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Face down in a Shoreditch gutter: Attack of the kickstarting hipster

The PC doctor will see (in) you now...

By Alistair Dabbs, 17 Mar 2017

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I have taken it all off. Would you like to join me? Loosen those straps and let it all slip onto the floor. You might feel naked and not a little bit exposed but no one is watching, I assure you.

No really, now that you have removed your wearable tech, this will be the first time for ages that your every move is not being tracked by the shadowy forces of evil. At last you have freedom of movement – in every sense.

Last week, I was impressed with the latest wave of wearable devices. This week, I am convinced they are a waste of my precious limb real estate.

What set me off was the tapdo, a soon-to-be-crowdfunded portable, app-configured trigger button.

Basically, a bunch of youngsters from Muenster in Germany came up with a way of persuading a small fingerprint reader to recognise prints at a variety of angles as well as other finger segments as unique signatures. You could then apply different parts of your hand to the reader pad to wirelessly control, say, the volume on your hi-fi, the channel on your TV, the lighting in your home and so on. Not just one of these but all of them.

And how does the tapdo make itself instantly available to the user? That’s right: you strap it on your wrist like every other bloody wearable.

If I was to agree to tie every device that was offered to me around my wrist, I would be wearing 17 mutually incompatible strap-ons. They’d run up both arms to the elbow, plus a couple around my ankles for good measure.

I’d feel like an Asbo perp on day-release. I’d look like a cross between Mad Max and a Soho spiv.

“Psst. Wanna buy a heart-rate monitor, guv? Now, this strap here is high-tensile steel and it'd take you ten minutes to hack through it. If you're lucky, you could hack through your ankle in five minutes etc.”

Besides, if I wore the tapdo on my wrist, I could only use it with the other hand. Brilliant: it’s a finger-activated device that’s impossible to reach with half of your digits.

What turned me off wearables completely, though, was the Hushme – a product that looks like a light-hearted tech spoof but turns out to be real.

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Just picture me hobbling down the street, scores of health trackers rattling up and down my arms and clanking around my ankles, massive hideous headphones squeezing my ears flat, and the rest of my body wired up like a cheap Cyberman cosplayer tailored at a Maplin’s.

In the early hours of the morning, the police will discover my lifeless body face-down in a Shoreditch gutter, fingers crushed as the result of a bizarre and horrific tapdo accident, smoke billowing from my armpits due to a shorting blood pressure monitor that slipped, and sparks still showering from my groin where a mischievous Kickstarting hipster had installed a Hive-enabled vaginal steamer as a form of guerrilla disruption.

Official cause of death: Misadventure (strangled by my own Hushme).

I suppose what I really wish for is for all this gadgetry to be miniaturised and mounted internally where it won’t get in the way. And that means a bit of the old brain salad surgery.

It’ll work for you, it works for me.

Surgically implanted digital enhancement looks and sounds absolutely appalling but might just be the best thing ever – I can’t decide.

In other words, it’s the IoT equivalent of Starcrash.

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The only thing about the surgical approach that bothers me is the rapid and relentless upgrade cycle. As you know, frequent upgrades are a deliberate policy for the purpose of pumping profit rather than an inevitable side-effect of technological development.

And the only thing that really bothers me about Starcrash is how the laser guns make a sound like someone climbing a staircase while wearing Primark underpants.

Anyway, who’d be mad enough to have gadgetry surgically installed into their bodies when it is certain to be out of date within six months and wholly obsolete after 18? You could extend its working life if you could update the firmware, perhaps, but sod’s law dictates that the wireless connection will break down halfway through. Then what will you do – try to turn it off and back on again when it’s buried an inch below the surface of your skin?

The police will inevitably find your body face-down alongside mine in that Shoreditch ditch. Yours might be unencumbered by external gadgetry but it will be covered head-to-foot in vicious bruises. Coroner’s report: poked himself to death trying to locate 17 subcutanous restart buttons.

I always said you had a chip on your shoulder. Kuh-rist, I’m so fucking hilarious.

No, I much prefer the sci-fi nonsense of injecting nanobots into one’s bloodstream. This presumes you could always flush them out if they go bad. Mind you, your liver will probably have done that already: that’s what it’s for.

Even if nanobots worked, I am reminded of a recent Judge Dredd story in which a doctor develops an anti-ageing cream that is so effective he is forced to invent a necrotic skin disease to counter it, thereby ensuring customers keep coming back. A bio-tech manufacturer would surely think of a way to force customers into upgrading their nanobots regularly, whether they wanted to or not.

Yikes, I’d better strap those fitness trackers back on. I don’t fancy either the knife or the needle just to count 10,000 flipping steps. I’d rather count them silently in my unprobed, unscalpeled head.

Brain rot? Goodness me, no thanks.

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Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He is slightly intrigued by a smartwatch he saw at last week’s WTS that is apparently capable of tracking every minute detail of his metabolism merely by sitting strapped against his wrist. He would even consider buying one – if it didn’t look like a rusty robotic scab the size of a tin of Golden Virginia.

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