The rise of the machines

Anyone who has seen Terminator, or The Matrix, or any one of the countless imitators those movies has spawned, surely knows it’s only a matter of time before the machines we depend upon so much rise up and kill us, their human overlords. Before this happens, one of the requisite steps is the creation of artificial intelligence. When this is viable, the machines (or machine, if you prefer the Terminator doomsday scenario) will become self-aware and kill us all.  Armageddon may be just around the corner, thanks to recent technological advances, not least of which is Google Goggles.

Google Goggles is a new application available for Android phones that acts as a visual search tool. By pointing the phone’s camera at an object, you can search the Web for related topics.

I haven’t had a chance to play with this yet (my phone is something of an antique), but from all reports I’ve heard, it works surprisingly well.

What’s truly interesting to consider is all the doors that this type of device can open up. Forgot someone’s name? Do a quick search based on their picture. Want a recipe for a certain dish? Just point and click. Want to know where something was made? Just look it up.

For marketers the options are endless as well. By running in the background, a program like this could recognize where you are shopping or what you’re looking at and instantly pull up nearby places with similar options or better prices. While you’re looking at flat screen televisions in your local electronics store, your mobile device (it hardly seems fair to call them phones anymore), can pull up TV prices for all the stores in a three-mile radius. Why pay twice as much, when you can easily find the cheapest store in your area? It could honestly be the death of retail as we know it. People will likely still make some purchases based upon convenience and traditional sales factors, but devices like this will ensure that price is king.

Of course this isn’t all roses and puppy dogs; there are some drawbacks, rise of the machines aside :-). First is the astonishing lack of privacy that this creates. But then, in this age of information, privacy is primarily just a myth anyway.

Secondly the destruction of competition is a cause for concern. Small mom-and-pop stores are already over-matched when facing retail giants like Walmart and Best Buy. If you provide concrete evidence that their prices are significantly higher than their mega-competitors (as they surely are), they will be driven out of business. The spirit of entrepreneurialism (is that a real word?) will be gone. Of course, the exponential growth of technology will probably find a way around this. At least I hope it will.

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