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

AR will spark the next big tech platform — Call it Mirrorworld

Anne says: Last week my selected article introduced the concept of mapping through crowdsourced images and turning them into data to be used in digital mapping for a variety of scenarios – predominantly self-driving cars. This week I’m going to expand that concept into a world that is completely digitised and available to everyone through augmented reality (AR). Welcome to the mirrorworld. A world where everything that exists in the real world has a full-size digital twin. Impossible? Ridiculous? Science fiction only? Stay with me…

The article in Wired was written by Kevin Kelly, Wired’s founding executive editor. He elegantly illustrates how the mirrorworld is already happening, paints scenarios of future possibilities in our daily lives and then connects through to how the technologies will adapt, including of course the ethical concerns of privacy and data.

“The mirrorworld—a term first popularized by Yale computer scientist David Gelernter—will reflect not just what something looks like but its context, meaning, and function. We will interact with it, manipulate it, and experience it like we do the real world.”

Here’s how the mirrorworld is being created – and it’s already well underway as we saw with last week’s example from Mapillary. Remember Pokémon Go? If you played it (or still are playing it), you’ll recall how you viewed sites through your phone and they had information layered over the top? Some art galleries and museums do this now with their virtual tours of exhibitions. The research scientists and engineers are currently building virtual places (in the mirrorworld) with these overlays of information. It’s pointed out in the article that these digital landscapes must feel real – what landscape architects call placeness. It’s early days, Stage 1 perhaps, where examples suggest information that overlays the real world. It could be annotations (think Google map pop-ups) to tags you’d added to favourite locations or people.

But then there are the next stages – they will meld together so quickly we may not notice how we’re using search to “…find me all the places where a park bench faces sunrise along a river…”. Imagine being able to hyperlink physical objects – as we hyperlink words on the internet. We’ll end up with a dual reality – physical meets digital – but in ways we’re only just imagining. However, this is a lot of data and data is the next currency – along with ownership of data, privacy and power.

Aside from gaming (examples such as Pokémon Go), Microsoft HoloLens is already being touted as part of the office furniture. GE has rebranded itself as a “digital industrial company” that merges physical and digital worlds. And other companies, names that may become household names, are building their strategies based on mirrorworld adoption.

There are some examples described that really could be dismissed as the latest sci-fi movie plot, but… doesn’t sci-fi inform real life? To succeed, to become reality, the mirrorworld needs consumers and consumable products – remember, Google Glass? We’ve learnt a lot of lessons since then and Google Glass is still in production, just not as the consumer product that was expected to be widely adopted. The equipment we use will require brilliant design to become as ubiquitous as our smartphones, earbuds and glasses.

There’s a moment in this article that made me stop, re-read, and deeply consider the impact.

“History will be a verb. With the swipe of your hand, you will be able to back in time, in any location, and see what came before.”

Re-constructed realities – which leads me into perspectives, interpretations – well beyond data ownership – and into manipulated realities that influence behaviours. There’s a considered discussion about risks (think #fakenews) but there’s also potential answers with complementary technologies – enter blockchain where data is decentralised and distributed in networks (more on trusted networks in another Friday Fave to come).

Kelly predicts there’s a decade before the mirrorworld is developed enough to become mainstream and several more decades to mature. However, now is the time to consider the risks and implications, while marvelling at the possibilities. This isn’t sci-fi anymore, the mirrorworld is providing us time to reflect on our role in future developments of data-driven realities.

Read (longer read – perhaps 10-15minutes).

Valentine’s Day Tech

Helen says: For a bit of fun during this Valentine’s Day week, CB Insights compiled a list of over 50 VC backed start-up companies whose end game is capitalising on the buoyant romance market. According to the article, spend in the US this year for Valentine’s Day is tipped to hit US $30B!

Most of the propositions seem fairly mainstream, paper and digital cards, jewellery, lingerie lines and various subscription services. Some niche markets targeting is planned for dating apps, and tweaks will be made to other online services.  Zola is a company that is predicted to be one of the next unicorns (ie a private company valued at US$1B). It runs an online gift registry and is expanding to accommodate guest lists and track acceptances. The idea is not revolutionary but it is hitting a chord with millennials, making Zola a valuable $600m business, at a time when marriage is in decline.

Not surprisingly, there are products claiming the healthy, ethical or eco-friendly high-ground but if you are looking for something completely different, there’s a wearable sex toy with an app that promises a better sex life, or how about a wrist band called Pillow Talk, which allows you to listen and fall asleep to your lover’s heartbeat when apart. Not exactly a cure for insomnia, but each to his own!


NASA says Mars rover Opportunity has been pronounced dead

After losing contact with the rover last year, NASA has now officially pronounced 15 year old Opportunity dead.

Joel says: After being up on the red planet for 15 years NASA has declared its rover Opportunity dead after it has failed to receive a response from over 1000 communication attempts following a dust storm on Mars roughly 8 months ago.

Opportunity landed on Mars back in January 2004 and went far beyond his tour of duty considering its mission was originally only meant to last 90 days. Opportunity was the rover that shared the images confirming that water once flowed on the surface of Mars. But now seeing as the machine has been able to recharge its batteries and respond to the many messages and commands sent to it from Earth, NASA has sent the final ever message to Opportunity, who they refer to as “Oppy,” earlier this week.

During its expedition Opportunity transmitted 217,594 images from Mars, all of which have been made available on the internet.

“For the public the big change was that Mars became a dynamic place, and it was a place that you could explore every day,” Emily Lakdawalla, an expert on space exploration and senior editor at The Planetary Society.

“The fact that this rover was so mobile, it seemed like an animate creature,” she said. “Plus it has this perspective on the Martian surface that’s very human-like.” “It really felt like an avatar for humanity traveling across the surface,” she added.

It was a sad day for many at NASA farewelling the rover. They do still have another rover, Curiosity, traversing the red planet so hopefully, we can continue to learn more about the planet and if it will be able to sustain future generations of human life.


The Surprising Value of Obvious Insights

Jakkii says: This is one of those reads that just makes you go, YES! Or at least, it was for me. (smile)

In this piece, the author discusses “obvious” insights, and how they can actually help drive your organisation forward by helping overcome barriers to change. What I loved so much about this discussion around obvious insights, aside from – ahem – the obviousness of it (you’re welcome (smile)), was how much it resonates with my experience on client projects over the years. Unsurprisingly, but interestingly in the context of this article, one of the barriers we often have to overcome with clients is getting them to understand the value of research – particularly research focused on their employees and employee experience – because they anticipate that the research won’t tell them anything new. Where in some organisations paying an ‘independent’ party to conduct research and provide the ‘obvious’ answers is considered the best way to navigate an internal political minefield, in others, there is a strong belief that any research must always yield new and surprising insights, or it is worthless.

Enter this article and its reflection on the value of the obvious insight, and cue my sheer delight!

Three barriers to change are offered, for which obvious insights are a solution:

  1. Resistance to new data
  2. Resistance to change
  3. Organisational uniqueness bias

Point three is my favourite, and it is terrifically common. The author wraps the article by discussing some ways in which we can make the ‘obvious’ more interesting. It’s well worth a read and some good consideration – next time you have an obvious insight, don’t be afraid to share it. And next time you want to propose some research, you’ll be armed with some useful information to help make the case that even research that produces ‘obvious insights’ can offer surprisingly good value.


This Week in Social Media

Social Media


Everything else

Sydney Business Insights – Impactful technology: Giving the world a better face

The Future, This Week podcast is on holiday hiatus, so this week we bring you an article and video from Sydney Business Insights on Impactful Technology.

What happens when technology has a human face? In the future digital assistants will not just be disembodied voices: soon we will be gazing into an emotionally rich, apparently human, 3D digital face.


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