Google Has Developed an Ad for VR

In a new post from the company’s Area 120 creative lab, Google shared plans for how it might design ads that live directly in your field of view. What is Google’s solution for ads that are obtrusive, not but too obtrusive, but definitely still obtrusive?



From Google: “Developers and users have told us they want to avoid disruptive, hard-to-implement ad experiences in VR. So our first idea for a potential format presents a cube to users, with the option to engage with it and then see a video ad. By tapping on the cube or gazing at it for a few seconds, the cube opens a video player where the user can watch, and then easily close, the video.”


Google makes $26 billion a quarter off of the advertisements on products like Search, so it makes sense that it–and its competitors–want to experiment with ways to extend that business into the virtual world.



We’re going to see a whole lot more of this sort of thing in VR, and probably never, ever less.


Also, La Var Burton Reads just launched : )

Valedictorian Has His Graduation Speech Censored



The ability to speak the truth is continuing to be censored by authoritarian figures and is part of a larger trend in this country for those in power to control the narrative they want to hear.

This year, school across the country are censoring student’s words in yearbooks, newspapers, and classrooms. Students are able to complain about schools, expose wrongdoing and rate teachers — often anonymously — on social media. Yet schools seem uneasy about hearing them.

When public schools tell a student not to disclose information or express a heartfelt opinion solely because they want to control the narrative or fear the repercussions will make them look bad, it un-ravels a lifetime of education of civic responsibility.


Facebook Filed a Patent To Secretly Watch Users Through Their Webcam

In a Facebook patent published in 2015, it explains how the company would use technology to see how your facial expressions change when you come across different content, and it would use that information to keep you on the site for longer.


The patent explained that if you looked away from your screen when a video of a kitten played, Facebook would stop showing similar type of videos in your Feed. If you smiled as you looked at pictures of one of your friends, for instance, Facebook’s algorithm would take note of that and display more pictures of that friend in your News Feed.


This is a picture of Mark’s desk and computer last year, where he has the camera and microphone taped up. If Mark is concerned about privacy and internet security, we should be as well.


Do we really want, or think, that Facebook can make our lives better by keeping us on their site for longer, or tracking and leveraging our emotions as they happen in real time? When does Facebook stop becoming a tool that we feel like we have control over, and when does it become that manipulative sociopathic friend? If Facebook is one giant ad targeting machine, what will get us to stop using Facebook?


School Subjects Could Be A Thing Of The Past in Finland

Finland is rethinking how it teaches in the digital age – seeking to place skills, as much as subjects, at the heart of what it does in a framework called Project Based Learning (PBL)



Traditionally, learning has been defined as a list of subject matters and facts you need to acquire – such as arithmetic and grammar – with some decoration, like citizenship, built in around it.

When it comes to real life, our brain is not sliced into disciplines in that way; we are thinking in a very holistic way. And when you think about the problems in the world – global crises, migration, the economy, the post-truth era – we really haven’t given our children the tools to deal with this inter-cultural world.

It’s a major mistake if we lead children to believe the world is simple and that if they learn certain facts they are ready to go. So learning to think, learning to understand, these are important skills – and it also makes learning fun, which we think promotes wellbeing.

Relive The Drama of AIM In “Emily Is Away Too”

In 2015, game designer Kyle Seeley released the freeware title Emily is Away, a romantic epic divided into five virtual acts told through the nostalgia of an AOL Instant Messenger chat with the titular Emily. Emily is Away Too takes place in 2006, the protagonist’s senior year of college.

The game not only captures the social and dating experiences of its creator from that time, but also a year of transformation and expansion for digital culture.

This game is all about how we first portrayed ourselves online – the AIM platform was such a pivotal part of self expression growing up. Opening up and reliving those past relationships and conversations developed through outdated technology helps evaluate who we are and who we choose to be in the future.



Millennials are more nostalgic towards old tech because we’re the first generation to uniquely experience these complete shifts in communication at the same time together. Past generations shared the passive, much more gradual rise of film or television. Meanwhile, the internet, its interactivity and social applications, fundamentally changed how we created memories with childhood friends.


Breasts are having a Moment in Culture

#1 A shopping mall in Colombia has introduced breast feeding mannequin displays as part of an initiative to change attitudes about nursing in public. According to UNICEF, only about 49 percent of newborns start breastfeeding after birth in Colombia. By contrast, the breastfeeding initiation rate in the U.S. is about 81 percent.

Their breasts may not be natural, but they want to help women out with something that is.

Posted by PlayGround + on Tuesday, May 2, 2017

#2 “Everybody loves boobs” is a campaign of breasts singing their own praises. The work was created for Argentina’s Breast Cancer Help Movement.  It gets around the censorship issue by removing female nipples from female breasts—and replacing them with mouths, which sing the praises of breasts, as well as the dangers of not checking them regularly.

Breasts Sing Their Own Praises in Freaky Follow-up to Famous ‘Manboobs’ Ad (SFW-ish)


Social and health issues concerning boobs should not be controversial, and its often difficult to create effective communication when censorship and public attitudes are difficult to change. These two campaigns — one for public breastfeeding and one to highlight cancer, show how creativity can help bring light to these issues and raise awareness for very important things that may have difficulty being communicated otherwise.

Spellfucker (alfah)

Spellfucker screws up your spelling to outsmart and confuse web bots.


The goal of the project is to make text hard to read for computers yet fairly easy to read for humans (like bbboing, just differently).

For example, can not understand it.


Thice proadgecd ees eenteresting bekause eet creytece thexd thad jou end I kan wread, bud (kurentli) metchynese kan’t. eet whould maeke eet moure dyfykuled pher botz thoe exployed eenformation aboued jou, phour egzemple, thergetyngue edz beysed hon wuad jou thipe. An egzemple hoph poatential becklesh/toulce ageinsd AI.


This Ride Slows Down If You Get Too Scared

The Neurotransmitter 3000 is a homemade amusement ride experience that performs based on biometric data collected from on-body sensors:

Before riding the Neurotransmitter 3000, you clip a pulse rate sensor to your ear, stick muscle tension sensors onto your left arm, and fit a thermometer under your armpit. As it begins to spin, these measurements from your body feed into the machine, and its motor slows and speeds up to match your comfort.


Microsoft is thinking about interfaces that could adapt to the day-to-day differences in users’ cognitive abilities, and MIT is designing industrial robots that can be turned off in emergencies with nothing more than a human thought.

As more machines enter our lives, its important explore how machines can understand how we feel, not just what we objectively do or say. This is all in the quest of figuring out how deeply machines will integrate into our lives.

See the work here 


Light Up Tattoos Are Coming!

Tattoos are nothing new. But now, we can paint them with electronic ink that syncs up to your smartphone!

In the future, phones will be tattooed onto our skin.

Posted by New Scientist on Friday, March 17, 2017

The electronic tattoo is wired to a micro controller that links to a device and syncs with the wearer’s movements.


  • While this is still a prototype, skin tattoos that go beyond just looking good mark a step towards a future where people can host technologies and displays within their bodies.

FarmDrive Helps Build Credit For Kenyan Farmers

How do you help build credit for farmers who have no traditional collateral that lenders look for?

More than three-quarters of the poorest live in rural areas and most are smallholder farmers working less than two acres. They often lack the seeds, machinery, livestock, and finance they need to grow, so they struggle to emerge from poverty

Two young entrepreneurs from Kenya have an idea to help: FarmDrive develops credit histories for farmers, so they become more attractive to financial institutions offering loans.

FarmDrive mostly works via SMS. Farmers put in information like seed and fertilizer expenses, their livestock, their revenues, plot dimensions, and personal details. Then FarmDrive combines that with data on weather, soil conditions, typical vegetation levels for that area, and so on. After a few weeks, farmers can start applying for a loan.


FarmDrive is one of several alternative credit scoring startups trying to widen access to finance in poorer countries. Others include Branch and Lenddo, which combine data on social media habits, cell phone usage, and even the quality of someone’s grammar to build a sense of credit risk.

FarmDrive is also a great example of why ethnography and design thinking are so important in solving problems. Much of the success of FarmDrive relies on understanding the mobile usage/behavior of the audience, communication patterns/skills, and access/usage of 3rd party services like weather apps and commodity pricing to fully understand how to assess risk.


We All Could Benefit From The Japanese Practice of Forest Bathing

The Japanese practice of forest bathing or is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.

From 2004 to 2012, Japanese officials spent about $4 million dollars studying the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing, designating 48 therapy trails based on the results. Forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes.

Forest bathing works easily: Just be with trees. No hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything.


It’s only recently in human history that we stopped being outside, spending 80% of our time in doors and most of our time in 2D environments. With the onslaught of more screens, AI, virtual reality et al – Its more important than ever for us to understand how our environments effect us, and what we need to not only be happy, but what we need to unlock creativity, empathy, self love, and healing.

More from the Washington Post:

Rewarding Disobedience to benefit society

In July, MIT announced a $250k cash prize for responsible disobedience

This idea came after a realization that there’s a widespread frustration from people trying to figure out how can we effectively harness responsible, ethical disobedience aimed at challenging our norms, rules, or laws to benefit society.




Social and political movements all contribute to changes in human consciousness. The way we make progress as a society and as humanity is by recognizing the right heroes who take on personal risk to help us evolve humanity.

This is a good lesson for innovation: Disruption is difficult but a necessary tactic in creating movements for change.


AI and the Rise of the Useless Class?


In 2004, MIT and Harvard published a report on automation in the job market – they predicted that truck driving could not undergo automation – but now Google and Tesla are working on it. Until recently, facial recognition was also a favorite example of something that babies accomplish easily but which escaped even the most powerful computers. Today, facial-recognition programs are able to identify people far more efficiently and quickly than humans can.

We’ve had evidence for awhile that AI is coming for things that we thought only humans could do.

An Oxford study in 2013 surveyed the likelihood of different professions being taken over by computer algorithms within the next 20 years. Just as example, they predict these professions have over an 80% chance or higher of being eliminated by AI – Sports Refs, Cashiers, Chefs, Waiters, Paralegal, Tour Guides, Bakers, Bus Drivers, Construction Workers, Security Guards, Sailors.

So what does this mean?

Traditionally, life has been divided into two main parts: a period of learning, followed by a period of working. Very soon this traditional model will become utterly obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves repeatedly. Many, if not most, humans may be unable to do so.

Enter the idea of a “useless class” of people. The prediction is, just as mass industrialization created the working class, the AI revolution will create a new unworking class.

Why Its Hot / Questions To Think About:

1. Today, work has been the standard way to valuing your time/contribution to society – if that goes away, what else could we be doing that builds societal value?
2. If the gap between people that create and people that consume widens, how will we value the sacredness of life and human experiences?
3. What exactly should be the role of AI in modern life? Is it to eliminate work, or would this change over time?
4. Professionally, how do we continue to level up? How will our own work change?



The rise of the useless class

Pinterest Introduces Lens, Shazam for objects in the real world

Lens uses machine vision to detect objects in the real world and suggest related items on Pinterest.




Lens is part of a series of updates including “shop the look” which can isolate pins that can be bought and provides links for you to make the purchase.

What its hot:

As Instagram and Pinterest continue to seduce us with images, it makes sense that we’re now thinking and searching visually, too. Pinterest (and Instagram) and creating and redesigning their products and experiences to put visual enjoyment first and tying the experience to purchase.

Fake News Challenge: Using AI To Crush Fake News

The Fake News Challenge is a grassroots competition of over 100 volunteers and 71 teams from academia and industry, to find solutions to the problem of fake news.

The competition is designed to foster the development of new tools to help human fact checkers identify real news from fake news using machine learning, natural langauge processing, and AI.

 Why its hot:

  • When everyone can create content anywhere, its important that truth be validated and for misinformation to be identified.
  • This is an immensely important and complex task executed as a global hackathon spread over 6 months. Big challenges can be approached in new ways.
  • This challenge will result in new tools that could make its way into our publishing platforms, our social networks, etc – is this potentially good or bad for us?