East End Tech: Some Technologies Still Need Improving

The universal remote has room for improvement.
The universal remote has room for improvement.

We are living in a golden age of technology. Home is where the technology is. I officially declare it so.

The web has made it possible to work more efficiently and to entertain ourselves endlessly. We can watch TV, attend college, make music, make art, meet spouses, and even buy a car through digital technology. And thanks to smart phones and tablets, we can do this 24-7, whether we’re sitting at home or lying on the beach.

But technology ain’t perfect.

There are scores of gadgets that still need improving. Some have minor design flaws or compatibility issues that hold them back from greatness. Others are just plain stupid. I’ve put together a few examples. All the inventors, engineers, and dreamers out there, time to roll up your sleeves and build some better mousetraps!

Product 1: Universal Remote Control

Yes, I know there are hundreds of TV models out there, not to mention countless DVD players, game consoles, AV equipment and cable boxes. And yes, I get that all these devices require different compatibility standards and use varying infrared channels.

But let’s look at human behavior for a sec. Young or old, male or female, rapper or singer—every single person on this planet uses a remote control. It’s probably the single most ubiquitous gadget in our lives, which is both awesome and pathetic.

So why has it been so difficult for a company to pull all these pieces of hardware into a single remote control that is both easy to use and costs less than $5,000? I thought I had found the cure with one recent model, but it keeps breaking and won’t charge properly. Even the most expensive units often suffer from complicated programming and bad logic.

If there are any disgruntled Apple engineers among my throngs of readers, please quit today, cash in your stock and solve this problem for us immediately. The world will thank you for it.

Product 2: Earbuds

The headphone market is exploding almost as quickly as our eardrums. Spurred on by Dr. Dre, an entire industry has sprung up, offering endless options of cool, colorful and really expensive headsets.

So why are my earbuds still so crappy?

Believe me, I’ve tried them all. Wireless headphones are a cool concept, and they sound great. But they’re way too bulky for exercising, and anyone over 28 who wears them looks like they’re pretending to be a college DJ. Sorry. If I want to feel old I can just look in the mirror or take a yoga class.

How about those so-called “high end” earbuds? You know, the ones with the custom plugs that allegedly fit perfectly inside your ears? Not so perfect. In the past 18 months I’ve tried three different models at different price points. All of them suffer from the same problems: crappy sound, and they invariably slip out of my ears when walking. Don’t even think about jogging.

Guess what? Despite billions of dollars invested and spent, and thousands of new products on the market, Apple’s simple earbuds are still the best option around, in my view. Someone needs to figure this out.

Product 3: Any Blackberry

That was a low blow. Apologies to the 12 people out there still using RIM devices.

While we’re on the topic of phones, here’s something that needs improving: cordless phone systems for the home. Like earbuds, I feel like I’ve tried them all. Different brands, different systems, same results. Call quality is mediocre, answering machines kind of work—but the handsets constantly lose their dial tone and require frequent battery swapping and re-connecting. Just a big mess.

Maybe it’s a demand issue; consumers already use their smart phones for everything else, so maybe there’s no demand for a better home cordless system. But if someone could figure out how to make mine work, they would have a customer for life.

And that’s got to be worth something, right?

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