Tech nous: Mutating Thumbs

I don’t know about you, but I get the distinct impression that the evolution of technology is accelerating rapidly.

I was reminded of this recently when I went to upgrade my computer. The amount of memory on my trusty Mitac PC was the equivalent to Casio’s latest Cassiopeia pocket manager, and the handheld’s processor is significantly faster.

Admittedly, my old computer was well past its use-by date, but it does serve as reminder of just how fast technology moves on, and how it waits for nobody.

Technology impacts on humans in so many ways, and, believe it or not, it can even affect our own physical evolution. Net guru Alex Garden, of internet consultancy Netinsites, reports that according to study carried out by the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit at England’s Warwick University, “the use of handheld technologies such as cellphones, GameBoys and computers, has caused physical mutation in the under-25s”. It seems that the thumbs of this younger generation have replaced their fingers as the hand’s most muscled and dexterous digit.

Research has also revealed that this “thumb tribe” is using its favourite digit for other tasks that have traditionally been the fingers’ domain, such as pointing at things or ringing doorbells. Do I detect slight snicker? Have you examined your son’s (or daughter’s) pinkies lately? My teenage son is PlayStation addict and his thumbs are positively muscle-bound!

Garden goes on to say that technology is also evolving the way we communicate and socialise. “You only have to look at the way that young people have taken to text messaging on mobile phones, and text-chat via the net, to see these changes in evidence,” he says.

And on the subject of text messaging, if you are concerned that it is destroying the English language, take heart in the imminent arrival of brand new technology launched jointly by Sony Ericsson, Vodafone, 3M and Esselte.

Products and services enabling “Anoto functionality” have been launched in Sweden, making it possible to digitally transmit handwritten notes as email, SMS, fax or digital copy directly to computer. Vodafone introduced the new Notera services in its GPRS network there, while Sony Ericsson supplied the digital pen (called “Chatpen”), and 3M and Esselte chipped in with the paper products.

How does it work? Anoto technology turns handwritten notes, doodles and sketches digital. pattern, almost invisible to the naked eye, is printed onto ordinary paper. digital pen reads the pattern and can thereby determine its position and copy the pen movement. The information can then, via Bluetooth communication node (eg mobile phone) be sent to any computer, mobile phone, PDA, fax or information bank.

Specific commands or functions can also be assigned to certain area of the paper, thanks to the Anoto pattern. This enables services such as retrieving information or placing an order directly from mail order publication, simply by using the pen.

Just think, with technology like this, handwriting will not become lost art after all, and we can all look forward to future without mutated thumbs.

From now on, when evaluating new technology, consider its impact on your body. We don’t want to mess around with human evolution now do we? M

Glenn Baker is editor of e.Office.
Email: [email protected]

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