The Robot Commando Never Really Worked

Lately there has been a lot of discussion about doing away with passwords in favor of biometric recognition.  Last week Apple threw some fuel on the fire when it announced that the new iPhone would allow users to access it by fingerprint recognition.

A lot of people, including me, would love to see this happen. In general, we are bad at creating passwords. We use things that are simple and easy to remember. Unfortunately they are also usually readily identifiable through our publicly available data or our habits. So we get our bank accounts hacked, our cars ransacked or our networks compromised. And we really hate having to remember all of those passwords to just get through the day. So wouldn’t it be great if we could just use our fingerprint on everything?

Sure, but there are issues. To match a fingerprint, most devices use image enhancement and recognition techniques that haven’t really changed much in 30 years. Our computers can perform these techniques much faster, but the results aren’t that much better. It’s one thing if you can’t get into your phone, but what about not being able to access your bank account at an ATM while on travel because you cut your finger in the garden over the weekend, or you forgot to put on hand lotion this morning, or just ate a candy bar? We have a ways to go in a fundamental technology before this can happen, and just because we all really want it and Apple appears to have implemented it does not make it so. In my inner mind, I call this sort of thing the Robot Commando effect, the Robot Commando being a really wonderful robotic toy from my childhood that was supposed to respond to voice commands. It did not of course, despite the fact that I really wanted it to happen and the robot came with a perfectly good microphone you could yell “RIGHT…LEFT” into, and it worked just fine when the kid just like me on TV did it. The technology needed to make it happen did not exist.

At Oinkodomeo, we sometimes see Clients who have been dazzled by a real market need and a snazzy-looking toy that really doesn’t do anything to fill that need, although it looks cool. They sometimes waste a lot of effort building entire sales models or even business plans they cannot be talked out of because the market need really exists and they know it.

Successful companies need dreams, but they also need the practical foundation that makes the dream work.