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AT LARGE: To cool, or not too cool?

AT LARGE: To cool, or not too cool?

I have a question. It relates to an ad campaign that's been running for (I think) a couple of months now, for LG Electronics. No, my question isn't "what does LG actually stand for", although I wouldn't mind a definitive answer. I think it might be "Lucky GoldStar", but I'm not sure. I am sure it's not "Life's Good". I've struggled with the broken English of LG's Web site, but to no avail.

In the TV ads for LG's product lineup, heartwarming pictures of human beings are juxtaposed with images of electronic gadgets, while a voice-over equates the features of the gadgets with the capabilities of the humans. To wit: "Eyes that can perceive more than a squillion colours" segues to an image of a (presumably highly capable) television set; "ears that can hear in the range of 20Hz to 20,000Hz" cuts to a hi-fi system. You get the picture.

The punch line at the end is that "when LG designs a product, we understand who we're designing it for". I'm misquoting the thing terribly, but the gist is there. The bit that gets me is that, just as the punch line is delivered, the product that appears on screen is an "Internet fridge". This makes no sense to me at all. I can understand that a videophile with highly acute vision will enjoy a top-end TV set. I can appreciate that the attuned ears of the serious music lover want, nay need, a seriously good sound system.

But my question is this: who needs an Internet fridge? For that matter, who wants an Internet fridge? When LG's engineers designed this product, who, or what, did they have in mind? What capability of a human being is matched by the features of this product? I suppose I do have days when I think it would be groovy to be able to surf the Web and snack on munchies at the same time, but I seriously don't think I should be given a device to enable me to do so.

(An aside: my parents bought a new fridge last year, their first for some decades. They wasted countless hours playing with the crushed-ice dispenser. I shudder to think what they would do with a Web browser.)I am reminded of a story I read recently about studies that are being conducted by the US Federal Government on the safety implications of electronic devices in cars. Studies on the use of mobile phones in cars have been going on for years, of course, but this study looks at some more recent innovations. Such as, for instance, computerised navigation systems, collision warning systems and (wonder of wonders) Internet terminals.

Now, anyone who managed to scrape through the 90s with more than a little of their brains intact knows that talking on the phone while driving is a hazard - even on a hands-free phone, your concentration is compromised. It seems to me blindingly obvious that an Internet terminal, which would necessarily require you to look away from the road, would be even more dangerous. Call me a luddite if you will, but I don't get any e-mail that's that urgent.

But apparently auto makers have conducted their own surveys and found that people can, quite happily, read the headings of their incoming e-mail off a dash-mounted screen and keep driving. Anything really important comes in, and you're then meant to pull over to read it - right.

The interesting bit of the survey is that, when three or more of these gadgets are being used at once, the net effect is incredibly dangerous. For instance, if your collision-warning system informs you that a car is about to appear from a side street and you have to take immediate action, and at the same time the computer beeps to say you have new mail, and then the phone rings, you're stuffed. Most people seem capable of ignoring the incoming e-mail, but the phone gets answered even as you brace for impact.

The problem is overload, according to the article - people can't process all that information at once. Useful information, such as directions or a warning against impending doom, is not properly filtered from useless information, such as "come and look at my XXX site with free passwords".

Before LG sells too many of its Internet fridges, it should spare a thought for the people to whom it will be peddling the product. Geeks, gadget freaks and the idle wealthy are all easily distracted. I can imagine people sitting in front of a fridge full of Tim Tams and being invited to join an online game of Quake III, and the consequences are too horrible to contemplate.

Matthew JC. Powell is going slowly insane. Anyone with true information pertaining to what LG stands for is encouraged to contact him at mjcpowell@ozemail.com.au


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