Trust technology, it is only human

Tamapotchi note #4

Guess: What percentage of the e-mails you recieved this week were sent by a human? Now go check if you were right.

Today was my 9th anniversary working for Luminis. I know, because I never delete my e-mails. Like you, I was looking how many of my incoming messages were human (none, in my case), and I wanted to see when the computers had taken over. So I ended up at the bottom of my inbox: April 1st, 2006.


In 2006 roughly 90% of the e-mails I received were sent by humans. I do recieve a human e-mail message once in a while these days, but that share has shrunk to a sad 10%. There are two possible explanations for this phenomenon. The first is that humans have switched to other means of communication, like instant messaging, and e-mail territory has been claimed by marketing, social media and other web-enabled services. The second possible explanation is… no, I’m not that boring. Am I? (…silence…)

If you’ve read my previous notes about our Tamapotchi project, you know that I am in the process of designing a smart and connected device that helps you keep your plants in good shape. In my last note I suggested that our product might use some very human tactics for that, like making you feel bad about yourself when you’ve been neglecting your green friend. Who is always there for you when you need him. Was it not you who chose him to keep at your house, because he looked so nice? And now look at him! He’s dehydrated and hypothermic, and you don’t even notice… In short, our product is feminine.

One of the really fun things about tech these days is that we are slowly but surely allowing it to become personal. I don’t mean social media and dating services, we have already taken it a few steps further. My new smartphone recently praised me for exercising while I had never asked it to monitor my moves. And I didn’t mind. Apple apparently is all about health now too. Wearable technology, ubiquitous connectivity and voice control are drawing technology closer to ourselves. The internet of things, too, is about shaping technology to fit your preference, your context, your mood and your life.

I believe that we will allow technology to become even more personal. I foresee virtual therapists that coach you during a job interview or a first date. Empathic calendars that know what moment is appropriate to remind you about the birthday of your mother-in-law. Plant sensors that make us feel proud of our good care for our green, leafy friends. The Tamapotchi project is an experiment about that future. It might even send me human e-mails.

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