Tag Archives: technology

(Initial) Opinions on… The Nintendo Switch

So! It’s been a long time coming, but the Nintendo Switch has finally emerged from the shadows, finally revealing its secret after months of speculation. That secret, of course, is that it’s a weird hybrid of a home console and a portable device, with a joypad that you can split in two, and then take those pieces and slot them on to other things… And it’s only when it comes to writing it down now that I realise how weird that all sounds. Anyway, the initial reveal has left many a thought pinging around my head, some positive and some negative. It’s a long journey ahead, that’s for sure, but join me as I break down my thoughts, and try and work out whether this is something that can ‘switch’ Nintendo’s recent fortunes…

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The one game I’ll never play… And why

You know, I’m an open minded kind of guy when it comes to video game. There’s pretty much nothing out there I won’t at least try, even if it belongs to a genre or franchise I’m completely apathetic too. I’ll ponder away at a puzzle title, command an army in an RTS until they all inevitably die in gruesome ways five minutes later, and (despite being the least athletic person on the planet) I’ll even play a game of FIFA or two given the opportunity. Yet there is one game out there that I refuse to approach; one experience that I dare not sample, for fear of what the dark and twisted results may be. That game is…

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Not on my watch – why smart watches are a foolish idea

Smart phones! We’ve practically all got one, right? Hell, nowadays it’s pretty hard to see how we lived without them… The ability to pull a phone out and instantly look something up on the web, take a high quality picture or play a fancy new game nigh-on instantly is just so natural to us now it would be weird if it wasn’t there. And in the fiercely competitive world of smart phones and smart devices in general the real fight is always to pull out the latest hot innovation, the one that makes everyone drop what they are doing and rush out to buy it straight away. Up until now stuff like voice recognition and other such fancy features haven’t really succeeded in pulling that off. But never fear, because the brains beehind the gadgets say they have finally cracked it! They’ve created… The smart watch!

Shame the idea is a bit rubbish, really.

One tells the time quick and easy. The other's a smart watch.

One tells the time easily. The other’s a smart watch.

Allow me to explain my point of view; the point of a watch, to me, is to give you the ability to quickly and easily tell the time. That’s pretty much it. People in the market for buying a watch are buying a watch for that very reason. They aren’t looking for a watch that can take pictures, or make phone calls, or anything like that – especially when the smart phone that they most likely have easy access to in their pocket can do all that anyway. It’s the time we all want, and you don’t need a fancy display or anything like that to pull that off. True, it’s possible to argue that the point of phones was only ever to communicate with each other, but the reality is at their core that’s all they still do. It may be via texts or Twitter, but the very essence of the idea has not been changed. With a smart watch, the whole essence of the idea seems to be ripped away without a care in the world.

That’s not to mention the way smart watches seem destined to operate is all a bit weird too. For the easiest example of what I’m talking about I’m going to refer to the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch, the first watch truly revealed by one of the power players. It’s nice enough to look at, but you only have to start scratching at the surface to see the cracks beginning to show. For one, you have to press a button to actually see the time in the first place, nulling the whole “easy access to the time” thing that watches tend to do so well. This is only worsened further by the fact it’s yet another piece of kit that you have to plug in every night, which is kind of more hassle than it seems to be worth.

Yet then you start to go further into looking at it, and it starts to get even more absurd. My ‘favourite’ feature is the fact that when you go to make a call to someone you have to raise the arm you are wearing the watch on and act like you are holding an invisible phone, while is a gesture more suitable to a bad paradoy of phone calls than something you would willingly do in public to actually make one. The real icing on the cake, however, is that to access a lot of the features like making calls your need an actual Android device itself, making your fancy new smart watch a mere accessory to whatever other device you have to carry around. Therefore, really, what is the point in splashing out the money for one if that device does everything the watch does anyway? It just seems to be a foolish anf frivilous waste of money.

Of course, to be reasonable, the Samsung Galaxy Gear is but one upcoming smart watch out there, and the concept as a whole is still taking its first tentative steps out into the sunlight. Other devices such as the Qualcomm Toq seem to be tackling the issues of battery usage and convenience, and with the deep rumbling rumours of an iWatch heading our way who knows what devices announced in the near future may be capable of doing. But the whole concept still sits uneasy with me – I like my watch, and all the discussion about smart watches recently has only made me want to put on my old trusty timepiece ‘instead of making glances at my phone to achieve the same result. There may be a day in the future where everyone#s got a smart watch on, and you won’t be able to walk around without seeing someone tapping away madly at their wrist. Right now, though? I don’t think now is the time…

The James Bond gadgets – his greatest enemy

Brilliant one-liners. Posh suits and tense firefights. And Vodka Martinis – shaken, not stirred, naturally. James Bond is a movie fanchise classic, a juggernaut of a beast with 23 films to its name and massive box office earnings to boot. Of course, none of this would have been achieved if the films weren’t endearing, something you can watch time and time again, and they certainly are that… I myself have recently been trawling through the back catalogues watching some of my favourites just recently. Yet with these viewings I’ve noticed something rather peculiar, something that inadvertantly ages Bond and makes some of his films into slightly peculiar viewing. And no, it’s not the massive amount of sexual innuendos you seem to miss as a kid – it’s the technology he uses.

Allow me to explain. Take Die Another Day, a fairly recent addition to the Bond franchise. In it you have all the staples of what makes a Bond film, and then you have… the the Aston Martin ‘Vanish’. A car that turns invisible. It sounds cool, and in many ways it sort of is – yet the reality is the end product ends up looking little silly, copious amounts of CGI being badly justified by one line that basically says it’s all done by mirrors. It’s a desperate attempt by the film makers to keep up with the cutting edge in the tech world, where gadgets and gear improve so quickly nowadays it’s hard to even keep up, never mind innovate. Even the phones Bond uses in recent movies end up looking dated, with no signs of the touch screens we are so used to today – instead they are all clunky grey bricks with big buttons, which look like they could cause more injury to the bad guys if Bond was just to throw the phone at their heads. The end result is that it all ends up looking a bit peculiar when you watch some of the recent films back, with the Brosnan era being the worst offender by a mile.

It really is that bad.

…It really is that bad.

Big deal, you think. It’s simply a case of technology always marching on. The old films must suffer from the same problems, right? Yet the odd think is, they don’t, or at least not as much. The perfect counterpoint to the Aston Martin is the Lotus Esprit featured in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, which at one point dives off the end of a pier in spectacular fashion, only to turn neatly and awesomely into a mini submarine. Sure, it’s pushing the boundaries of realism a bit itself, but the weird fact is it ends up being more believable as a piece of cutting edge technology than the Aston Martin ever does, despite the film being made 25 years earlier.

Some of the gadgets from even earlier films pull off the same effect – Bond’s attaché case in From Russia with Love is packed full of goodies such as gold sovereigns hidden away in a secret compartment and a tear gas defence mechanism, but it still seems cool and innovative despite everything that’s followed it. And this is a film from 1963! Another example is the rebreather from 1965’s Thuderball, which even makes an appearance in Die Another Day basically unaltered… Making it a gadget that is simple, but clever, cool and innovative enough to pop up as useful almost 40 years later. Compared to the exploding pens and laser watches from more recent Bonds, I know which gadgets I’d pick, if only for the fact they weren’t likely to explode when I started writing a letter. It’s little wonder the Daniel Craig films have gone back to the core basics of Bond simply having a gun and his wits –all the gadgets ever seemed to do before that is age ungracefully.

Does this affect the quality of the films and your ability to enjoy them? Of course not, naturally. As long as the dry quips and Bond mannerisms are there that we all know and love, you would have to be a bit of a killjoy to let a slightly outdated phone completely ruin a film for you. But just look out for it the next time you watch a Bond film – because it turns out if you want some of the coolest gadgets, you may have to go for a blast from the past…