Thursday, January 07, 2010

Nerd Word of the Week: Blobject

The iPod family with, from the left to the rig...Image via Wikipedia
Blogject (n.) - A portmanteau of blob and object, a blobject is a household item or device distinguished by its smooth, rounded, almost seamless design. The iPod is a classic blobject, and its popularity has radically popularized the blobject design ethos. Blobjects owe their existence largely to computer-aided design and manufacturing, and you can see early inklings of its association with futurism in early 1970s sci-fi television and movies, where the smooth "plastic fantastic" designs of Logan's Run and its ilk took hold. This aesthetic was mainstreamed, arguably, by Star Trek: The Next Generation where rounded edges and buttonless interfaces were the norm. Everything was seamless, plastic, and disposable. In some ways, the steampunk movement arose as a repudiation of the blobjectivism of mainstream design, with the individualized, customized, constantly-tinkered-with and constantly maintained bulk and clatter of steampunk tech (and its associated DIY culture) rejecting the upgrade-every-year trendiness and assumed vacuousness of blobject ownership.

I bring it up because: I am presently at the Consumer Electronics Show, and though I wrote this entry before I left (Planning!) I fully expect CES to be dominated both by already know blobjects (Google's Nexus One) and speculation about possible future blobjects (Apple's iSlate tablet). It's just one more step towards an ability to instantly manufacture anything we can mock up in a CAD program -- hello 3D printing, which is already scheduled to be demo'd at this year's CES -- which is itself another increment on our journey towards Ray Kurzweil and Vernor Vinge's predicted techno-singularity. Just so long as the future has Wi-Fi, I'm cool.