Technology is running amok, and somebody needs to do whatever it is people do when amok is running. I dunno -- get a mop?
Whatever the technique, we need to do something right away because things are out of control. To support my claim, I offer as evidence a jigsaw puzzle that recently came into my possession.
As one might imagine, a jigsaw puzzle is typically one of the lowest-tech items on the face of the earth, second only to, I dunno, a rock. As well it should be. That's the beauty of it. It's a pleasant activity that doesn't even require batteries.
Ah, but this particular puzzle -- a product of our sophisticated, highly developed, techno-driven, lastest-fad-riding civilization -- came complete with a free app download with which one might activate (cue the clap of thunder here) "augmented reality."
Let me step back for a moment. You see, Santa, or one of his agents, traditionally leaves a jigsaw puzzle for me under the tree, and this year was no exception. I received and subsequently completed a really difficult one featuring a Thomas Kinkade painting with a seemingly innocuous little cottage and flowers and bushes, which turned out to be really evil because 90 percent of the pieces were nearly identical, thus resulting in multiple utterances of words like "criminy" and "%#*%^" and later a trip to the garage to get a hammer, just in case. This was all totally normal in traditional puzzle-playing reality.
Piece be with you
During this time, I discovered that my niece-in-law, Naomi, also has a love of jigsaw puzzles and had also received one for Christmas. We came up with the idea of the Great Puzzle Exchange in which, after completion, I would send her my "%*#&%^" Kinkade puzzle, and she would mail me hers, which turned out to be a 1,000-piece scene of "African Animals." It arrived last week with Naomi's caveat that Butchie -- a part dachshund, part puzzle-eating monster -- had ravaged several of the pieces, digesting at least three and mangling two others beyond recognition. Again, totally normal.
What was startling, though, was that this particular jigsaw came with instructions in six different languages on how to use your iPhone or iPad to engage video animation and "bring your puzzle to life!"
That was a little frightening. Would the elephants and zebras in this pastoral scene spring off the picture, Jumanji-style, and stampede through the living room with Robin Williams close on their heels?
It was also a little humbling. I mean, gee, I did not know I needed such an application and that my puzzling experience has apparently been sorely subpar all these years. Fortunately, the benevolent puzzle-marketing people of this world recognized my plight and decided to boldly apply high-technology where no high technology had gone before.
So I put the puzzle together -- well, as far as it would go. A piece of the sky had indeed been sucked into the black hole of Butchie's gullet, as had a portion of a zebra's head and some grassland. It's a little unfulfilling to "complete" a puzzle known to be missing some pieces. But it was still a very nice scene.
And then I tried the app. I downloaded it on our iPad, held the camera about 12 inches away from the puzzle, as instructed, and pointed it at the rhino. I did so with enthusiasm, eager to see perhaps a 3-D beam leap from the iPad and invigorate the animals and cause them to dance around in some sort of a holographic hoedown.
This did not happen. Instead, all I got was a little 10-second video popping up on my mobile device. It was a clip of a rhino trotting around in the African bush. Wow. I mean, really -- wow. It is unclear how reality was augmented in this situation. I mean, the video was real. The puzzle was real. I am real, as far as I know.
The reality is: No one needs this! There's such a thing as TV and the Internet and even the nonaugmented reality of zoos. We all have seen animals actually "moving" at some point or another.
Oh, come on, you say, it's just for kids. Well, kids don't need this either. Maybe if the kids were from the 1800s, this would be awesome, like magic. But children of the 21st century are too busy downloading schematics for robotic rhinos and plotting to take over the world to care about 10 seconds of video on a jigsaw puzzle.
Yes, if necessity is the mother of invention, then unnecessary inventions must be the spawn of marketing execs with nothing better to do. Maybe their next app will augment the reality of, I dunno, a rock.