The USB Lego, bluetooth coffee cups and connected cats of Computex 2015

The cloud's got consumer tech in a nasty tangle


Taiwan's technology industry likes to position the annual Computex expo as the week in which it shows off its ingenuity to the world.

This year's show might just have shown that Taiwan - and the rest of us - are in a bit of a rut.

Last year, I couldn't move at Computex without stumbling over a booth offering a zillion variations on USB memory sticks. This year the ubiquitous items are USB batteries for any conceivable situation, chargers for anything capable of conveying an electron and brackets to hold it all in place. All in designer colours, too, so that technology becomes part of your lifestyle.

To me it's all symptomatic of the shift to the cloud: in past years we needed to carry content around with us. Now we need the power to keep connected all day to access content stored elsewhere.

Last year's endless USB sticks have therefore become this year's USB power ports for your car in any number of shapes and colours.

Until someone nails battery life and/or power consumption in mobile devices, I suspect we'll be enduring the resulting tangle of cables. For now, Taiwan's finest are trying to at least make the tangle bearable.

Exhibit A for that argument is this LEGO-fied battery designed to be plugged into the mains so you can pop it on the breakfast or coffee table and recharge stuff while you eat or take in some tellie. The designers of this creation not only borrowed Lego's stud size, they developed bricks that convey power into USB ports. The idea seems to be that you'll build something out of Lego on top of the power brick, to make it less obtrusive. Or more fun. Or something.

USB lego charger

If you must have a tangle, make it a LEGO tangle

Another trend on the show floor was USB chargers with matching accessories. Quite a few outfits sold big batteries in attractive pastel colours, plus fans or lights to match. The latter came on bendy stems so they could be contorted to send air or photons your way. The idea seems to be that once you have a USB station on a surface you've already sacrificed a power outlet so you'd better make the most of it.

And why do we need so many USB outlets?

Because the industry wants to sell you all manner of USB-powered tat, with speakers again a favourite at this year's Computex

Bluetooth coffee speaker

2015's Bluetooth speakers meet 1975's Mug tree

This specimen is cruelly practical: by popping a speaker into a faux coffee cup the manufacturers bring music to your kitchen. They also tease the possibility of anti-gravity coffee, which – let's face it – needs to exist.

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