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Google’s latest products enable a new sense of surprise

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About 10 years ago, when my dad was ill and couldn’t do anything, I gave him an iPhone.

In the eyes of the Septuagenarian at that time, it was a miracle, an endless portal to what looked like all the information in the world. Especially after leaving India for the first time 50 years ago and the UK 20 years later, the simple and easy-to-use nature of the iPhone connects with literature, music and television shows that he thought he had lost over time. Was completed.

But after a few years, it can be difficult to recall such a rounded wonder. Still, when Google unveiled its latest product at its annual I / O conference this week, I once again remembered what it was like to be amazed by technology.

Although only a prototype, Google has finished the presentation with a preview of augmented reality glasses for translation purposes. It looks like ordinary glasses, but when someone speaks, the glasses pick up what is being said and display a stream of translated text in your field of view in real time. world. “

In the clip, mothers and daughters, who speak only English and mandarin, respectively, talked about how such devices can help bridge the gap between them.

Indeed, it had that slightly incredible, idealized luster of high-tech show reels. But it was also touching and inspiring, as translation is a subject of particular interest to me and a painful place.

After my parents moved to England and had children, they decided not to teach us their first language, Punjabi. Despite being middle-aged, I have been struggling to learn the tongue many years later. And the distance between me and the kaleidoscopic expanse of Punjabi culture remains.

No matter how far the ideal is, the promise of technology that may somehow narrow the gap between us feels very promising in this way.

After all, modern technology often feels really hostile.

You can buy a speaker, listen to music, and discover that it is recording a conversation. You can access social networks to connect with your friends, but you’ll find yourself exposed to abuse and conspiracy theories. And all the problems of everyday life—alienation, congestion in our cities, the looming threat of climate change, and the deep polarization of societies around the world—are not improved by technology, but worsened. It seems.

Is it possible for technology to feel like the power of good again in this way?

Given the truly striking nature of Google’s demos, it should of course be determined whether their translator’s glasses actually work as advertised. In addition, there is a privacy issue with Google that is recorded and sent to Google or placed on a server somewhere that the company has to deal with.

That is the current situation we are facing with modern technology. New devices and services are more than just stand-alone products, so even the most promising inventions need to be vigorously addressed. Rather, all other new digital devices, apps, or gadgets are addictive, from systems designed to serve ads by tracking you, to systems designed to invade privacy. Loop you to some malicious things, up to those designed to.

Obviously, a basic contradiction is at work. Things that create wonders and truly improve our lives are often not easily monetized. That’s why the fun and novelty of the digital age has replaced the distracting, jerky, fragmented world we have now.

It’s hard to imagine how to get out of that bond. At least as a starting point, we might consider regulating or hampering the way most digital technologies are currently being built — prey on people’s attention and tracking every move you make.

Worth to consider. Ten years later, and now in my eighties, my dad still loves his iPhone, but maybe a little too much. He spends half a day on it — yes, sometimes he reads Urdu poetry, listens to Ghazal, but vaguely scrolls through stupid Facebook videos and reads news and medical information from suspicious sources.

That’s where we’re stuck — most of the tech awe has disappeared and the harm is fully visible.

Still, ironically, Google’s glasses remind us a bit that the tools we use to live can still be a source of hope and optimism. If we can break the system that obscures our more optimistic vision of the future, we have another chance to wonder.

Navneet Alang is a Toronto-based star freelance contribution technology columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @navalangSHARE:

Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://www.therecord.com/ts/business/opinion/2022/05/14/googles-newest-wares-allow-for-a-renewed-sense-of-wonder.html

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