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

Did you hear the one about…. Yanny vs Laurel?

Anne says: Apologies in advance – I’m taking one for the team here – someone had to post something about this week’s viral meme. In case you haven’t come across it (where have you been??) – there’s an audio recording going around all the social sites and even mainstream media. It says: Yanny… or Laurel… Seriously – listen to it. I hear Yanny. I’ve tried sooo hard to hear Laurel: I’ve used different speakers, headphones, changed the balance of the audio and.. I still hear Yanny! Apparently, that’s the wrong answer – it was originally recorded by an opera singer using the international phonetic alphabet for for the word “laurel” – yes, the one worn on your head, a wrath of laurel leaves! But I digress, this is all about how can some people hear Yanny and some people hear Laurel?

The scientists have all jumped in and explained it in technical auditory terms (you can read about that if you like) – but I’m still hearing Yanny!! What seems to be challenging people is what appears to be an enormous differences in the words. How could I possibly confuse them? And most commonly, what else am I not hearing correctly? Or am I interpreting the sounds I hear based on my context or my headphones or my language?

There are so many questions that are puzzling people. Remember the dress? The blue and black versus the white and gold dress – we actually accepted the explanations for this readily, argued with a few people and moved on. But not Yanny and Laurel – I think they’re going to torment us for quite a while.

In the meantime – you can read more about it in the article, the history of who first posted it, how it went viral, and how it was first recorded by a human (not a robot as was initially reported), and of course, the scientific explanations of auditory perceptions – while I’m still determined to hear Laurel and will spend far too much time tweaking my various devices in the process.

As Macbeth said: Things are not always what they seem!


Training for an optimistic brain

illustration of stick figure person scratching their head with a speech bubble. the speech bubble contains green plus signs to represent positive thinking.

Image source:

Helen says: I came across an old TED Talk, The happy secret to better work by psychologist Shawn Achor, who teaches positive psychology. He believes society’s idea of working hard to succeed to achieve happiness is flawed. He points out that as success is achieved, we typically raise the bar (to get even better grades, more sales or the next promotion) and by shifting the goal posts we keep happiness just out of reach.

Shawn suggests that reversing the formula for happiness and success would result in better outcomes for individuals and society. He presents some interesting statistics on success and says the brain works better positive than it does in a negative, neutral or stressed state. Heightened dopamine levels (experienced when happy) turn on the learning centres in the brain allowing it to work harder, faster and more intelligently.

What interested me are his challenges to train our brain and rewire it to work more optimistically by:

  • Thinking of 3 new things each day that you are grateful for – your brain will start to look for the positives
  • Journaling something positive that happened to you today – to relive it
  • Exercise – to teach your brain that what you do matters
  • Meditate – to help you focus on one task at hand and settle the busy mind
  • Do a random act of kindness every day

If you try this for two minutes a day, 21 days in a row, Shawn believes you can retrain your brain, create positivity and reverse the formula for success. I might give it a crack and report back…


Subcutaneous Fitbits? These cows are modelling the tracking technology of the future

Nat says: A few years ago we had the internet of cows. Now it appears we have cows in Utah wearing Fitbits: the first cows to test “EmbediVet”, an under-the-skin tracker that aims to capture the same data about cows that:

“… are typically done today just by watching and waiting but are difficult to spot when you’ve got hundreds or thousands of animals to keep an eye on.”

However, tracking devices for animals are nothing new. A tracking device being implanted under animal skin and capturing more data is however a new progression in the era of farming.

As stated in the article, three cows have had two data sensors placed in the lower side of their jaw, and one has been placed between their ribs. Given that this is a new type of cow monitoring, so to speak, the researchers are somewhat experimenting with where to best place the trackers and how to analyse the data they get back, such as chewing behaviours and digestive activity.

What I find most interesting, however, is that this technology was first tested on a human. The rise of the “bio-hacker” seems to be more common as people seek to push the technological boundary and more readily blur the lines between humans who use technology versus humans who are partially comprised of technology (a cyborg reality!). Yet this progression should not surprise us at all, because it’s something we as humans have always done — we’ve always built upon our technologies, which is the very thing that allows us to change the scenery of the world and challenge the concept for our very being in the world.

In 20 years from now, chip-implanted AI-cows might be the norm, and we as humans might be walking around wearing our own chip under our skin.


High School eSports League: How gaming is changing the modern-day classroom

Joel says: A few weeks ago, Helen shared an article that asked “are eSports sports?” We saw in it that eSports are massively popular in many countries in the world, but down here in Australia eSports are still only followed passionately by a very small, very niche audience. Yet it’s looking like that won’t be the case for long, as day by day eSports gains more and more traction here, and with traditional sports clubs and schools getting involved it can only continue to get bigger – hopefully to the point where it will be aired and enjoyed by millions on national television alongside traditional sports.

Helping the cause is Adelaide teacher Toby Fogarty who is using video games to re-engage with students.

The rise of esports in Australia is now influencing the classroom, with courses and subjects beginning to gain recognition — and realistic career paths being created. He has seen gaming in the classroom bring students back from “almost dropping out, to completing their SACE”.

Mr Fogarty has been involved in the development of a course that uses gaming and game design to keep students engaged and could potentially lead them into an emerging career path in the near future.

Mr Fogarty said the course in Adelaide aimed to help re-engage young adults with further learning, and said gaming was an industry which the younger generation could relate to.

“It’s a common language for us in class,” he said.

Students from the academy in Adelaide will take part in the inaugural High School eSports League (HSEL), a national competition which will pit students against each other from around the country.

A group of seven students will participate from Mr Fogarty’s class, competing in the game League of Legends. So far 10 schools from Adelaide have registered a team for the tournament, including Adelaide High, Reynella East College and Tatachilla Lutheran College.

Check out the full article to see how the Adelaide Crows football club are involved and the ways they are embracing the eSports scene.


The Radical Frontier of Inclusive Design

Jakkii says: Inclusive design shouldn’t be any sort of radical frontier, yet in 2018 accessibility and inclusive design still seems to be niche. From people questioning the use of photo descriptors by (few) brands in Facebook posts (in place of true alt-text, which you can’t add to your photos in Facebook), through to not bothering to consider accessibility needs at all, we’ve a long way to go with inclusivity. Yet, there are positive signs, from Pinterest redesigning their app for blind people I wrote about a few weeks ago, to the stories shared in a podcast Helen wrote about in March of technology designs for increasing accessibility and improving the lives of people living with disability.

In this piece, the authors share a few examples of inclusive design that are well worth reading a little more about:

  • Making group conversations easier for deaf people – using Hololens
  • Making images, interactives and maps accessible to vision-impaired people
  • Helping blind developers program
  • Designing a haptic cane for VR


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

Black and white image of a woman (Sandra Peter) and a man (Kai Riemer) smiling and looking at each other while recording a podcast seated in front of microphones. There is an iPad on the table. In the top left corner it says Sydney Business Insights in a black box. Under this in white it says The Future, This Week.

This week: owl thieves in cashless Sweden, DNA gone public, and this week in tech 20 years ago. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week:

As Sweden ditches cash, criminals turn to stealing owls

DNA data sharing we can’t opt out of

This week in tech 20 years ago

Other stories we bring up:

Swedes rebelling against cashless society

Australia is getting closer to cashless society

Imagining a cashless world

The Australian Black Economy Taskforce report 2018

Your relatives’ DNA can turn you into a suspect

Pitfalls of DNA matching in police searches

ABS information on computer use in 1998

Official single charts for 16 May 1998 “Turn back time”


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