Greetings fellow cyborgs


by Nikki Mantell on May 27, 2009

Imagine, reader, sitting at little Jimmy’s guitar recital. As you stare at him, seemingly transfixed by his performance of Smoke on the Water, you are actually reading through your emails that are projected across his determined little face and on the wall behind him.

Does this terrify you, or make you think, “thank god, I can watch a movie while my boss lectures me”?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself, having just returned from the annual convention of the Canadian Newspaper Association held in Montreal this weekend. Or rather, I ask: are we ready to embrace our new identity as cyborgs?

In a three-day convention filled with big-brain speakers to project the future of journalism, most seminars were dedicated to: “Newspapers are dead. Newspapers are not dead.” In between desperate discussions about how to monetize the online newspaper (you have never seen a sweatier crew of publishers and ad sales directors) we were “treated” to a lunchtime presentation by the former futurist-in-residence at the New York Times, who gave us a thrilling power point on impact of technology on business and society.

Michael Rogers, who writes the Practical Futurist column for MSNBC, started by pointing out the obvious: everyone in the room spends more time with their laptops than anyone or anything else in the world (this was followed by a short video of a 21-year-old who wept openly in an interview describing what her laptop means to her).

With nods of agreement from the crowd, he moved on to give us a glimpse of the natural course this dependent relationship on something far too bulky will lead us.

That’s when the goggle screen monitors were presented. Before the techies-in-the-woods start blasting me for bringing up something that has been around since ’97, I will point out what this futurist told us: these goggles currently in development will give you the ability to see both what’s on your device screen and the “real world” at the same time. You guys will be able to strap on your goggles and read the Low Down Online while mountain biking in Gatineau Park.

Next in line: the iPhone projector. ChinaKing (in … where else?) is getting ready to launch the world’s first projector phone (they probably just did before I finished typing this sentence), a kind of iPhone clone.

How it works: set down your phone on a table at Les Saisons coffee shop, preferably near a wall. Press one button and your phone will project the screen onto the wall so you can show your friends your picture of little Jimmy. Want to text or email someone? Another beam of light will project the image of a keypad onto the table top. It registers movement so you will be able type out a message on the light-projected keyboard. ChinaKing’s brand is CKing, also pronounced “cha-ching!”

Rogers gave us peek at the other well-known devices that threaten to replace paper altogether: the Kindle, the E-Reader, something else that is thin and rolls up like a newspaper. Maybe it was his terrible feeling of guilt for ruining the lunch of so many publishers, but at the end he threw us a platitude (“I still love the printed word”) and a bone. Despite all the high-tech devices, when it comes to cost, reproduction value and portability printed paper is still best. A full colour newspaper full of photos and news for a buck. This futurist says you still can’t beat it.