Tuesday, December 02, 2014

And yet another hearty welcome to the post-literate world

I’m one of those old fashion texters.

Sure, I’ll get in an occasional ROFLMFAO, the odd OMG. But while I have been tempted to use C YA or L8R, I generally manage to quell the urge. The written word is well on its way to full debasement. I don’t feel the need to heap on.

I have noticed, however, that more and more txt text terms are creeping into the general vocabulary. That is, IMHO.

Seriously, as more and more communications transition from the written word to audio/video, I worry about the day when reading is no longer considered fundamental but will become, rather, a luxury good. Instead of near-universal literacy, we’ll have near-universal illiteracy. The 1 percent will read; the great unwashed will watch.

And when the great unwashed goes to Pizza Hut, they won’t even have to speak, let alone text their order.

They’ll just make eye contact with a device equipped with vision sensors, and the seeing-eye menu will know what they want to order.

I learned this the other day in an article – which I read – over on Engadget. The article was on Pizza Hut’s new Subconscious Menu, which:.

…uses Tobii's eye-tracking tech to figure out which of 20 different ingredients you're looking at on a screen. It then takes all of three seconds to identify the pizza you really eye-tracking-pizza-menu-2014-11-28-02want based on which you looked at the longest. Pizza Hut says its Subconscious Menu is still in trials, but after testing to a 98 percent success rate, it may eventually appear in restaurants. (Source: Engadget)

As one of the commenters pointed out, your eye may be lingering on an image because you’re trying to figure out what it is, not because it is the secret longing of your heart.

Here’s Dallbatross’s first glance  interpretation:

Top row: bacon, BBQ sauce, prime rib, straw

2nd row: fish, chili peppers, cat food, Christmas ornaments, raisins

3rd row: onion, berries, peaches, a coaster, shrimp

Bottom row: ground beef, mint, corn, tomato

I’m with Dallbatross.

Even with my screen at 200%, I couldn’t’ figure out some of them, either. I think I got that the top row, furthest right is grated cheese. But is that yellow item in Row 3 – the one that Dallbatross thinks might be peaches – supposed to be yellow pepper? If not, where’s the pepper? If so, I’m guessing that your average Pizza Hut is more likely to have green pepper than yellow pepper. And where’s the sausage. while we’re at it?

Not to mention the unmentionable: is the green matter in the bottom row lettuce? Are there people who put lettuce on pizza? Say what?

Sorry. I’d rather read what’s in something, or on something, rather than look at a picture. But I’m on of those old geezer who believes that 1 word is worth a 1000 pictures.

Too much here that’s subject to interpretation…

Okay, so the company says that the sensors get it right 98% of the time, but I’d like to see how this was calculated.

Did they ask folks to write down what they wanted and compare it what the computer thought they would have ordered? Or did they just verbally ask their patrons whether they had, in fact, ordered straw, coaster, and mint, and found those folks nodding in agreement – half of them thinking that the computer would know better what they truly wanted? Could some sort of reverse confirmation bias be going on?

I actually love a lot of the vision systems, and think that Tobii, the Swedish company that developed the underlying technology for the Subconscious Menu, is doing some really magnificent work.

No, I don’t give a hoot about any improvements they’re making to gaming. Look, Ma! No hands! (Yawn…)

But I love what they’re doing with assistive technology. Anything that helps those who are somehow locked in to be able to communicate. Just wow!

(Of course, there’ll be a downside. Easy enough to imagine some new parents, over-eager to communicate with their newbies, who’ll end up stunting their infants’ speech development by using this type of technology to figure out whether their Baby Einstein wants to gum a graham cracker or sup on peas, without having to go through the nasty intermediate step of the headshake, the howl, the pursed lips, the scrunched face, the spit-out.)

I’m certainly less enamored of it being used as a substitute for reading and speaking among Pizza Hut customers.

This just brings out my inner Luddite.

Way too slippery slope for my sense and sensibility, I’m afraid.

Just gets me thinking that when I read Brave New World back in the day, it seemed like too far-fetched, too dystopic. Now we have these best and brightest  techies – who, no doubt, will teach their kids to read and speak – nudging society closer to the edge of a truly slippery slope.

Guess technology giveth and technology taketh away.

Or taketh out.

Make mine a cat-food and Christmas ornament special.

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