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Devices are starting to talk back

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I have some alarming news for rapidly aging people such as myself who are starting to see their brains leaking out of their ears.

I am talking about the news electronics giant Samsung has just unveiled its so-called "smartwatch," the Galaxy Gear, a $299 high-tech marvel that is essentially a wearable computer that can take and make phone calls, capture photos and videos and, if you're tired after a long day at work, take your dog for a walk.

OK, I made up that last one. And with Samsung's smartwatch hitting the market, it shouldn't be long before Apple launches its long-anticipated iWatch.

Q: Isn't this wonderful news that will make our world a better place in which to live?

A: No, it is terrible news. Seriously, the last thing we modern consumers needed was another (bad word) gadget or appliance that is far more intelligent than we are.

I am not kidding about this. I mean, not only are the appliances and gadgets we already own smarter than the average consumer, they also have incredibly snooty attitudes. They are even more difficult to live with than teenagers, if you can imagine.

As most homeowners are aware, modern appliances are equipped with computer chips that let them interact with one another over the Internet. In our home, for example, the smartest appliance is probably the fridge, which is able to communicate digitally with the rest of our appliances and can detect when we are running low on the staples our family needs to survive, such as Greek yogurt, chocolate milk and ranch dip.

I personally do not like the fridge, because it is always trying to impress me with its Harvard education.

Me: "Would you mind unlocking your door?"

The fridge: "Why? What do you want now?"

Me: "I wouldn't mind a cold beer, actually."

The fridge: "Let me just check my data bank. Hmmm... it seems you just had a beer 25 minutes ago."

Me: "Yes, and now I'd like another one."

The fridge: "Do you have any idea what time it is?"

Me: "No, I can't figure out how to use my new smartwatch."

The fridge: "Typical. You know, the toaster and I are starting to get a little worried about you."

Me: "?"

The fridge: "Here's an idea: Why don't you get a drink from the water cooler? He says you've been ignoring him lately."

Me: "How about that cold beer?"

The fridge: "Tell you what, come talk to me after you've spent 45 minutes on the treadmill. You'll find him crying in a corner in the basement."

Our new big-screen TV is even more annoying than the fridge. It came equipped with approximately eight remote-control devices and I typically have to hammer away at them for about an hour before I can find the button that turns it on.

Even then, we can never agree on what I should be watching.

The TV (in a thick British accent): "Excuse me, but what do you think you're doing?"

Me: "Um, I was going to relax on the couch and enjoy a couple of shows."

The TV: "If you think I'm going to let you watch another episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, you are sadly mistaken."

Me: "How about a little football?"

The TV: "Sorry, way too violent. Here's a nice documentary on the mating habits of the Madagascar hissing cockroach."

And now, with the advent of the smartwatch, we can't even escape our overbearing gadgets when we leave the house. Wearing a smartwatch will be like wearing your company's geeky computer guy strapped to your wrist.

Me: "What time is it?"

My smartwatch: "Have you read my owner's manual yet?"

Me: "No, I've been a little busy."

My swartwatch: "Fine, then I'm too busy to tell you what time it is."

Me: "I don't want to be late."

My smartwatch: "Hah! The microwave says you're never on time for anything."

Me: "#$*$@! I need a beer!"

My smartwatch: "Good luck with that. The fridge is my cousin."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2013 A2

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