Monday, March 26, 2012

Tacocopter? Yes, please

I occasionally speak to people who think that I'm too much of a critic, too much of a pessimist, a "downer", if you will. For what it's worth, I'm not really a natural pessimist, nor am I pessimistic about all things. I happen to think we live in an absolutely amazing time, where technological possibility is so incredible as to almost be overwhelming (I can communicate with somebody thousands of miles away, instantly, using only my thumbs! I can work from home, wherever I want home to be!), and the prospects for the future in some ways couldn't be brighter. I wouldn't trade being alive today for being alive in any other time--I like my technology too much.

It's just that I think that the existing economic and political paradigms that we've lived under for the past several decades are hopelessly broken in fundamental ways, and that these will need to be torn down (probably in a disorderly manner, because there's rarely any other way) in order for future generations to fully enjoy and appreciate the possibility that these technological advances afford. Furthermore, I think that such a collapse is not only necessary, but inevitable. Make sense? Alright, cool. Because this is freaking awesome.
The Internet is going wild for Tacocopter, perhaps the next great startup out of Silicon Valley, which boasts a business plan that combines four of the most prominent touchstones of modern America: tacos, helicopters, robots and laziness. 
Indeed, the concept behind Tacocopter is very simple, and very American: You order tacos on your smartphone and also beam in your GPS location information. Your order -- and your location -- are transmitted to an unmanned drone helicopter (grounded, near the kitchen where the tacos are made), and the tacocopter is then sent out with your food to find you and deliver your tacos to wherever you're standing. 
You pay online, so the tacos are simply dropped off at your feet by the drone helicopter, which then flies back to the restaurant to pick up its next order.
That... is... AWESOME. I want two chicken tacos, delivered by a robot helicopter, now. Oh, but of course, there's a catch:
Well, put down your smartphones, because here comes some bad news: The launch of Tacocopter... is being blocked by the U.S. government. 
"Current U.S. FAA regulations prevent ... using UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, like drones] for commercial purposes at the moment," [company cofounder Star] Simpson said over Gchat. "Honestly I think it's not totally unreasonable to regulate something as potentially dangerous as having flying robots slinging tacos over people's heads ... [O]n the other hand, it's a little bit ironic that that's the case in a country where you can be killed by drone with no judicial review." 
Simpson told HuffPost that because of the FAA's regulations -- as well as other minor problems, like navigating the treacherous terrain of an urban environment, keeping the food warm, finding a city map precise enough to avoid crashes 100 percent of the time, avoiding birds, balconies and telephone wires, delivering food to people indoors, delivering food to the right person, dealing with greedy humans who would just steal the Tacocopter as soon as it got to them, etc. -- the Tacocopter website exists more as a conversation starter about the future of food delivery (and delivery in general), as well as about the commercial uses of unmanned vehicles, than an actual startup plan or business.
Boooooo, government. To be fair, this is one area where I think the government has a right to be a little wary of what's being proposed, for the reasons that the cofounders enumerated. Still, I think this idea is awesome, and I want to see what other stuff people come up with using drone/robot technology (stuff like this, for example).

As I said before, I really couldn't be more excited to see what kind of stuff the next several decades bring in terms of technological advancement--if the last two decades are any guide, I literally can't even imagine what things will look like by 2035. I just hope we're all ready to embrace the changes that technology can so rapidly bring--this is no time to be clinging to old, broken paradigms, however good they may have been to us in the past. We need to change along with our technology, and those changes won't always be so easy.

[Huffington Post]

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