Category Archives: Guest Post

The Tech Lover’s ‘Grand Tour’

holding up a smartphone camera

holding up a smartphone camera

Fonebank has picked out the best places to visit for those with a passion for consumer technology, looking to make the ultimate tech geek pilgrimage.

2066 Crist Drive, Los Altos, California

Perhaps the most famous garage in the world…surely the ultimate tech pilgrimage is to visit the dusty space where Steve Jobs and his chum, Steve Wosniak, prototyped the first Apple products. The suburban garage where the Apple magic first happened in the mid-70’s has since become a shrine to the Cult of Jobs, although Steve Wozniak maintains Apple’s first HQ was not Steve Jobs’ garage, as the urban legend goes, but his bedroom.

Shenzen, China

Shenzhen, in south-eastern China, is a modern megacity that links Hong Kong to China’s mainland and is considered by many to be the tech hardware capital of the world. In just 30 years, the city has been transformed by China’s economic boom from a sleepy fishing village into a towering technology metropolis of 15 million inhabitants with a global community of entrepreneurs, hackers, start-ups, developers and designers.

Shenzen is now abuzz with the world’s biggest tech companies and is the beating heart of China’s technology industry.

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway in Mountain View, Santa Clara County, California

Google’s headquarters has come a long way from its modest roots in a Menlo Park garage (what is it about global technology giants starting out in garages?) but the search company’s start-up spirit of innovation and creativity remains stronger than ever at their state-of-the art Mountain View campus.

Almost twenty years ago, Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergy Brin famously set out to organise the world’s information to make it accessible to everyone and change the way billions of people use technology. These lofty ambitions set Google on a path and a philosophy that now produces cutting-edge products such as Maps, Adwords and the ever-evolving internet search engine – and these are developed in the most creative office space in the world. Google employees can enjoy group fitness classes and coffee tasting courses, and whizz around the Googleplex from meeting to meeting on their very own gBike.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Post-Brexit vote in the UK, tech commentators were lining up to postulate on which major European city would dethrone London as the fintech capital of the world. Amsterdam received many people’s vote, as home to big banks ING and Rabobank and also the multichannel payment group Adyen, which is one of those companies that garners no mainstream press but helps some of the biggest companies on the planet, including Facebook, Netflix and Spotify, do business.

Amsterdam was actually once the financial capital of the world before London and New York stole the crown and was where the stock market was invented in 1602. New payment technologies like Bitcoin have a strong presence here with Bitpay’s HQ set amongst the famous concentric canals.

Boston Dynamics, 78 Fourth Avenue, Waltham, MA

When the fruits of Boston Dynamics’ labour became a YouTube ‘must see’ hit, two things became immediately clear: the Google-owned robotics firm was one of the most exciting companies on the planet, and robo-dogs will be in charge very soon….

Boston Dynamics began life as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where a group of like-minded tech bods first started developing robots which mimicked the motion of animals. The company’s extraordinary machines are breaking new ground in the world of robotics with real-world application of their designs surely just around the corner.

110 Fulbourn Road, Cambridge

Home to what is arguably the most important tech company in the world right now: ARM Holdings, the technological backbone to the consumer electronics industry, designing and manufacturing the microprocessor units which kit out the world’s bestselling smartphones, was recently purchased by Japan’s Softbank for £24 billion and is the most internationally-recognised firm within the so called ‘Cambridge Cluster’, the name given to the collection of high-tech businesses focusing on software, electronics and biotechnology with strong links to Cambridge University.

Rocket Road, Hawthorne, California

SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was created back in 2002 with the aim of revolutionizing (and commercializing) space technology. Its long-term plan, with the help of Elon Musk’s billions, is to enable people to live on other planets – quite a ballsy mission statement.

To date, SpaceX is the only private company ever to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in 2010.

 

Pokemon Go – The Next Frontier of Social Media

pokemon-go_87um

pokemon-go_87um

Every handful of years a cultural craze will sweep through our society and redefine our relationship with the world and how we interact with one another. Increasingly, these moments are being brought about by our obsession with smartphones and the opportunities for new experiences which these sophisticated gadgets provide.

Pokémon Go is the most recent of these cultural crazes to spring forth from our smartphones. It is the most successful mobile app ever, generating $500 million in customer spend from the Google Play Store and App Store in just 60 days and is being played by millions of people across the globe regardless of age, gender or social status. The Norwegian minister was even caught playing the addictive game during a defense hearing. Its impact has been wrestled with in the global mainstream media like a frisky Pikachu, with the seemingly inevitable hysteria over whether or not an activity which is in essence a video game is a harmless fad soon likely to pass, or a social evil wreaking untold ills on our children.

The debate has been fuelled in recent weeks with headline-grabbers such as the Pokémon player finding a body in a river whilst on the hunt for the famous critters and robbers using Pokémon creatures to bait victims. The game’s developer, Niantic, is even being sued because of the trouble blamed on the augmented reality game.

The next frontier for social

Pokémon Go’s huge commercial success is undoubtedly being driven by smartphone technology, but the foundation of Pokemon Go’s popularity is built on the very human desire for companionship and social interaction.

At first glance, Pokemon Go does not appear to be the most social of apps: groups of players wandering (often Zombie-like) through town centres or parks glued to their phones, apparently oblivious of the world passing them by. But, crucially, Pokemon Go is the first mobile app game of its kind which demands of its players not just a mobile internet connection but the need to physically be together to play. The point of the game is to go out together, in groups, and work together in a bid to increase your Pokémon collection.

Despite the augmented reality jiggery-pokery of Pokémon Go, the app is in many ways a hark back to the pre-video game era where children would be required to ‘make their own fun’, before the pixelated worlds of Super Mario, Sonic or Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider became so ingrained in our culture. Players are required to get off the couch, head out into the great outdoors with a bunch of buddies and get hunting for little monsters. It’s a mobile treasure hunt for the smartphone generation and, unlike the giant social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, this social platform is all about inter-human interaction, rather than just virtual friendships.

The return of face-to-face

Parents, of course, are delighted. Here is an app which gets their children off the sofa, meeting new people and dashing about working up a sweat chasing harmless pixel critters. And this parental nod of approval is getting developers and marketers licking their lips at the further potential of augmented reality software, with many tech commentators recognising that Pokemon Go might just be the killer application the world has been waiting for to kick-start the augmented reality genre and give tech flops like Google Glass a mainstream market.

Pokémon Go shows us that the digital world and human interaction are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, perhaps the one thing Pokemon Go has taught the tech community, is that our mobile phones and social media platforms can be used to nurture traditional, face-to-face relationships.