The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is reporting on Techfest, a chance for 400 Microsoft Research scientists to show off 150 achievements, such as the network-enabled bear:
"... the ultimate vision is to have the stuffed animal interact with a child, doing such things as playing games and reading stories. Because the bear is on a network, a parent could also use it to interact with a child remotely -- communicating or even taking snapshots through an embedded camera."
Now, that is a scary vision. The world's smartest scientists (as Microsoft likes to boast) think it be great to:
1. Kill off children's imaginations.
2. Make parents even more distant from their children.
3. Use stuffed animals to photograph children.
We take our children to Galinano Island off the West Coast of British Columbia, a couple of times a year. One of my teen-age daughters always remarks: "There's nothing here." [By that she means no malls, no computers, no MS Messenger, not even a telephone -- just a small cabin, trailed forests, sandstone cliffs, and debris-strewn beaches.] "So how come we have so much fun?" she wonders.
That's my vision: parents spending more time with their children, who rely on their imaginations to have fun from "nothing."
Microsoft spends billions on research each year. What comes of it? Clippy. How about something as simple as a word processor that can switch two clauses in a compound sentence?
Don't get me started in Microsoft wanting to network household appliances. I can imagine coming home to a fully thawed freezer because it needed to be rebooted hours earlier. Who cares if I have to go to the computer in the den, boot it up, load the appliance network software -- to find out how much longer the clothes dryer's going to take. Our dryer buzzes when it's done, loud enough to be heard throughout the entire house.
Or a fridge that tells me I'm low on milk through invasive RFI tags? It's bad enough that my printer tells me it's low on ink fives months before it actually runs out. It's low on ink when the page is printed badly; the fridge is low on milk when the carton is empty.
Teddy bears to take remote photos. Networked appliances to tell me what I'm not interested in. Sheesh! That's not vision.