Addicted to novelty since 2001

Technology demo videos that take my breath away

Every so often, I see a video, usually from a research lab, that demonstrates some new technology. It’s typically kind of mundane, with banal camera work, titles from Windows Movie Maker and monotone, academic narration.

And yet it feels like I’m watching science fiction. I experience some combination of awe and creepiness, like I’m peeking into the future. I usually utter “holy crap” under my breath.

I’ve probably reacted this way to dozens of technology demo videos, but these are a few that stand out in my mind. The first one seems totally ordinary in 2012, but it blew my mind in 2006 when Sun Microsystems’ Johnathan Schwartz flipped over a desktop window (it’s at about 3:00–listen to the audience’s reaction). “What?” I thought. “Windows have backs?”

I expect that by now, we’ve all seen the footage of Boston Dynamic’s BigDog robot from 2008. It’s the first time that I ever saw a mobile robot that didn’t seem absurdly frail and delicate, as if it might tip over at any moment. In this video, a man actually shoves the robot with his foot, and the thing staggers but recovers.

The latest example of an awe-inspiring tech demo comes via Jeremiah Owyang on Google+. Touche demonstrates pretty fascinating new frontiers in touch interaction with objects. My favourite bit is when we see a guy changing songs and volume on his music player simply by making gestures with his hands and arms. It’s like we’re teaching objects sign language.