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William C. Altreuter
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Friday, November 07, 2014

It's fascinating to see the ways that technology infiltrates our lives, and one of the things that is the most interesting is that it seldom ends up looking much like we thought it would. The Jetsons had Rosie, the robot maid, for example, and back when there was an AOL floppy disk in every magazine you bought (when people bought magazines) there was a great deal of ink spent on "the internet of things". We aren't likely to have household robots anytime soon, at least not like Rosie, and it is looking pretty unlikely that we'll have refrigerators that will tell us we need to buy milk either-- but we are about to get Amazon Echo, and oddly enough it is going to fill that niche.

Echo is a voice activated internet device that looks sort of like a high-tech paper towel roll. It sits in the corner, and when you say its name it wakes up. Then you can tell it do do stuff, or ask it stuff. It's like an ambient version of Siri. What I think is the most amazing thing about it is that it seems as though it will integrate seamlessly into the most banal aspects of everyday life. What is the internal temperature of rare beef? Add milk (it's always milk) to the shopping list. Play "Strutter".  It is a hundred buck piece of hardware that seems as though it will just make things a little easier, a little more hands free, and it comes in a form that I'd have never imagined. Amazing.

Of course, unsaid is what it means that there is a machine in your house that tells Jeff Bezos everything that you do, down to how often you buy toilet paper, but that particular dappled pony left the barn a long time ago, and is frolicking in the sunlit meadow even as we speak.

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