We’ve become so overexposed to technology that the extraordinary is now very, very ordinary
“Drones are done, Willard. No one is interested anymore. They’re not special – you can buy them in Maplin for goodness’ sake.” That’s what one senior TV exec said to me the other day, on returning from a major international TV festival in Cannes. She’s right. Nothing sold in Maplin is cool.
It wasn’t the case a year ago. In 2013, every TV network was scrambling to have a show using drone camerawork. You could show off this incredible footage of the Telegraph’s very own drone ace, Lewis Whyld, and get excited gasps from around any given table of jaded execs. Now, a drone is a totally ordinary part of any filming kit.
In a remarkably short time, drones have gone from an exciting technology to a completely mundane one. It reminds me a bit of the iPad – when I first showed up at a meeting with my own, it had roughly the same impact as bringing a newborn baby into a room. Now we have a pile of dusty old ones in the office, and it’s more remarkable if you don’t have a tablet than if you do.
We’ve reached a tipping point – overexposure to groundbreaking technology has made the extraordinary very ordinary . While working on my last piece about robots, one robot designer at the University of Leeds idly said to me as his creations scurried about, “We only call things robots when we’re afraid of them. A dishwasher is a robot in your home, but no one thinks it’s unusual.” The particular robot he was working on was one which aimed to help the disabled grab, lift and manipulate things. You could take one look at it and see how it would improve people’s quality of life. But it wasn’t a “wow” moment – just a helpful application of a proven technology.
Aside from the widely known military uses, drones have more ordinary, civilian uses that you probably realise. As I said, they’ve become a staple of filmmaking, and some other industries. All sorts of plans are in action to use drones for delivering things – everything from San Francisco’s “taco-copter” food delivery service, all the way through to Amazon’s infinitely more practical (but still not hugely practical) parcel dropping drone.
That of course presages the next stage of drone evolution – the point where drones move from being everyday objects to being annoying objects. It’s already happened in some places: noise pollution from drones is sufficiently bad in the Gaza Strip that there’s a word for being woken up by one passing overhead.
I, for one, look forward to the day I can write an article about being bothered by PPI claim drones…