Two Tech Innovations

From time to time we bring you news of technological developments that, though they have no current or even imminent application to law, are interesting in and of themselves. It’s also the case that today’s novelty can easily become tomorrow’s staple, and we like to do what we can to ensure that our readers are as quick off the blocks as everyone else when it comes to the adoption of nifty new apps and gear. (I understand that the reality where lawyers are concerned looks something like the reverse of the power law graph, and that the long tail of takeup precedes the peak of widespread practice. But we try.)

Today I’ve got two developments to share with you, one an application and the other a gadget.

The application is Snapchat. It’s an app for your smart phone, iOS or Android — sorry BlackBerry. And at the moment it seems to be aimed principally at teen texting. The notion is quite simple: you take a photo or a video with your smart phone, add a line of text perhaps, and send it to a friend (who also has the app). As soon as the recipient views the missive, a countdown begins, and the photo or video vanishes after a set (by you) number of seconds between 1 and 10. It is not saved on anyone’s server. The recipient might, if swift, take a screenshot; and if that happens Snapchat notifies the sender.

(Note that Facebook was so enamoured of this app that it cloned it under the name Poke. After a brief period of enthusiasm, Poke has dropped back to 36th place, leaving Snapchat at #4 in the App Store.)

Of course, not being a teen I’m really late to this party — already a billion images have been flipped this way. But not being a teen also means I have a robust, not to say archaic, interest in privacy, and I’m intrigued by the development of means of communication in which the message is truly ephemeral. Lawyers interested in confidentiality might be too.

Seems like a crazy leap from a sexting tool to secure off-the-record communication between people of affairs. And it probably is. But I think back to the dawn of Twitter, when, six years ago now, when I wrote about it on Slaw and was able to come up with only very few feeble uses for it by lawyers. So I’m not predicting here, simply pointing to something new.

The second innovation for today is the Leap Motion controller. It’s a device soon to be released, we’re promised, that lets you control your computer by moving your hands in the air. No latency, no keyboard or mouse, not even the need to touch a screen; simply gestures within “8 cubic feet” of space. And this for just under $70. Take a look at the video below to see it in action:

Clearly this will win the hearts — and hands — of gamers. Whether When lawyers will be waggling their fingers in front of their monitors, I wouldn’t like to predict. But then I didn’t predict all the swiping that lawyers currently engage in.


  1. Thanks Simon, My Leap is on pre-order! Merry New Year.