Forget War and Surveillance, Drones Have Better Things to Do
A woman is walking alone to the subway after meeting a friend for dinner in an unfamiliar neighborhood. She is slightly lost and staring down at a slow-to-load map on her iPhone, trying to figure out which way to turn. Her eyes are trained on the screen glowing in her palm as she approaches a busy intersection, seemingly unaware of the cars speeding around her.
Now imagine that same scenario but instead of staring down at a phone, the woman is walking briskly toward a train station, eyes focused on the street ahead. A few paces ahead of her, a winged electronic device only slightly larger than a paper airplane flies toward the station too. After a few minutes, the woman reaches her destination and the device descends, helicopter wings softly whirring to a closed position. She places the device in her purse and takes out a MetroCard.
In 2007, it was easy enough to scoff when Steve Jobs called his first iPhone a “revolutionary and magical” product that would irrevocably change the way we live.
Seven years and many billion in iPhone sales later, it’s safe to say that those who dismissed Jobs misunderstood the point of Apple’s seductive device — more wearable information network than phone. Smartphones have transformed our basic human operations, from the way we communicate and navigate our daily travels to the way we meet our romantic partners, monitor our diet and get where we are going.
Smartphones are reshaping how we interact with cities on a structural level too. We have recorders with us to capture interactions with police and apps to hail a cab or let us know when the bus is coming. The next seismic shift is coming with the impending legalization of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone — the smartphone’s smarter autonomous cousin.