pixel-by-pixel- the psychology behind the Prisma phenomenon

Simple question coming up – Why Prisma?  Here are some captions from the official Prisma Google App Playstore Page:

Turn every photo into art!‘ ‘Every photo becomes art’  This line is the most disturbing: ‘Prisma transforms your photos into artworks using the styles of famous artists: Munk, Picasso as well as world famous ornaments and patterns. A unique combination of neural networks and artificial intelligence helps you turn memorable moments into timeless art.’

OH!  So all that has been standing between me and recognition of my artistic genius is a photo-editing app?  There is not a *teensy* bit of reason to expect that creativity, training in the various trades/genres and sheer talent may be the barrier from me becoming the next Rembrandt.  All that is required is an Application. If you have yet to recognize my stance on the latest whirlwind tech phenomenon, I don’t Prisma.

However, it is worth digging deeper into what makes Prisma so attractive to tons of people across the globe. 

What could possibly be attractive about a machine imaging process that converts a real instance into a thermal image or a blurred out robot-like attempt at monochromatic watercolor painting?

Is it because we are innately and infinitely curious about how computers  (inanimate machines of our making) view us?  Are we so alone that any shred of apparent creativity or artistic output is enough to render further endearment to the technological beasts-of-burden? 

Is this the very end of the line (I doubt it) of our narcissistical tendencies – the need to view ourselves from multiple vantages and viewpoints? When will this need quench?

Prisma photos look like (I can only imagine) when a cyborg needs to be thwapped from the side of it’s ‘head’ to adjust it’s vision. Colors bleed unnaturally.

One social media commentator was quick to call a freshly Prisma’d friend ‘gorgeous’. Gorgeous now means a modified, spray-brushed Microsoft Paint version of your likeness. 

Eventually, the novelty for Prisma will, too, die off.  Terminal overthinkers and worrywarts like myself will find a fresher topic to observe.  What will remain is the discovery that modern day humans seek easy,swift detachment from their immediate surroundings. Preferably at the click of a button.

It can be that we are escaping further into wilful delusion, aided by games and pointless tasks like flinging round birds at klepto-pigs  or collecting imaginary monsters.  At least the Pokemon do not instigate full-scale coups on a Sunday morning.  Apps like Prisma and Snapchat alter your facial features but you still have a passport that is recognized and country to call home.

 

More than Desks: Co-Working Spaces in Lahore

Co-Working  Spaces need to be More than DesksSCC00WCQ3I

Listen to the Podcast on Soundcloud  or iTunes.  

Don’t forget to rate the podcast on iTunes! 

I pick up where I left off on the topic of Co-working Spaces in Lahore. I talk about one of new spaces I visited upon invitation in April, Forrun Office, as well as what is still missing in these spaces.

Read the original post  on the blog or on Medium.

Check out Forrun Office’s website here: forrunoffice.com/ .

 

 

Virtual Reality Headsets: Beyond Entertainment

woman-wearing-virtual-reality-headsetThe purpose behind writing this is to explore the utility of Virtual Reality Headsets and  the accompanying software, beyond the narrow scope of Entertainment.  

Google Glassware – Where are you? 

I often ponder and while pondering, I often think about failed technology. Google Glass and it’s accompanying apps (Glassware) qualifies for such a thought exercise. Why didn’t the Google Glass catch on? 

wearable-tech-ask-lynn-fka-twigs-google-glass

Back in 2012 Google’s version Smart Glass was defined as follows:

Project Glass is a pair of glasses that would allow technology to interact with wearer’s seen reality and integrate capabilities like voice recognition, Google maps, GPS location, and more to help interpret and react to what is being seen. *

Soon after the release, it seemed like the Google Glass on sitting comfy on many celebrity noses – from the singer FKA Twigs (pictured above)  to actress  Jennifer Lawrence (pictured below).

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 2.25.27 pmThere is even a tumblr for this – > Celebs wearing Google Glass.

Google was clear from the start that these glasses were conceptual at best and that they were looking for feedback to help refine the product. Still, halting sales in under three years of the launch hints at lack of confidence in the hardware/software while the rest of the world is ramping up for AR wearables.

According to ARC Applause, the Glass’s failure was due to a mix between public perception, social contract and the very visible wearable technology. The Glasswearers, with the ability to record and transmit footage from their glasses, offended members of the general public who were not keen to be a part of the trial.  Rowinski goes on to reference tech guru, Robert Scoble, who expanded on the notion of the social contract and the smart glasses:

“A lot of people misunderstood Google Glass and blamed for the camera for its failure and that was absolutely wrong.

It messes with our social contract. We evolve as humans to look into each other’s eyes. To pay attention to each other. Are we interested in each other? Are we trustworthy? All kinds of stuff.

When we put a screen in-between our eyes, it messes with that contract and we don’t know how to explain it. ‘Will you take those things off? Are you recording me?’ Those types of things.”

Could it be that simple?

There was name-calling (Glasshole) and even an instance of violence, all due to an experimental device.  I am not convinced. There has to be more to the story behind the Glass’s spectacular crash-and-burn.

Scoble claims that the camera wasn’t strong enough, the battery life was a mere 45 minutes, and what the $1,500  Google Glass lacked was the ability to ID a complete stranger the second we looked in their direction.

Not much unlike the data feed that comes up in the Terminator:

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Reasons for Google Glass’s Failure:

  • Establishments banning the device due to fears of and instances of surreptitious recording of private conversations – Privacy Rights.
  • Buggy Beta-mode – Little effort to bring it out of the trial phase.
  • Safety Concerns – Should be anyone be driving with it on?
  • Health Concerns -How about having a wi-fi signal (carcinogenic radiation) inches from your brain for hours on end?
  • Lastly, I like how Bob Doyle sums it up “The idea was great, but the execution and development weren’t.”
Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 2.27.39 pm
“You’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready (for now, no peeking).” 

A voice from the other camp, Tim Brown of IDEO/industrial design expert, sees that while the Glass may have lost popularity, this is true of all new technology when it’s introduced to the public – it is a trial-by-fire:

“When a new technology first emerges there’s a friction caused by the clunkiness of the technology not quite being sophisticated enough and society not being used to the idea. Over time, those two things get closer and closer together. Eventually that friction goes away and the technology is accepted.”

Meanwhile the elves at Google have been busy –  they patented a contact lens camera back in 2014, and after shutting down the Google Glass experiment in 2015, have now filed a patent for an electronic device that will implanted directly into the eye and is meant to improve poor vision.

With Google Glass and other similar Smart Glasses in our rear-view mirrors, we have moved past the era of early adopters of wearable tech.

What is the Everyday Utility?

Researchers** at Disney have created an app that scans coloring book pages and brings them to life for children – a process which is termed live texturing. While the technology is still under development, this demo shows how keen big business is to bridge the divide between traditional products and Augmented Reality.

Possibilities of Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Whenever a new technology becomes accessible, we all wonder “How will it work in the classroom?”.  Google has been making waves with it’s Expeditions Pioneer Program, where it’s team visits classrooms around the world to experience ‘journeys’ via the Cardboard headset.

The team assembles headsets in the class and guides the teacher to set up an Expedition experience via a tablet. Up to 50 students can take a virtual field trip and experience the depths of the ocean or the peaks of the Himalayas, without moving an inch!  A program like Expeditions covers the Geography, History and Social Studies components of a traditional elementary syllabus.

could-virtual-reality-steam-up-the-classroom-partners-zspace-and-leopoly-want-to-transform-school-300x180virtual-reality-classroom

What about Mathematics? the Sciences?

I see it being helpful in understanding abstract concepts common in Geometry where having students experience the transformation of a 2-d shape in to a 3-d object can increase learning.

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The potential of active storytelling seems boundless.  Students can relive story lines from books assigned in Literature class, or write their own  during Writing and Comprehension class – provided the VR app is readily available to them.

As young scientists, they can conduct investigations like forensic experts shown on popular t.v. shows or imagine a climate-change scenario with various hypotheticals.

The more I pair VR with Primary Education, the more questions there are. Seeing how we recognize that the traditional school system does not equally engage all learners, Is VR the tool to be used for those students who learn more by doing than listening?

  • With VR becoming commonplace, How can instructors determine the balance between regular classroom curriculum and VR-aided curriculum?  
  • How much of the write-ups about VR in the Classroom is funded by the companies hawking these gadgets? 

Research shows 76% increase in learning outcomes if students are taught via a gamified lab simulation – if coupled with traditional teaching, the retention of knowledge jumps close to 100%.  No wonder the VR market is projected to be worth $400 billion and it’s users to be more than 25 million in 2018!

(Interested in trying out the Google Cardboard experience for yourself? While the introductory Cardboard Viewer is a mere $15, Google provides instructions to create your very own viewer with household items (velcro, cardboard, lenses,magnets).  Follow the link.)

Spiritual Tool: Bots and Virtual Reality as the New Rosary
monaco_buddista_robot_fi

We have Buddhist monks using a mini monk bot in the temple to spread ancient wisdom across the land.

“Xian’er chants Buddhist mantras, responds to voice command, and chats about his way of life.Via his screen, the robot can answer 20 basic questions about Buddhism and daily life, and can perform seven different movements on his wheels”

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The Shrink is Out, The HeadSet is In

VR is being touted as a post-traumatic stress therapy tool at The Institute for Creative Technologies; patients are exposed to virtual scenarios, directional 3D audio , vibration and even smells during a session.

Aside from mental health, VR is increasingly being used by surgeons and medical school students to visualize hypothetical procedures.

“Last December, a Google Cardboard providing a 3D image of a heart helped a surgeon in Miami visualize what he needed to do in order to operate on a baby.”

There is so much more to discover and discuss when it comes to the use or even misuse of virtual reality, beyond it being a tool for passive entertainment.  What excites you about VR headsets becoming easily accessible?  Have you tried one on yet?  Drop me a tweet @marsonearth.

Sources

*What are Google Glasses? What is Project Glass?

**Disney Research: Live Texturing of Augmented Reality Characters from Colored Drawings 

Ruby it is! – Picking a Language to Learn

Picking up from my last post, I have decided upon Ruby as the computer programming language to learn this year.  CodeAcademy has an ‘Introduction to Ruby’ course that is low-key enough to work on during a tea-break or long phone call.

I’ll be trying out this 20 minute Ruby Tutorial once the course is completed.  Also, this site listing a number of resources looks useful – iwanttolearnruby.

 

 

Mini-Goal#1? Learn Basic Coding

I am finally getting around to starting on my mini-goal for 2016 (Hello April!), which is to learn basic coding.

I began with CodeAcademy’s free javascript introductory course.

What did I learn to do? I animated my name.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 8.56.31 am

Now, I’d like something much more challenging so I am looking at exploring one of the back-end languages like Ruby, Python or Java.

Here’s the Quora Answer that I am referencing  as well as the long-list of coding resources that are completely free.

Will post an update as soon as I select a new language to learn during the mini-goal adventure.

 

 

 

bits, bytes, blockchain

CW bits,bytes,blockchainBlockchain is today what Big Data/ Cloud Data was back in 2012- part new-kid-on-the-block and part mysterious technological chanteuse. Everybody’s talking about it, everybody wants a piece of it and almost everybody is intrigued by it.

The open ledger-mining method for tracking, trading and creating digital -slash- cryptocurrency called Bitcoin for monetary transactions across the internet – that’s how most of us have been introduced to Blockchain technology.

Not familiar with what  Blockchain is?

“The blockchain is a digital ledger of sorts, where all transactions that have been made, or events that may have occurred, can be seen online, by anyone, without compromising the privacy of the parties involved. These ledgers are shared and distributed amongst different computing nodes, and can only be changed once there is a shared consensus among all nodes. Once information is entered, it cannot be erased, and the distributed nature of these records — along with a built-in layer of cryptographic protections — make them difficult to hack or alter by any one individual.”

A blockchain is a massive, fraud-resistant distributed ledger that could be the new infrastructure of the future. The open ledger uses consensus algorithms to transparently record and verify any transactions without a third party. It replaces the middleman with mathematics. Because the blockchain infrastructure is decentralized, there’s a lot less friction and time wasted than traditional, centralized processes.

CW blockchain everythingNow, more and more, we hear of Blockchain being paired up with varying partners – Education, the Banking sector, Governance  to the Music industry- any discipline where records are kept.

Zeroing in on my particular favourite, what can we expect if Blockchain technology is applied to Education? In particular, what, if any, revolutionizing will take place if the open ledger database system is applied to everyone’s academic records?

Looping back to last year’s hottest story, the Axact – Fake Degree scandal, there are enough people out there with inauthentic academic qualifications, intentional or not, to make a case for verification of academic credentials and to identify products of diploma mills. Then the question is raised whether a public ledger system for educational records will be considered reliable.

Audrey Watters covers this particular conundrum wonderfully in a recent post of hers. Here’s an excerpt:

…When it comes to issues of “trust” and, say, academic certification, who is not trusted here? Is it the problem that folks believe students/employees lie about their credentials? Or is the problem that credential-issuing entities aren’t trustworthy? I mean, why/how would we “trust” the entity issuing blockchained credentials? (What is actually the source of “trust” in our current credentialing system? Spoiler alert: it’s not necessarily accreditation.) How would the trustworthiness of blockchained credential-issuing institutions be measured or verified? If it’s by the number of transactions (eg. badges issued), doesn’t that encourage diploma milling?”

Audrey Watters of  Aud.Life 

According to The New Stack blog, the Holberton School in San Francisco is using blockchain technology in a bid to authenticate degrees it offers. Effectively providing a service to both the graduate as well as the potential employer by being the very first educational institution to offer secured and publicly accessible academic certificates in the world.  Sounds like music to my ears, what with recent experiences in hiring department, though it seems to put the pressure on other institutions to either follow suit or share why they will stick with the status quo.

Sony Global Education announced it’s launch of  block-chain-based technology to share academic records; Sony’s product will be in the market sometime in 2017.

I had been meaning to write about this for a few days now, however, with the global uproar over the Panama Leaks, it seems to be kismet!

The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca….The documents show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.

The scandal lines up nicely with the topic at-hand; with such wide-scale corruption, a decentralized, distributed model of public record-keeping applied to the purchase and transfer of assets seems to be a scheme worth trying.

data_transferIs the growing enthusiasm for uber-transparency in all services up for consumption a symptom of the decaying global economies?

Are we abandoning the bogeymans enforced on us in the era of Capitalism and trumped up banking charges to embrace the glaring authenticity of a public record-keeping system for all transactions  – all to avoid a dystopian future where no markets exist except for under totalitarian rule? (Think of any post-apocolyptical society represented in popular Hollywood cinema)

Is this the continuation of the global equality movement underpinned by technology – such as open source softwares or free online college courses?

Or is this forced declaration of one’s records (financial, academic, professional, etc) exploiting technology and millennial zeal for transparency to satisfy the need of habitual whistle-blowers and conspiracy theorists?

Tell me what you think. Leave a comment below. Tweet at @marsonearth or @catalystwoman

 

Comoyo: The New OTT Messaging App on the Block?

With a  precious few minutes remaining on the battery, I was quickly scanning my timeline and saw Telenor’s announcement about launching S7 with VR Gear in Pakistan.  Not only do you get the gear for free if you are Telenor customer, you will get an opportunity to try out the Comoyo app.  Comoyo? I hadn’t heard of this application as of yet. I did what any self-respecting geek would do – I googled.

Comoyo is an OTT , Over-the-Top application, that bypasses traditional distribution to deliver a media and communication product or service over the internet.

You can think of an over-the-top application as anything that disrupts traditional billing models – from telcos or cable/satellite companies. Examples include Hulu or Netflix for video (replacing your regular TV provider) or Skype (replacing your long distance provider).  Source: Techopedia

The more I explored the features, Comoyo appears to be a sticker-heavy messaging + commerce platform that is emphasizing the use of digital Urdu font. Comoyo was developed by Telenor’s very own design/dev team at Telenor Digital.

Anyone else reminded of Line Pakistan?   Line Pakistan has been making it’s presence felt by utilising traditional media such a television adverts as well as social media campaigns centering around crowd-pleasers such as the Pakistani cricket team.

Line also offers voice calling,  messaging and video calling to it’s users for free.  In addition to that, the app is meant to be a platform for businesses to interact directly with consumers via ‘channels’ – from taking orders for a pizza to booking tickets to an upcoming movie release.    Any takers for Comoyo? Line?  I am willing to test out both simultaneously just to see how the experiences line up.

f04da2db11221329e9dd0bWhat would actually be exciting is when we get our digital payments issues sorted  in Pakistan and can start using OTT apps for a marketplace at the gargantuan scale of WeChat.  WeChat has captured the Chinese market by enabling users to make peer-to-peer payments as well as offline payments to participating retailers via WeChatPay.

Love is in the Air! Love for Books!

happy20books
Freshly Printed Books + Flowers = Springtime 

All the books listed below are on my wishlist for Spring 2016. Seriously.

Education & Leadership 

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brene Brown

Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times– Eric C. Sheninger

Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator  – Dave Burgess

Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools – Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

best-management-and-productivity-booksEducation & Technology

The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning – Tom D. Whitby, Steven W. Anderson

The Tech-Savvy Administrator: How do I use technology to be a better school leader? – Steven W. Anderson

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom – Sylvia Libow Martinez, Gary S. Stager

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Education & Psychology 

Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day – Jonathan Bergmann, Aaron Sams

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning – Peter C. Brown

The Way of Mindful Education: Cultivating Well-being in Teachers & Students – Daniel Rechtschaffen

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

4/5 Stars

notebookdeskLove,love, LOVE how Elizabeth Gilbert gets what’s f*cked up with our perceptions around creativity! This is an engaging read, without the ‘holier-than-thou’ overtones most guides have. In fact, it reads more like journal entries than a ‘self-help’ book, and that’s perfect. Those guides are last things we need crowding our bookshelves.

Yeah, so do read this. You might hate it, but it’ll get your backburner on overdrive and kick you out of complacency.

Are you on Goodreads? Let’s “connect”. *grin*

Needed:Co-working Spaces in Lahore

My headphones are plugged in to what I imagine a shoreside picnic coupled with thunderclaps and slight rain shower sounds like. If you have ever wondered who is lame enough to actually use a rain sound app, that would be me. It can also be you, too, if you were camped out in a busy cafe in Lahore’s commercial district. 

hands-coffee-smartphone-technology.jpg

I’m attempting to stay focused on the upcoming meeting, while the couple at the table on the left has once again asked me for the wi-fi password.  Such interruptions, while normal if one is in the mood for people-watching or idle posturing in a swanky eatery, are frustrating if one is waiting to meet a client to finalize terms on a contract.

photo-1429681601148-75510b2cef43Office-less, officially, when it comes to our consulting work, my partners and I feel the need for a formal meeting room or conference room at least twice to three times a month. While that seems quite frequent, when we calculated the math, it still doesn’t make sense for us to invest in a permanent office in the near future.  Reasons being that some of us are still working traditional 9-5 jobs while others prefer the convenience of flex-time and telecommuting afforded by the consulting work-life.

What Lahore desperately needs is an affordable Co-working space which is open to all types of professional, techies and non-techies, entrepreneurs, freelancers, cottage-industry workers, bakers and yes, even musicians. 

What should the co-working space consist of? The usual, a conference room, a small kitchenette, desks or cubicles for hire by the hour or the day, reliable wi-fi/internet connection, a tv lounge/reception and a printer/fax machine corner to round off all the mundane necessities of grownup, office-life.

Let’s step beyond the vomit-inducing, Silicon Valley-esque marketing gibberish that immediately gets plastered upon the advent of a functional service idea.  This is not a recommendation for all of you sitting on your butts to open up 5 co-working spaces right across from each other in Bahria Town  and begin hosting ‘entrepreneurship workshops slash mentorship sessions slash fireside chats’  on the regular.  I am not claiming to be your guru for new-fangled business ideas.

What I am recommending is a more holistic, survey-based approach to solving challenges  your peers and neighbors are dealing with in your immediate vicinity. If you solve that challenge successfully, and lucratively, good on you!  If you fail to solve that challenge the first time around, no problem; you’ll have earned goodwill in the community. Rest your bruised ego, keep your eyes and ears open, and rise up tomorrow with the intent to put your education and initiative to good use.

Note: I have heard inklings of a co-w0rking space popping up in my hometown, but I’m curious if there are any others on the horizon. If you know of any, leave a comment or drop a tweet at @catalystwoman