In conflict with the elephant refrigerator: 2-0 for the technology

In conflict with the elephant refrigerator: 2-0 for the technology

The refrigerator beeps and the driving assistant drives its own way. Technology that is supposed to make everyday life easier – but too often does the opposite.

Flat round device against purple-red gradient background

Looks so harmless – but it’s also smart home technology, namely Amazon’s Echo Photo: picture alliance/dpa|Britta Pedersen

Somewhere in the south of France things got uncomfortable. Not because of the thunderstorm looming on the horizon or the serpentine nausea. But because of the lane departure warning system. The road in the sparsely populated area was narrow and one lane, but two-way. If another car approached, you just had to drift to the right as far as necessary.

The problem: The rental car’s lane departure warning system had a different opinion. So: Oncoming traffic is coming, steer to the right – the lane departure warning system counteracts this. The other person honks, stronger steering to the right, the steering wheel actually gives in – but it beeps wildly from the dashboard.

Welcome to the world in which technical assistants are supposed to make our lives easier, safer and more pleasant. In which sensors and sometimes even cameras on and in electronic devices constantly scan the environment for this one, all-important question: Is everything exactly as it should be? Exactly how the people who designed this device imagine the world to be?

The stubborn lane departure warning system is not an isolated case. In the kitchen of a family friend, there is a refrigerator the size of a small elephant. Four people, many guests, huge weekly shopping. It takes a correspondingly long time to store vegetables and milk, cheese and ketchup, spreads and eggs in the depths of the device.

Unfortunately, the fridge seems to suffer from a perceptual disorder: unaware of its elephant dimensions, it thinks it’s a hotel room’s minibar, and when you open it you can only choose between peanuts with and without chocolate coating remains. In any case: the elephant fridge beeps. Well, you could say, at least it doesn’t trumpet, the developers have already done something right. But it beeps after standing open for about half a minute.

Sure, this is supposed to be a service that tells users that they forgot to close the refrigerator door and are about to explode their electricity bill. For those who have only made a quarter of their purchases during this time, however, this extra does not exactly contribute to a good relationship between people and technology.

The solution would be so simple: an off button. The driving assistant drives its own way? The cooker thinks nothing should stand on the surface between the hotplates and the smart washing machine would like more detergent? Off, off, off. All the sensors and warning tones can be annoying in other places. at Trucks before turning for example.

But what happens instead? The users have to arrange themselves somehow – and are looking for tricks to do so. Close the fridge, open it again? Aha, then he calms down for now. And in the south of France, the lane departure warning system could be appeased by braking beforehand. 2-0 for technology. again.

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