Technology comes in all shapes and sizes. And it also comes in forms that you don’t really think of as tech. Consider the humble pencil. You wouldn’t think of that as technology today. But when it was first invented, it was the height of technology that changed everything. When you see a paper book, you probably see something that could be improved by tech. What you might be failing to appreciate is the fact that the printed book was one of the most transformative and disruptive technologies humankind has ever known.
Some technology has an obvious purpose made clear by its form factor. You see the giant wings on an airplane and you know it was made to fly. You see the big wheels on a car and you know it was made to drive. But what about the smartphone? It is not exactly phone-shaped. But once we learned to associate that shape with a telephone, we had to come to terms with the fact that facilitating phone calls is the least of the smartphone’s functions. Many people almost never use it for that purpose. This is often where technology gets interesting. Here are a few examples:
Paper Towels That Can Be Reused
One of the more exciting pieces of technology is an upgrade to the lowly paper towel. We see that roll of paper and immediately associate it with something that is used once and tossed out with the rest of the garbage. Think about that: after a single use, it is literally garbage. Bamboo paper towels completely flip the script. You think you are looking at the traditional disposable. But in fact, you are looking at something softer than cotton and stronger than Superman’s cape. It doesn’t look like a piece of cloth you wash over and over. But in fact, it is something you can use and toss in the wash instead of the garbage. You can reuse it over 85 times before it needs to be retired.
This is the kind of lifespan associated with nice washcloths. It changes the expectation. You don’t buy and use two rolls per week. You might use two rolls per year. Sometimes, technology surprises you. If you have guests who are used to the old paper towels, you will have to persuade them not to throw them away. They will be amazed when they see you give them a light rinse and toss them in the wash instead. Your after dinner conversation is going to be very interesting.
If you want to see a candidate for a technological advance, take a look inside your medicine cabinet. Look at that bottle of pills. Now, look at that tube of toothpaste. The pills are a better form factor, easy to use and without any waste at the end of the prescription. Next, chuck the toothpaste tube and go for some toothpaste tablets. I know, right? Mind, blown!
This little advance replaces those messy and unsanitary tubes for a bottle of tablets that you just give a brief chew and brush as usual with a wet toothbrush. Instead of a pill, your teeth are now glistening with minty, cleansing, foamy tooth care. It is not a pill. It’s better. Best of all, you don’t have to become a toothpaste tube expert to get every last bit of what you paid for. That’s definitely something to smile about.
Some say that wearables have not lived up to the hype. While others insist that the right wearables are lifesaving devices. It is true that not everyone can afford the best of these devices. Then again, more people can afford an Apple Watch than can afford a Rolex. And a Rolex has never been cited as a lifesaving device. You decide. One thing is certain, a smartwatch is no more a watch than a smartphone is a phone. In fact, one of the more useful features of certain smartwatches is that they double as phones with cellular connections. They are also your wallet. No one saw that coming. And they make pretty good workout companions as well. Today’s smartwatch is a Swiss Army knife in disguise.
A lot of tech we use everyday is incognito. We have reusable cleaning supplies that look like disposable paper towels, toothpaste that looks like tablets, and life-saving utility devices that look like watches. Today’s technology has turned us all into Inspector Gadget. Next, briefcases that turn into flying cars…