Vivek Haldar

The Human Resolution Threshold

CES is upon us. And it is CEO after CEO blasting us with specs, specs, more specs, better specs, larger specs. More GB. More pixels. More more more!

I never thought I’d say this, but its exhausting. Even worse, it’s boring.

Seeing as I make my living in the field, this conundrum spurred some soul-searching in me. I don’t want to be the software engineer who bitches and moans about tech.

My first computer had a monochrome (green!) monitor with a resolution of 720x348 pixels. Moving up to 4-bit color was a huge step up. Fast forward to today, with millions of colors and resolution indistinguishable from natural surfaces, what remains for flat displays to accomplish? The next interesting thing to do is take displays to places they haven’t been to yet, like inside your eyes.

Once displays crossed the threshold of human resolution, they were essentially “done”.

Something similar has now happened with computers. For the vast majority of users, specs like amount of RAM and CPU speed simply don’t matter any more. At some level, even individual computers don’t matter any more. What’s more interesting is what you can build with giant warehouses full of them. Capabilities like Google Now and Siri (powered by warehouse computers) have pushed what we can do with phones more than a faster SnapDragon processor.

And that’s the source of my ennui with CES. A lot of what they’re showing is pushing past the human resolution threshold. More of more. We need to go to new places, even if it is with less.