MARCH - Meet the HTC One
Skynet came a step closer as terrifying Boston Dynamics BigDog robot gained a new trick – the ability to use an arm to hurl cinder blocks at human heads. The creators enthused BigDog acted just like an athlete, having presumably hallucinated a Robot Cinder Block event at London 2012. Fortunately, the Japanese announced they’d made smell-o-vision a reality, and so we’ll all be distracted by the wonderful odours from the creations of a million TV chefs before our inevitable doom at the hands of intelligent androids.
Androids with a capital A were also in the news in March. The HTC One, which our very own Mark Payton said he couldn’t part with arrived, with a live-feed home screen. Samsung countered by announcing the Galaxy S4. The associated event shot for Broadway spectacle, but instead blew off at least three toes, due to a script CNET’s Molly Wood called “tone-deaf and shockingly sexist”. What started as hilariously bad ended up as just plain bad, but at least the phone itself produced the goods.
It seems March was a general month of tech controversy. Amazon became embroiled in a scandal as Solid Gold Bomb T-shirts suggested you ‘Keep Calm And Rape A Lot’. An apology and excuses about an errant algorithm didn’t exactly placate keyboard warriors on various social networks.) And Seattle’s 5 Point Cafe became probably the first place to ban Google Glass, due to privacy fears. “If you do wear your Google Glasses inside, or film or photograph people without their permission, you will be asked to stop, or leave,” stated the restaurant’s policy. “And if we ask you to leave, for God’s sake, don’t start yelling about your ‘rights’. Just shut up and get out before you make things worse.”
APRIL - Facebook Go Home
Right at the start of April, Apple CEO Tim Cook apologised. This wasn’t an April Fools’ Day joke, but a rare moment of humility for the company as it aimed to win over the Chinese market, which had accused the American giant of arrogance regarding aspects of its repair and warranty policy. “Meanwhile, we […] realise that we still have a lot to learn on operating and communicating in China,” said Cook in the letter, neglecting to add “and in the EU and Australia,” where the company later in the year came under further fire for not aligning corporate policy with local consumer laws.
April was also a time of launches intending to change the world, but lacking the benefit of hindsight regarding their chances of doing so. Facebook attempted to worm its way into Android with user interface layer Facebook Home, but lukewarm reviews and privacy fears put paid to any question of ubiquity (and, inevitably, rekindled Facebook smartphone rumours). And Mozilla threw its hat into the ring with Firefox OS, a mobile platform based around open web standards. Some traction was gained in a small number of markets, but Apple, Google and Microsoft were notable for a distinct lack of quaking in their boots.
Still, one April technology innovation really did break through the hyperbole barrier. Clever people at Oxford University demonstrated a 3D printer capable of creating materials with several of the properties of living tissues. It’s early days yet, but the system could one day be able to deliver drugs to places where they’re needed or replace and interface with damaged human tissue.