At dinner with the kids last night, I noticed this thing at every table:
Basically, it's a touch screen wireless device with a credit card reader and ordering system built in. For the record, I've actually known about and seen these for several years now, lest you think I've been living under a rock. I suppose at one level, it's an interesting development — you can order from the table without interacting with waitstaff until the order is fulfilled, and you can pay, tip, and leave at your convenience without having to wait around. Kind of neat, right?
However... I noticed there was a camera on the top of the device, and I wondered if it also had a microphone. I suspect it did. I don't know if those things are active or not while you're sitting there eating and enjoying family time with your kids, or discussing sensitive topics with a coworker, or even talking trash about the restaurant or your waitstaff. But it may be worth consideration.
Also — here's this new gadget with a bright shiny screen, drawing kids' attention, mainly contributing toward the restaurant's efficiency and profit while maybe shaving a few minutes off the customers' time. And restaurant tables being small enough as it is, when it wasn't in use, it was more in the way than anything else.
Once the novelty wore off, I picked it up and faced the screen outward, away from the center of the table. It was still sort of in the way, but it was at least less distracting.
I'm on the fence about this thing. I totally get the usefulness of automating things a bit, sure, and after a long time staying away from self-checkout cash registers, I do use them occasionally now if I just have a few things. That's a different context though, because the payment and interaction with the automated aspect of the process is minimized. With the device sitting right at your table (arguably watching and listening, too), it's subtly demanding. "Here I am. Play a trivia game! Order another drink! Would you like a dessert? Here's tomorrow's weather." Hence why I turned it around. I had two offspring at the table with me, flesh and blood and present, and far more interesting than a piece of metal and plastic and silicon. They are much more deserving of my valuable time and attention.
Despite this... I don't think that kind of technology is going away. Further, I think as time goes on, it's going to creep deeper into our lives whether we like it or not. If companies are making money from it, I would guarantee it. It can be a good thing if we're careful, but the key to it is being careful. And given our history as a species, that's the part that actually scares me.