The Free Press, Mankato, MN


December 5, 2013

Our View:

Why It Matters: From drones to smart bras, technology figures to continue to reshape our lives.

The one thing we can be assured of in today’s economy is that technology is continuing to change the workplace.

Three news items this week perhaps give us a glimpse of what lies ahead.

n Amazon revealed plans to create a delivery force of unmanned drones.

n Applebee’s, the nation’s largest casual dining chain, announced it will put tablets at every table in its restaurants, at which customers will place orders, pay their bills and even (for a price) play games.

n Microsoft has developed a prototype bra that monitors its wearer’s vital signs and alerts her when she is “stress eating.”

Of the three, only the restaurant tablets are a here-and-now thing. Both Applebee’s and Chili’s have been testing the concept, and the early returns apparently find that the tablets are driving up the sales of appetizers and desserts.

Applebee’s says it won’t reduce wait staff as a result of the tablets, and for now diners will still order their entrees through living, breathing humans, but it is presumably a matter of time before the tablets take control of the full ordering process, and the servers who remain will be limited to carrying plates.

Unless, of course, the drones take that chore over.

Sunday’s “60 Minutes” story on Amazon and its scheme for an army of drone deliverers touched off a social media sensation, with the public considering the idea that the same technology used to deliver warheads to shacks in the Pakistani hinterlands might soon be used to deliver a pair of slacks to your house.

We speculate over such details as: Will the drone just drop the box on your doorstep or ring your doorbell? Will it buzz your apartment for admission and ride up the elevator?

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