speak as if the way we relate or interact with these tech devices is a trivial thing. It certainly is not a new thing, but I look forward to finally getting my hands on a Cintiq, and we’ve all read what this interface has done for many of you here in another thread.

I’ve actually many times felt about that same as you when CES comes around every year and I usually blame it on the “giving” holiday that just passed. I definitely have to work out that whole “consumerism” thing I run into every holiday season.

Yes, CES is more manic every year than the last, but there’s got to be a needle in there somewhere? And we’re recyling e-waste now, at least here in California.

It has virtually everything to do with the consumerism thing, for me. But, like I already stated, it isn’t an anti-consumerism thing. It is an anti-manufacture-product-soley-because-we-can thing. The amount of pure, unadulterated sh!t is astounding. An exercise bike for under your desk?!? Version 10,593 of the Sansa MP3 player?

Cinitq, I get.
The Alienware screen, I don’t.
1200 FPS…bordering on interesting…but necessary? Its another model bringing previous model to EOL.

Ya. Its a consumerism short circuit.

Here here, IP. You can take both sides of the coin: Innovation in a pointless product now=more possibility later (read OLED screens, etc) but on the other hand - Why? Who cares?

I’m sure 90% of it is consumer driven. If we as consumers didn’t demand major advancements in tech features every 6 months, there wouldn’t even be CES.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to send an email from my refrigerator to my friend in the bathroom.

No, I get what your saying. I’m feeling something similar on a smaller scale. I feel disenchanted by stores like best buy or the like. Cell phones aren’t getting smaller, or larger, or differently shaped or newly interfaced, neither is anything else.

Maybe its a combination of hearing the same song over and over and also that since we are helping write the song some of the mystery is lost. I would bet you have worked on a product lately that had some kick ass features that had been cut out for cost reasons or whatever, now your like, I bet that would have been cool until x department got a hold of it.


Also, you’re right, who does care whether your tv is 3.5 mm or 35 mm. Plus the voice of sustainability is becoming more and more deafening these days.

Last year the only cool thing I saw was Olympus’ new technology where they can mold blocks of wood into camera cases that are stronger than plastic and weather better than plastic. So I totally agree with you. The Luddite thing was more of a snide remark referring to the possibility that we will at some point become so furious about all this shit piling up that we might band together and smash the injection molds of the world. sometime after we all retire of course.

But I think those could actually be on the same side of the coin? …meaning the “more possibility later” relating to the “Why? Who cares?”. This is not what IP is referring to here though.

…and toilets are connected to the internet now!? …uhh, Why?

Not sure I follow man.

Pointless products purely for the sake of innovation has its advantages.
But, what is the point of it all?

Toilets on the net, man. Its the next big thing.

Is it consumer driven? Its definitely Marketing driven…but consumer?

Would the earth tilt off axis if yet another lazy R Motorola “phone” didn’t get pushed through the channels?

Here’s some for my “don’t get it” list:

An interesting thought from Clive Grinyer, after being questioned ‘what’s on your christmas wishlist?’:

Rather than receive, I would like to give everyone an iPhone for one day. Then I would take it away from them, so they would see how technology can work, wonder why we’ve put up with such rubbish for years and create merry hell until everyone else designs better stuff.

-Clive Grinyer - Orange France Telecom

In fairness though, there have been some decent CE products this year…

The XO (OLPC) Laptop - That is amazing, and goes to show that we could have better design rather than ‘higher specs’ as an advancement.

The Wii - Yes it makes my arms hurt constantly but I love it.

Is it consumer driven? Its definitely Marketing driven…but consumer?

Would the earth tilt off axis if yet another lazy R Motorola “phone” didn’t get pushed through the channels?

I see your point. Marketing does push the consumer a long way down the path, but ultimately consumers respond to marketing. People waited in lines for days to get an iPhone, XBox360, PS3, Wii, etc because it was the next big thing.

Consumers and Marketing constantly feed off each other, and the whole thing has ramped up so quickly that now most of us aren’t surprised that someone would put and LCD monitor inside the wheel well of a full size Hot Wheels truck.

I see your point IP, and I agree with it. I’ve had the same thought in the back of my mind for the last few months, too. I’m still rocking a 3 year old pre-Razr Motorola phone. Why? It still does exactly what I need it to do, makes telephone calls.

I feel your pain. I’d love a notebook computer that isn’t rendered obselete within a couple of years. I hate throwing things away.

I can’t bear digital photo frames, what a pointless waste of precious energy. I hate the way our local tip is full of big tvs becuase everyone just got plasma screen ones.

Some things I welcome. I work wirelessly on HSPDA+ - it’s amazing, I can video stream from it, I can work on my boat. Look Ma - no Wires! But some of the other guff. Yep, its pointless.

It’s something isn’t it when we - the creators of ‘all this shit’ are getting angry about it too? :sunglasses: Actually this is a great thread.

I’ve felt some of the same sentiments about sneakers, TBH.

i think digital photo frames are in fact quite useful. i’ve stopped taking pics w/ my film camera and use solely my dslr. i find it very convenient that i can send a pic to my father’s frame ahlf way across the worlds by email and not have to print it on paper and send it by plane. considering the CO2 footprint, i’d say i’m in the positive…

great thread. I’ve felt the same way in general recently (baby on the way + few years in the field = reevaluation of priorities), something like CES just puts it into perspective.

Technology as a concept is great, world changing, but i think it morphs into a disturbing animal when applied to the business world now that the speed and acceleration of things has become almost unbearable (mostly reinforced by technologies in everything from product development to logistics to communications). All businesses need to make money. You can’t ever really address the triple bottom line without realizing that one of those bottom lines will always be on top.

I’m currently reading Thackara’s “In the Bubble” (great book so far) and there are some interesting points he makes about technology becoming ubiquitous and actually refocusing the value we put on people and what technology can’t do. I will agree with IP regarding how disappointing CE is at times. Maybe we are at the tipping point, at a junction where its just too much and with material and transportation set to get much much more expensive soon, we will finally see the shift happen.
In the west things have been cheap for a long time, how do priorities change when they are no longer cheap? Is the excess we see simply because people (in the aggregate) are looking for something to fill a void?
Whether this is good or bad for designers, I don’t know. I like to think a better designed whatever benefits man, but the by-product of the industry is a TON of poorly designed/useless crap.

I love cradle-to-cradle’s ideas about using all of this power and capability to really kick start the next industrial revolution, but man the ship is huge and you all know how momentum works. The consumer voice is becoming louder and louder in regards to the environment, but how many of you have client that actually come to you asking for projects that are more than a rehash, or simply putting a few technologies together into a glossy box?

goto ziba’s web site and they have some great nuggets that reflect this.
“80% of all products fail. The remaining 20% have soul.”
“Capture 0.5% of market share. (6.5 million people).”

That last one gets me. The consumer market is so vast, companies can act like spammers playing the numbers game…just shift the market share a little and tada, profits. And its all enabled because of global LCM, but will that change, is global sustainable?

No I don’t believe global is sustainable, at least in the way we think of it now. Not to resurect the paradigm shift from the 90’s but it really never happened then and became a cliche.

Does it hurt anyones pride/feelings, or piss you off when people listen to you talk about design, innovation, sustainability etc and just smile like these are buzz words? These aren’t gee golly buzzwords to us! Next time someone talks about marketing or engineering stuff try acting like that and see how fast you are kicked to the curb.

yikes tyrade guy all the sudden.

anyway no not everyone in the world can have a car, or an ipod or any of that stuff. not everyone in the world can even have a bamboo cutting board because then half of the world will want a larger bamboo cutting board or a shinier one. Thats the whole idea behind marketing. we aren’t keeping up with the jones’ anymore, we are the jones’ and the rest of the world wants to have way cooler stuff that we have.