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The Melting Pot

A digital, cultural conversation

Airports are one of my favorite places in the world. I love the whispered interactions between people going different places, but essentially the same places: home, school, work, vacation, family. I just flew home and back for the holidays, spent a good amount of time in airports and realized the power behind a device in the Ronald Reagan Airport.

I walked by this interactive wall in the US Airways hallway that served as an advertisement for an energy-efficient company called Siemens and did a double-take.

right corner: houses that you must tap to reduce CO2 levels; left: the “start” page on the wall with a full-sized map; left top: directions for the game

             You press one of two scenarios and then the wall comes to life with houses consuming too much bad energy, so you have to tap them for the energy content to reduce down to a normal level. If you don’t get them down as quickly as you can, you get a memo telling you that you’ve failed. It’s like an iPhone game of Angry Birds, but on a jumbo screen, for the whole world to see.

It captured what I believe to be the future of technology – mobile inventions that are literally on-the-go and wholly surround the world around you. I think it’s the definition of being technological: living in a world where everything – from ceilings to windows to walls – is completely technologized. That’s what it means to be fully wired, and completely aware and in-check of your wiredness at all times.

What if our entire world was like this? I asked myself. Each step of the way is a large, interactive mobile wall. You can network on the wall, advertise, jot notes, make art, entertain, inform – the possibilities of the concept of being fully wired are limitless, and probably the way that the world is trending in the next few years. I can see it now – we’ve accomplished the mobile initiative of our devices, and it’s now time to achieve it one step further: become one with our environments and our devices.

Unfortunately, this stroke of advertising and conceptual genius went remarkably unnoticed by the passers-by of Ronald Reagan. Every now and then a toddler would touch it, only to be pulled away by their mothers immediately afterward. Or the curious businessman would look up from his mobile device to check out the wall, decide it to be lame and pass it by.

I wonder how many similar innovations go unnoticed on a day-to-day basis.

Think about it: we just passed the seven billion mark of people living on Earth. Let’s say that at least three billion people are capable innovators of those, in that they can function with devices and thrive in the world’s middle class. We should then have a plethora of new technological advents every single day to marvel and bask in.

But here we are, looking at just the mainstream devices that are perhaps overemphasized, leaving no room for the new developments to occur. Perhaps that interactive wall would be a hit in any other scenario, but in a world already wired to its mainstream device of choice, it goes simply unnoticed and rejected.

If we hope to make progress in our fields of technological advances, we need to embrace some of the more unconventional methods, or at least give them a chance. Mark Zuckerberg’s idea of Facemash and then Facebook certainly didn’t get popular by just going with the mainstream. People tried it and realized they enjoyed it, and it gave them what they needed.

The world is simply going to stagnate if we only revel in the glories of the efficiencies of Apple products. The beauty of technology is that it’s always changing, and it’s always unexpected. It’s funny that being mainstream is the opposite of being tech-savvy – the real tech gurus are the ones that are two steps ahead of everyone else.

It’s time for us all to be hipsters and go against the grain. Who knows – the next Facebook or Twitter could be waiting for us on an airport wall. It’ll be the next big thing – if people can put down their iPhones and give it a chance.

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