Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week
Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive.
Augmented reality – how far have we come?
Anne says: A recent article in Wired got me a tad excited – have we finally hit the tipping point with augmented reality (AR) and shifted across into the pragmatic, valuable use of AR in the workplace?
The product highlighted in the article is the “smart helmet” – the description reminded me of Superman – being able to see through walls! It’s an industrial application – a building site example – it allows you to view” the guts of a building before your eyes – structural framing, plumbing, water, electrical, networking cable” – fantastic!!
“It gives someone access to this world of information that is normally hidden,” says DAQRI CEO and Founder Brian Mullins. “In an industrial setting that can mean more efficiency, better safety, and making the right decisions at the right time. It’s all about registering real information in the world in a context that makes sense.”
The example traces the stages of construction and how the helmet can present appropriate data, in context, to the needs of various workers. The sophistication described feels almost like a sci-fi scene from a movie. However, this is now a realistic possibility. So when can we expect this to become mainstream, the norm across industrial contexts?
While I was reading this article, I was reminded of an article I had used in lectures – back in the early 2000s – to stimulate the imagination of my students. Sadly, it only exists in print (and I still had a copy), which I’ve now scanned (for personal use). In 2001, the article describes the extensive research that was producing virtual environments for immersive experiences. It talked about digital avatars, holographs, wearable computers, retinal scanning visors, and – wait for it – see-through walls!! Everything they were describing and experimenting with then, is pretty much what we’re still getting excited about now!
From 2001, Microvision’s Nomad retinal scanning device – market price US$10,0000.
The question has to be asked: What’s stopping us? Or why haven’t we moved beyond prototypes into production? This was 2001 – in technology terms – that’s a loooooong time!
I’m still excited by the Smart Helmet, but I’m equally disillusioned with the rate of progress.
Reference: The Future Training Room by Jeff Barbian, Training Magazine, September 2001, pp.40-45
Einstein scribbled his theory of happiness in place of a tip. It just sold for more than $1 million
Nat says: The man, the mystery, the greatest thinker of the 20th Century, has just had a 1922 scrap of his handwritten musings sell for more than $1 million dollars in Jerusalem.The writings were Einstein’s ‘tips’ (instead of a monetary tip whilst he was staying in a Japanese hotel) on how to lead a good life. Neither the buyer nor seller have been made public, but the seller is reported to be a relative of the person who received Einstein’s notes, with one reading:
A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.
I’m equally as interested in what Einstein says in his notes just as I am the fascination we have had, and still have, with Einstein in society. It seems that Einstein as a human being has both awed and perplexed us. There are even conspiracies that Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Marić, was behind his theory of relativity, as the original paper had both their names on it, and Marić herself was the only person to score higher on the University physics entry exam than Einstein. This was in a time, however, where women in science was still taboo. Do we glorify his brilliance unjustly?
Even after his death in 1955, Einstein’s brain was stolen by the on-call Pathologist Dr Thomas Harvey. Harvey illegally took Einstein’s brain, ‘sliced and diced’ it into 240 pieces, and sent samples of the brain to scientists all over the world for analysis. Despite the weirdness behind such brain-stealing, studies have shown that Einstein’s brain did in fact have some noticeable differences compared to the average Joe citizen brain (everyone else). It seems that Einstein’s science, the man behind the science, and our fascination with both, has remained in-tact since his death, as shown by the million-dollar purchase of Einstein’s scribbled notes. I find the man himself, and our obsession with him, just as fascinating as the theories Einstein had about the Universe, and his advice for living a ‘good life’.
There’s a war for your attention. And you’re probably losing it.
“The attention merchants are the businesses whose model is the resale of eyeballs. Normal businesses sell a product or a service. Attention merchants sell access to people’s minds.” – Tim Wu, Columbia Law School Professor
Emilio says: Are you afflicted with ‘distraction sickness’?
In our ‘always on’ era, unless you’ve deliberately opted not to have a mobile phone, a computer or a TV set, the answer would probably be yes. And in our modern society, this collective ailment is getting worse, claims author and Columbia Law School Professor, Tim Wu.
In his thought-stirring book ‘The Attention Merchants’, Wu exposes that in every moment of our waking existence, these merchants are hard at work, exposing us to a barrage of information to keep us amused, entertained and hooked. Whilst they have us all distracted and in a vulnerable state, they pounce on our consciousness with targeted messaging (ie, advertising) that we eventually believe and ‘buy’.
The most powerful distraction outlets of our time, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, operate in the same way. Attention-seeking content such as memes, photos, videos, games and links are all vying for our eyeballs and clicks, influencing our thought processes and preferences in subtle ways. As social media channels have evolved into paid platforms, no one can escape the ubiquity of the sponsored posts (ie, advertising).
Although the internet is the biggest playing field in current distraction tactics, Wu explains that this phenomenon of commodifying our attention actually started since the late 1800s with the invention of newspapers and tabloids, and the subsequent rise of mass media commercials. Back then, it was mass messaging; today, we grapple with highly targeted and personalised online banners and social media ads.
Regardless, Wu claims the business model remains – free diversion in exchange for a moment of our consideration which is then sold to the highest-bidding advertiser.
If we can’t give up our phones, social media or TV, ad blocking software might give us momentary reprieve – but Wu maintains the attention merchants are constantly looking for new ways to distract us. Perhaps it’s time we devise an ingenious way to distract them.
Why the TSA – yes, the one at the airport – is actually amazing at Instagram
Jakkii says: I love a good Instagram. I don’t go much on coffee photos – even if they are the most shared beverage on the platform. Instead I’m a bit of a beer geek, and so tend to spend my time sharing and viewing photos of beers. That’s what’s great about Instagram, though: sure you can share your breakfast, but you can also share glimpses of your day, share your interests, share your passions, and do it all through the very powerful format that is visual media.
And it’s not just for you and me and our next door neighbour’s cat: plenty of businesses are thriving on Instagram, and have been for some time now. Yet, fascinatingly, even here in 2017 with many demonstrable successes and some truly great content, many organisations are still so risk averse they won’t consider any social media – let alone something like Instagram. This, of course, is opposed to being risk aware, with guidlines, structure, risk mitigation and crisis plans in place, allowing businesses that do wade into social to do so more confidently.
Ultimately, if you’re not telling your story, you’re letting other people do it for you – are you sure you like what they’re going to say?
That’s just one reason seeing great social media by an entity like the TSA is so refreshing, and I just love that they’re using – and sharing – their photos to really tell their story while educating people at the same time. This article gives a great overview from the TSA’s social lead, Bob Burns, about how he manages their Instagram. It also comes with a nifty slideshow that shows a piece of Instagram content with brief ‘behind the scenes’ type caption. You can see more of the work from TSA on their Instagram account.
What do you think of their content? I’d love to hear your thoughts about how they’ve approached Instagram in the comments.
Bad Rabbit ransomware attack bites Europe
Joel says: Bad Rabbit, a ransomware infection thought to be a new variant of Petya, has apparently hit a number of organisations in Russia and Ukraine.
Kaspersky Lab researchers say the cryptography behind this ransomware is called Bad Rabbit; victims are sent to a page with the same title on Tor in order to pay a ransom of 0.05 Bitcoins ($286) to get access to their files back. The note also features a timer counting down from just over 41 hours, telling the user they need to pay within that time or face the ransom going up.
Researchers also note that Bad Rabbit uses attack methods “similar” to June’s Petya attack, but as of yet haven’t confirmed a link with the previous incident, or if it has the capability to spread as widely.
Bad Rabbit shares some similarities with Petya – the ransom note looks almost identical and it can also use SMB to propagate across the infected network. However, researchers say much of the code appears to have been rewritten in this case. Bad Rabbit also uses the Trojan-like Mimikatz tool to extract credentials from affected systems, something Petya didn’t do.
At this point, it’s too soon to be able to identify the culprit is behind the Bad Rabbit attack. But, whoever it is, they appear to be a fan of Game of Thrones: the code contains references to Viserion, Drogon, and Rhaegal, the dragons which feature in television series and the novels it is based on.