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All I Want For Christmas Is This Nonexistent Technology

A Co.Labs list of the technologies we wish existed.

The holidays are a time to spend with family and friends, to share in the joy of giving, and to puzzle over a preponderance of technological crap. Those truly terrible widgets and gadgets that line our virtual shelves, the ones designed to want to be wanted by us. But we don’t want them.

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So, last Christmas we asked Co.Labs writers and friends to describe the technology products they wanted but which didn’t actually exist. Our 2014 Christmas list includes mind transfer, DNA music storage, and an app that tells you when technology companies are screwing you over.


Mobile Internet For All

“The cost of tablet computers and smartphones are going down, but there are still millions of struggling Americans who see even a cheap $30 burner Android as a hard-to-afford expense, and mobile Internet data usage is expensive, whether obtained on a monthly subscription or on a pay-as-you-go plan. Let’s make this stuff cheap. Let’s bring well-designed and durable Android devices down to a $15 price point and make free public broadband a priority. I’ll gladly argue for days and months that steady Internet access is an economic necessity in America 2015, and, yes, let’s ‘disrupt’ this.” – Neal Ungerleider


Telerecording And Teleportation

“I wish two technologies existed. One is easy and almost certainly will exist within a year, and the other one is hard and will probably never exist. I wish there were an app that made recording podcast-quality phone interviews easy. It would need to allow two-way conversation over a data or mobile phone network, while simultaneously recording each end of the call separately using each phone’s full audio recording quality. When a call is done, the app should upload the high-quality audio of both sides of the call to some kind of cloud storage and automatically sync them into one file of the whole call. Right now most podcasts and radio shows do basically this to record phone calls, but it’s a much more laborious and manual process.

I wish we could teleport matter instantaneously–even light speed would be acceptable I guess–from any place to any other place, because it would change literally everything about human existence.” – Rusty Foster


Mind Transfer

“Aside from totally immersive cinema, the only technology I’d really like to exist right now is mind transfer. This comes from my fascination with its appearance in Roger Zelazny’s science fantasy novel Lord of Light, in which mind transfer is used as a tool of surveillance, allowing the technological elite to assess human karma and control reincarnation. But it needn’t be such a dark enterprise.

I’m more interested in mind transfer’s potential for allowing humans to occupy various bioengineered bodies and virtual realities. We’d have to master bioengineered bodies first; but if we did, mind transfer would allow our conscious minds to take on nearly any form or avatar. This gets me thinking of the metamorphosing abilities of the main character in J. G. Ballard’s The Unlimited Dream Company and that would be one heck of a way to exist. Things would get really interesting when it comes to reproduction, with women impregnating men, and men giving birth to babies, or multiple people getting in on the act.

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If mind transfer were possible, it might also help make intergalactic travel to, and colonization of, Earth-like alien planets possible. The fewer bodies on board, the smaller the payload, and the better the chances of success.” – DJ Pangburn


Iron Man Interface

“All I want for Christmas…is a pan-device clipboard standard paired with a sweet three-dimensional interface. In short, using Tony Stark’s (Iron Man) virtual desk to send links, images, and snarky GIFs across all my devices and all the conversations I’m holding on SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, email, Gchat, etc. The best way to get a photo from your phone to your laptop’s editing program is still through email, a process older than AOL. It’s an issue of paltry convenience, sure, but it’s also finalizing a standard for data transfer and streamlining workflow as our conversations and presentations increasingly turn to visual and video language. It’s also the aspiration for a supreme UX, the true NUI that someone can walk up to and use without knowing how nested OS file trees work, for instance.

We’ve seen apps start simplifying copy and paste across devices. Now let’s get to the true marriage of digital and tactile, unburdened by screens and corporate format restrictions. I’m not the only one eagerly waiting.” – David Lumb


DNA Music Storage

“I’d want a way to store all of my music in DNA storage. Harvard’s Wyss Institute was able to store 70 billion books into a single strand of DNA. If it can be done for books, why not music? It would be the ultimate portable MP3 player. I’ve been looking for a way to compile all of my music from disparate devices without having to use a cloud service or a bulky hard drive. It would literally fit into my pocket because, let’s face it, smartphones don’t fit into women’s jeans pockets. And the enormous storage space has so much potential.” – Tina Amirtha


The Ultimate Lie Detector

“An app for wearables which would use extremely accurate voice biometrics to pick up when someone you’re talking to is lying and maybe use haptic feedback to notify the user, not to mention hold the speaker accountable. It could be used for casual conversations, jury or judges, interrogation purposes or presidential speeches. Data would show honesty or integrity stats on the person speaking. I picked this because I was thinking of ways to oust people in important positions, like faulty foster parents who abuse their kids, and how that could be prevented in the interview process.” – Jennifer Elias


“You’ve Been Screwed” Dashboard

“My problem is I never want any technology… How about a quantified ‘How am I getting screwed?’ dashboard that shows what and how much of my data is being used, by which apps and websites and when, if the cable company is throttling my Internet, what unnecessary fees I may be incurring, etc. This tackles the problem of us not having metadata about our own metadata. Metametadata?” – Alex Pasternack

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Karma Contraption

“I wish we had a (compulsory) technology which would make it impossible to harm someone else without feeling the same pain you are inflicting. It would instantly put an end to most of the violence in the world and become the ultimate empathy aid. Things get tricky in a case like a breakup where it’s impossible to avoid hurting someone without harming yourself also or when your actions may be ultimately be for the best, and of course logistically it would be impossible to enforce, but such a technology would make tangible how interconnected we all really are.” – Ciara Byrne


A True Universal Translator

“Machine translation is getting better all the time, and we’re seeing the arrival of more and more tools in this area, such as third-party smartphone keyboards that translate as you write. What I’d love, though, would be a Star Trek-style Universal Translator, capable of turning spoken words into high-quality translation–possibly fed to you via earpiece. With virtual assistants getting better at voice recognition all the time, it seems like this technology should be in our near future. But it would be totally astonishing to see it become a reality.

I speak with people from all over the world for work, and the idea of not having to go through a human translator, or rely on a long, drawn-out email/Google Translate process would be liberating.” – Luke Dormehl

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About the author

Lapsed software developer, tech journalist, wannabe data scientist. Ciara has a B.Sc. in Computer Science and and M.Sc in Artificial Intelligence

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