A ‘smart’ move: COVID forced us to embrace technology, and now I want more, more, more

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    “It’s time!” said Target when my order was ready for in-store pickup. “Your order at Scobey’s Pub and Grub is now ready,” said the text message when my food was waiting for me hot and fresh at the Inn’s curbside. Online ordering… It’s a wonderful thing, no? Who knew we’d be doing so much of it in 2020?

    Since the start of the pandemic, technology has forced its way into many lives that didn’t exactly embrace it before. More people are doing online orders and curbside pick-ups, they’re using Facebook Messenger, Google Duo, and other video chat options to visit with family and friends, they’re watching church and sports live-streamed on social media, some are attending doctor’s appointments via telehealth and then there’s Zoom. Zoom for work, Zoom for school, Zoom for holiday gatherings, Zoom for it all.

    Have you seen that video “Explaining the Pandemic to My Past Self” of the woman who went back in time to clue in her past self about what’s to come? The woman’s future self starts out with the “good news” that “things have never been better for climate change” then her past self brings up the Australian wildfires that she believes will be the “defining feature of 2020.” The woman’s future self blatantly disagrees and tells her past self to pull everything out of the stock market and “put money in Zoom”, “do a Costco run real quick”, and “maybe get a dog.” If only I could have gone back in time to tell my past self to put some money in Zoom. Or maybe even go back a month ago to dump some into GameStop or AMC.

    Technology has always been a big part of our house. Whenever something new comes out like the new iPhone, a new smart speaker, new smart lighting, or really anything to make life more convenient, it catches my eye. Wireless? Love it. Bluetooth capabilities? Yes, please. Easy enough for an 8-year-old to use? Even better. Do we buy it all? No. Do I want to try it all? Yes.

   Over the last handful of years we’ve tried to convert what we could of our home to a “smart” home. We’ve added smart lights, smart speakers, smart TVs, smart phones, smart watches, smart security cameras, smart car starters, a smart vacuum, a smart thermostat, a smart scale, a smart router, wireless chargers, cordless tools, streaming services for TV shows and movies, and anything else that’s affordable, has good reviews and that’s compatible with our other devices.

    Smart lights are probably my favorite of the “smart things” as they come in handy for all sorts of reasons. Carrying in loads of groceries and don’t want to put them down to turn on the lights? “Hey Google, turn on the kitchen lights.” Does your daughter need to go downstairs for a drink of water and is too scared to go by herself in the dark? “Hey Google, turn on the hallway light.” Finally ready for bed after a long day and, after wandering over to set your phone on the wireless charger, you notice how much closer you are to the bed than to the light switch and wonder if you even have enough energy to make it across the room to flip that switch? “Hey Google, turn off the bedroom light.” It might sound lazy, but it’s worth it.  

    Speaking of wireless chargers, I was fortunate enough to receive some products from Nomad Goods to try out and their wireless charger makes life so much easier. We have a bit of a brand struggle with smart phones in our house and instead of swapping cords and chargers from our favorite spot in the kitchen we now use the Nomad wireless charging stand whenever we need to give our phones a boost. Just set it down and walk away. It charges my iPhone super fast and I don’t even have to fuss with a cord. They have 15% off right now, too, if you sign up for email notifications. (Was that a plug? Maybe.)

    Circling back, is it hard getting used to having a smart home? Perhaps. If devices are voice-activated and have certain commands they follow with very specific language it can absolutely be frustrating. I admit sometimes my husband reminds me a little of Steve Carell in the opening few minutes of the movie “Irresistible” when his smart phone alarm’s going off, the smart speaker is broadcasting news that he doesn’t want to hear and he’s trying to turn them all off with his voice but he’s not using the right words to get them to do what he wants which leads to mass frustration. It’s kind of funny, but he doesn’t think so. My husband doesn’t think so either, but I’ll keep trying to convince him a smart home is a good thing.

    So for the people craving the “next best thing” in technology, what do we have to look forward to? What were tech people working on during the pandemic shutdowns besides COVID-19 related items like 3D printers for PPE, ultraviolet light decontamination robots and building entrance temperature scanners? (Don’t get me wrong, people should definitely keep working on COVID-19 related items. I’m focusing more on consumer products.) Will the next Apple Watch finally have a camera built in? Will phones ever truly be waterproof or drop-proof? Will we ever have augmented reality like the movie “Minority Report?” Will we ever get a “Rosie the Robot” like the Jetsons? Will we get to see flying cars in our lifetimes? I bet we will and I’ll be standing by waiting to try them all out. For now maybe I’ll just look into that voice-activated coffee maker to satisfy the tech cravings.

Jess Bengtson, Times Assistant Editor