Monday, November 13, 2017

Are Gadgets Getting Smarter Or Are We Just Getting Dumber?

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published Nov. 15, 2017] ©2017
Every time I see an ad for another “smart” household gadget, the only thing that comforts me is the thought that I am old and will probably die soon.  It’s all gotten too complicated.
I came to this conclusion while having dinner at the home of friends and couldn’t operate their toilet - no handle in sight.  It turns out that to flush it you have to wave your hand over a sensor on top of the toilet tank which was allegedly identified by a little sticker of a waving hand glued on top of the toilet tank but which their 3-three-year old peeled off (and probably ate). Not that the decal would have even helped; it would never have occurred to me to wave at a toilet.  “There are so many germs on those flush handles,” explained our hostess when I tiptoed out and discreetly asked how to flush her commode.  “This is so much more hygienic!” Actually, probably not all that hygienic if you can’t flush the thing.  It’s apparently all part of a new line of “intelligent toilets.”
“Intelligent” and “toilet” are two words that should never appear together.  I want my toilets to be dumb as rocks.  If you have one of those $5,000 programmable Japanese toilets, please do not even think of inviting me to your house.
A few weeks ago I wrote about smart appliances. As anyone who has ever read a single one of my columns knows, I have the technical skills of a fruit fly. So it is truly dismaying to me that the market has been inundated with alleged time-saver gadgets that can be synced to your phone or other devices. My single device – a smart phone - drives me crazy all on its own.
The gadgets may have become smart but have we become stupid?
In the “Really?” category, the $49 Egg Minder is a battery-operated egg carton that will keep track of up to 14 eggs and, using LED lights and the companion app, will alert you as to which ones are the oldest and ought to be used first.  Apparently you can further modify it so that “if you run out of eggs, it will play “I am the Walrus” on Spotify.  (Note: What is Spotify?) Personally, I always just put questionable eggs in a bowl of water and the ones that floated to the top were deemed to have gone to the Big Egg Farm in the Sky. Besides, I always assumed that the eggs in my little cardboard supermarket carton were probably all plucked on the same day.
I was intrigued by the $79 HAPIfork, a smart fork that communicates to a downloaded app via USB or Bluetooth and measures how many mouthfuls you consume. It buzzes and flashes if you’re scarfing your food too quickly.  There’s a dashboard for you to analyze your meal-time “performance” (intervals between forkfuls, forkfuls per minute, total forkfuls) after the fact. This fork would drive me bat-s—t crazy. Since it only measures forkfuls and time, I know I’d enjoy trying to game the thing by seeing how much food I could pile on a single fork load. I used to be able to get half a jar of Nutella onto my single-allotted daily tablespoon. (It’s all in the wrist.)
The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator ($3,499), among its waaaay-too-many features, has three cameras inside to take pictures of your food which you can access from your Smart phone so you can see if you need to pick up more milk on your way home. This feature puzzles me. Milk that I buy is all in opaque containers. So, do little arms come out and shake the carton?
The $150 Geni-Can is a barcode scanner that clips to your kitchen garbage can so you can scan the barcode of items you’re throwing away and add them to your shopping list. If it doesn’t sense a barcode it queries “What may I add to your list?”  Sorry.  When I think my trash can is talking to me, I’ll be concerned that I’m one step from the kids putting me in a Home.  I’m sticking with the list I keep on my kitchen counter. 
The overachieving  voice-controlled Amazon Echo Dot ($50) can  wake you up with your day’s schedule. I’d kill the effing thing.  Nobody talks to me before I’ve had coffee. 
The iSommelier Smart Decanter ($1,499, yes, really) is sort of like a microwave for wine aeration, speeding up the progress. But overall, I think I could probably get by in life without an “aeration progress bar.” Does a little light flash and a voice scream: “I’ve reached my peak! Quick! Drink me before I turn to vinegar!”? 
Of course, you have to actually learn how to use all these gadgets.  That’s the part that would really put me over the edge.
As my husband Olof points out, these gadgets are not targeted to my demographic. It just scares me to think they’re targeted for anybody’s.



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