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Smartphones disconnect people

By Hong Liang  (China Daily)

08:12, November 13, 2012

(Photo of

Apple and Google of the United States are reported to be separately developing a wearable head-up display which allows the wearer to call up a map for directions or watch the news while riding the subway, walking in the street or driving a car. It is said to be in the early stage of development. Early pictures of the prototypes show a device that looks like an eye-glass frame with a stamp-sized screen.

Google's Project Glass is described as a display with notifications that float above your nose, and icons that float in front of your eyes. Apple isn't known to have commented publicly on its efforts. But recent patents filed by the company show that a similar project is in the works, and fans already have a name for it "iGlass".

Hardcore geeks will no doubt be excited by a product with such a wow factor, but to most of us, it is another innovation that begs the question how much more disconnected we want to be in this age of smartphones and computer tablets.

In recent months, I have tried to avoid going to lunch with some of my colleagues. It's not that I am becoming increasingly antisocial as I grow older, or that they are in any way unpleasant. In fact, I like them. It's just that I can see no point to spending time with them, as they are always absorbed in playing with their smartphones or iPads, even when they are eating.

Not long ago, I joined two male colleagues for dinner. Once the ordering was done, they pulled out their smartphones. I asked them what they were doing. One said that he was talking to friends on his micro blog and the other said he was keeping an eye on his micro blog for the latest gossip. After that, we spent the entire dinner without exchanging another word while my two companions disconnected themselves from their environment.

Of course, I do that too, but only when I am riding the subway or taking a flight by myself. Even then, I sometimes find it quite interesting to look at what people around me are doing. As humans, we are supposed to be naturally curious about our environment.

I find it absurdly funny to see people talking on phones that cover half their face. And I find it excruciatingly annoying to have people thrusting their tablets in my face to show me high-resolution but badly taken pictures of their babies, pets or themselves in funny costumes.

Now, we will soon be getting wearable head-up displays, as both Apple and Google have deep enough pockets and the technological prowess to produce them sometime in the future, some experts have predicted as early as 2014.

Walking home in the evening after work is becoming a chore. Because as well as dodging the maniacs in cars and on electric bikes, I have to avoid bumping into other pedestrians not looking where they are going, as they are totally preoccupied with talking or messaging on their smartphones. Just imagine what it would be like if they start wearing head-up displays.

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