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.

Revisiting Google Glass – where is it now?


Anne says: Back in 2014 a crew from the Ripple Effect Group team participated in the first (and probably the only) Google Glass Meetup in Canberra. Read about our experiences and sketch notes from that day – it seems such a long time ago.

Since then Google Glass was confronted with a spectacular fall from popularity that saw it relegated to the back blocks of media attention. What happened to a device that had so much potential? Well, I was delighted to read these latest stories on the progress and transformation of Glass into a valuable workplace tool – NOT a fashion accessory.

After our personal exposure to Glass in 2014, I came away impressed and excited about the future of wearables. My vision (‘scuse the pun) was the potential in all the workplace contexts it has now evolved to support. The only addition that’s missing (or perhaps not reported) was in the medical sector, where there were some outstanding use cases advancing in surgical environments. (Maybe the robots have taken over that developing role?)

The future of wearables as a functional tool – not a fashion accessory, or a fitness tracker – are evident in the Glass 2 evolution. Let’s all remember that there’s many more ways to how we integrate wearables into our workplaces as productive, valuable and life saving devices.

Read  (Longer read) (Shorter version courtesy of the Washington Post)

Co-working spaces are catering to a more diverse crowd of small business owners, not just tech entrepreneurs

Nat says: A recent report on the Australian co-working industry, led by my PhD colleague Tim Mahlberg, has shown that there are more than 300 co-working spaces across the country. As discussed in the article, co-working spaces are no longer the CBD and tech-centric startup hubs they once were. Spaces are now found in all areas of the country and cater to a wide range of working professionals who seek a certain lifestyle and passion for a sense of community.

Co-working spaces go beyond simple “hot-desking” and the open plan work settings which many of us have become familiar with. They are places where people are welcomed and hosted, with regular social and learning events that engage members and their guests. This creates a real sense of community and belonging.

With most knowledge work being conducted ‘online’ or via digital means, being tied down to one physical work location makes increasingly less sense. One of the advantages of co-working locations is that they cater to the type of work that needs to be performed, as well as invite opportunities for networking and collaboration to occur outside of a particular workplace or even industry setting. Do you currently or have you ever worked in the co-working scene in Australia? Tell us your thoughts below!


Gamers promised better graphics thanks to nano technology breakthrough

Joel says: Gamers frustrated by sluggish graphics could welcome new nano technology from the Australian National University (ANU) that promises ultra-fast rendering on gaming consoles.

A team of scientists, currently based in Australia and Germany have managed to create a new tiny antenna that is 100 times thinner than a human hair that is capable of transmitting data at faster speeds which will drastically improve the way data and assets are processed for game consoles.

As games consoles’ graphics capabilities are limited by their current hardware and memory limitations, this new technology, if it works the way they expect will allow assets to be processed and rendered more efficiently which would open up the ability for game developers to push higher resolution assets to the screen for our video games.

Think of it as a small scale NBN coming to gaming machines. Professor Dragomir Neshev from ANU said “currently graphics on games were being ‘bottlenecked’ by the copper wires used to transmit the data”.

Check out the article to read about the new technology in further detail and to see which big companies are looking into optical solutions.


Amazon launches Spark, a ‘shoppable’ feed of stories and photos aimed at Prime members

“It (also) lays the groundwork for a social network that lives right on Amazon… now becoming a much more prominent part of the Amazon experience.”

Emilio says: I’ve always liked the word ‘spark’ – and the US’s largest online retailer who also happens to be the world’s fourth largest tech company by revenue, Amazon, is making me like their latest attempt at making their products more discoverable and ‘social’.

Whilst the company which prides itself with offering the “Earth’s Biggest Selection” is making value-for-money and online-shopping Aussies salivate with its imminent arrival in the country, Amazon this week rolled out ‘Spark’ to its US customer base – a sort of ingenious Instagram meets Pinterest feature on its mobile app.

What sparks my interest in ‘Spark’? A few things. Like Instagram and Pinterest, ‘Spark’ is a visual newsfeed of images and ideas relating to Amazon products, categorised by ‘interest’. Users choose their interests which would determine what they see on their feed.

It’s social as well: Users can post images and reviews of the things/ products they love, and others can like (‘smile’) and comment on the posts.

The best thing about Spark? Its ‘shoppable’ functionality which would take users directly to the product page with one click, all ready for them to purchase.

Inspiration, social, visual, ‘shoppable’… I think Amazon is onto something that would not just spark, but ignite, the online shopping experience with this one.


Google tackles terrorism

Jakkii says: Off the back of announcements earlier this year that tech giants were ‘teaming up to fight terrorism’, Google, via YouTube, has begun testing a redirection service it self-describes as ‘digital counter-terrorism.’ The service draws on expertise from Google’s own think tank Jigsaw, and aims to make ISIS propaganda videos difficult to find. As described on the service’s homepage:

“The Redirect Method uses Adwords targeting tools and curated YouTube videos uploaded by people all around the world to confront online radicalization. It focuses on the slice of ISIS’ audience that is most susceptible to its messaging, and redirects them towards curated YouTube videos debunking ISIS recruiting themes. This open methodology was developed from interviews with ISIS defectors, respects users’ privacy and can be deployed to tackle other types of violent recruiting discourses online.”

This is a fascinating experiment, but it should also raise some red flags as well as new questions about the extent of control of Google over the web and the information we are served. Google continues to dominate search and through its own algorithms (and advertising platforms) heavily influences the information we receive. We decide what to search, but it is Google who decides what results to serve and in which order we should receive them. These issues are current and complex; the rollout of a service that specifically redirects you away from content deemed unacceptable by the company to content it deems acceptable is troubling. On the surface the idea that this might help combat radicalisation and, in turn, terrorism, is clearly appealing. But it doesn’t take much imagination to consider the enormous can of worms such imposed censorship could have were it to be used more broadly.

Tech has great power to help us, but we must be careful how we wield that power – and be careful what we wish for. Alongside proposals from governments such as Australia’s that propose forcing tech companies to decrypt encrypted messaging, the need for vigilance and to fight for cyber civil liberties remains as important – and as complicated – as ever.


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