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Let's remake the world for tech

Mike Elgan | Sept. 15, 2015
Consumer technology changes our behavior. Shouldn't it also change our homes and cars?

Apple's new iPad Pro, which has a 12.9-in. screen, also lays bare how unready the world is for mainstream large tablets with soft-cover keyboards and pens -- or, in Apple's case, "Pencils."

For starters, women's purses aren't ready. The typical purse was designed for a world before large tablets. It can handle keys, makeup, sunglasses and other random stuff. But a tablet with a soft cover needs to be kept separate from other items in a special compartment -- one that can be secured with at least a zipper. Sure, there are some purses that have such features, but given the mainstreaming of tablets, most purses should be designed that way, not just a small percentage of them.

A soft keyboard cover is a nice convenience because it's easily removable and provides the dual function of screen cover and keyboard. But you can't use a tablet with a keyboard/cover like a laptop, which is to say you can't put it on your lap to type. In a world where a large number of people are using tablets with soft keyboard covers, the armrests on couches would have flat, table-like surfaces. Or purses might provide flat surfaces. Airline tray tables might be redesigned. Cars would have built-in docks where tablets could be either used by passengers or secured safely while driving (Right now, tablets and laptops are a car safety hazard because they can fly around inside the vehicle during an accident and injure people.)

The world isn't even ready for large smartphones, like Apple's new iPhone 6S Plus, even though such big-screen devices are now massively popular. Many people, especially men, carry their phones in their pants pockets -- and neither the size nor the location of those pockets are right for large phones.

Apple also finally got serious about the Apple TV, with major improvements -- especially in the voice interface and accompanying Siri Remote. The new Apple TV is optimized for apps and games. While TV-screen gaming in the living room is almost mainstream these days, with heavy console systems like Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's PlayStation, Apple's new product may usher in a new world of truly mainstream gaming -- one that will involve mostly casual games of the type people currently play on smartphones.

The next level of gaming is virtual reality (VR). Apple is behind on that. Facebook has acquired five companies related to virtual reality, including Oculus VR, maker of the Oculus Rift system. Google offers its open-source Cardboard platform, and its Jump VR creation system will likely first be supported later this year by GoPro, which last week announced a $15,000, 16-camera rig for capturing 3D VR video.


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