Thursday, May 8, 2008
The next killer app.
When I was living on the Silicon Coast, I was fortunate enough to become fast friends with a brilliant computer scientist, I will, for the purposes of the post, refer to only as X. (The word brilliant—especially amongst Anglophiles is greatly overused. Many are called, X is chosen. His IQ, my guess, is in the 200s. I’ve actually seen him read two books simultaneously while speaking on the phone. In short, X possesses abilities that make Steven Hawking look like George W. Bush.)
Despite, or because of, his brilliance, X had washed out of all the West Coast tech companies—too innovative, too unbridled, too non-conventional, too experimental. Too willing and too able to say “fuck off” to a Jobs or a Gates.
About two weeks ago, I mentioned to X that I had a trip to Sao Paulo in the near future. “Sao Paulo?” he said. “I will send you something overnight delivery that will make your trip infinitely better.” The next day, a small apparatus arrived via FedEx. I followed X’s instructions and in short order molded the plastic a small chip was imbedded into to the upper part of my mouth. It fit well, like an orthodontic appliance.
I called X to explain—I could discern no functionality (though my teeth could use a little straightening.) “I call it “Zip Lip,” said X. “It instantaneously translates your spoken words into whatever language I program it to.”
Almost inconceivably, the device works. Even more inconceivably , it translates the words it “hears” (in its pre-programmed language) into your native tongue. So while my colleagues have been struggling to mince out the occasional “Obrigado,” I have been enjoying—reveling in, actually, my fluency.
“X,” I said when I called him again, “this is shocking.” X only laughed. “Just wait,” he said, “Just wait.”
“Zip Lip.” Remember the name. The new “killer app.”
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 7:38 AM