City Blog: Joie de Vivre & Lahore Eat

It was supposed to a quick stop. In and out. A check-in. Basically a #keepingupwiththeKhans in lieu of the Joneses. Plus, we didn’t have any other plans this Saturday night.  We trooped into Lahore Eat with minimal expectations and maxing out on  comfy shoes. To our collective surprise, the open-air stadium ground was well-kept, there was a large variety of activities to take part in, from attending a concert to taking part in a renegade rickshaw ride.

W16be412f784aaf1dd9792ef8b7f8bd6d.jpgithout meaning to, our inhibitions started melting away. Something pulled us in… reeled us in. Reminded us of what can not be terrorized out of us. It was our distinctly Pakistani flair for Life –> ZEEST *.

*Zeest is a word from the Urdu language that literally means viability and life. 

We live life to the fullest – it’s a gift. We cherish it in every which way: by wearing the brightest colors, laughing a little too loud, singing off-key in public spaces and spending time with those we love the most. Those couple of hours at Lahore Eat became a testament to our collective joie de vivre. 

 

Takeaways from VConnecting Sesh at OLC Innovate 2017

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I recently took part in a session at the OLC Innovate 2017:Education Reimagined Conference.  The virtual participation format was impressive and glitch-free.

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Questions were raised by the global participants and were answered by on-site participants Michael Berman, Lora Taub-Pervizpour, and Patrice Prusko. This particular session was masterfully co-moderated by Wendy Taleo, our Virtual Buddy, in Australia and by Michael Berman, our on-site buddy in NOLA.

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Snippets from the session itself which referenced the Solution Design Summit (SDS) event at OLC Innovate :

  • How are students experiencing courses that we are designing?
  • Food truck imagery was used metaphorically by students to describe just-in-time training/learning experiences during the SDS.
  • There was only one team from community colleges; looking forward to further collaborations in future projects/discussions.
  • There is a need for increased participation from community colleges at future summits and projects.
  • What challenges do community college-going students face that may limit/hamper/alter their ability to participate in off-campus summits and conferences?
  • The next OLC Innovate Conference should include a fully virtual team.
  • There should be a set program for virtual participants.

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There was much more that was discussed, as it was a remarkably lively conversation, but for that to be shared I would have to decipher my scribbled notes. 😀
Being able to participate in conversations that matter, conversations that have the potential to solve key challenges in Education  while being half-way across the world was a liberating experience.  This virtual session gave us all the opportunity to break out our respective silos and engage in meaningful dialogue about the Future of Education.  A big shout-out to everyone in the session:  Lora, Patrice, Wendy T, Michael, Wendy F, Apostolos, Yin-Wah and Mark ! 

Data-driven Insights for Dating

When apps and love come up in a conversation, we ready ourselves for some lame stories of another Tindr swipe gone-wrong or questions of whether we tried the latest contender for OkCupid.  Taking love (and lust) online is fast becoming a need versus a last-ditch option.

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What a meet-cute looks like when J-Lo wears heels. (The Wedding Planner-2001)

There is a limit to how long a man or a woman can honestly expect to bump into the perfect someone in a meet-cute situation (a la rom-com). Thanks, but no thanks, Hollywood. Millennials are taking these matters into their hands – and onto their smartphones.

There is something truly unique in the App Store now, going far beyond the newest Tindr or any of the miscellany of dating or hookup apps. It’s called Evolve. Evolve’s tagline on the website reads “Introducing the world’s first DRM- Dating & Relationship Manager”. Like a Hubspot, a customer relationship management tool, but for courtship, the Evolve App analyzes the data you are tracking, pre-and post every date.

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Evolve allows you to rate your dates, gauge relationship potential, reflect on your dates, see patterns, discover date spots- everything except the actual matching itself. That you figure out on your own. The idea is that once you understand your patterns, Evolve helps you change your behavior and make smarter decisions.

You won’t find any matches here – you’ve got plenty of apps for that. Evolve helps you date with intention. Weigh your options, reflect on your dates, and make the most of your time. Get personalized insights, tips, and discover where the best dates are happening in your city – all backed by data.

Dating behaviour ranges from little understood to completely misunderstood. Once you add in the complexities of online socialization, all bets are off! Data analytics to suss out preferences and concerns – but can this approach work for human relationships as well?

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The question of the day is: Do we need software to analyze our dating lives? 

We use apps to track everything – from fitness activity level, via a pedometer or FitBit app/device to what we eat, or how far we travel in a day. Not only that, we also expect actionable data to result from all the data we are collecting and feeding into these apps.  We expect to live our ‘best life’ and want technology to aid us in the pursuit.

The more one thinks about it, the more natural it becomes to believe that the use of data can ensure a satisfactory courting experience.

That, however, might be because us digital natives have been conditioned to believe that data is queen. Data can do no wrong. Can behavioural science truly help us interpret the quirks of romance in the wild? Outside controlled social experiments? Is Evolve App the missing piece of the system attempting to measure complex social behaviours of contemporary times? Will we ignore the butterflies in our collective stomachs and depend solely on data-driven insights to foster relationships? Evolve App and others like it may be a sign of things to come. 

Catalyst Woman’s research also found that…

  • In the U.S. the online dating industry generated over $2 billion in revenue on an annual basis while in China it has generated $1.6 billion.
  • After young adults, 18-24 year olds, the other largest age group participating in online dating is 55-64 year olds.

Product Design Demands Discomfort

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Take a careful look at the infographic titled The AHA Moments above.  Ranging from age 19 to 47, these people  have revolutionised how we communicate (Steve Jobs/iPhone), how we re-energize (Dietrich Mateschitz/ RedBull) and even workout (Chip Wilson/Lululemon Yoga Pants).

None of them set out to create a break between the old and new way of doing things. All they wanted to do was solve one particular source of discomfort. They zeroed in on that particular barrier and relentlessly worked to eliminate it.

Product design and system design demand discomfort. If a device or system seems broken, inadequate or even missing – that is your cue!  You do not require anyone’s permission to make a system or device more efficient. I think this is a reminder for myself as much as it is a blog for public consumption. 

Ideas of Gender {Quote}

“In a literal way, men rule the world. And this made sense a thousand years ago. Because human beings lived then in a world in which physical strength was the most important attribute for survival. The physically stronger person was more likely to lead. And men in general are physically stronger; of course, there are many exceptions. But today we live in a vastly different world. The person more likely to lead is not the physically stronger person, it is the more creative person, the more intelligent person, the more innovative person, and there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, to be creative, to be innovative. We have evolved, but it seems to me that our ideas of gender have not evolved.

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Untapped Talent (Quote)

“It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.” – Martha Graham to Agnes De Mille

Why are we here?

According to the philosopher Montaigne, “The great and glorious legacy of a human being is to live with purpose.”  As 2017 inches closer I find myself wondering more and more about my purpose and whether the actions I am taking are in sync. I keep circling back to serving humanity in an intentional and deliberate manner. If the work I do can not uplift mankind, preferably in a tangible way, it should ,at the least, improve their ability to gain financial stability and employable soft skills.

photo-1474524559940-5d22e9320205I think thats why the focus on training and development keeps circling back in my notes.  There are a few audits to be taken and I am curious to see how aligned 2016 has been with my inner compass.  I suspect some remedial work will be on the ‘to-do’ list.

 

Virtual Reality: Untapped Opportunity

The Science

Immersion + Interactivity = Tele-Presence. That is how the VR techies define Virtual Reality.  For us regular folks, here is a simpler definition: Virtual reality is  computer generated environment that allows the user to experience an alternate reality. This reality may or may not resemble ‘real life’.  The headset uses two small lenses to feed the user’s eyes with three-dimensional images while headphones supply the accompanying soundtrack or noises.

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The VR Engine

Virtual Reality headsets are powered by regular personal computers, since contemporary PCs are sophisticated enough to run software for Virtual Environments.  Headsets consist of two monitors, one for each eye, and they combine images to create a stereoscopic effect. This creates the illusion of depth while exploring a virtual world.

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The user is literally is immersed into a new world that is ‘near reality’ or virtual – so this is called immersion. Once in the user can interact with this new world. The combination of the immersion and the interactivity is what is called Telepresence.

Remember this formula?  Immersion + Interactivity = Tele-Presence

VE designers determine the success of their design when the user becomes completely unaware of their real surroundings and solely focuses on their existence within the virtual environment.

So far most VE involve visual and audio simulation but engineers are working to incorporate the user’s sense of touch – user force feedback and touch interaction is called haptic systems.

The Lingo

  • VE= Virtual Environments
  • VRX= Virtual Reality Experiences
  • Haptic Systems = User Force Feedback and Touch Interaction

How is it already changing our lives?

For perhaps the most obvious place of entry, virtual reality is edging into the Entertainment industry.  Films are being filmed exclusively for VR headsets while live-streamed concerts are giving users a front-row experience from the comfort of their own home.

If you recall the computer monitor at the Home Depot that helps you select the right colour for the living room, it makes sense that the design industry has eagerly adopted VR tech.  Pop on a headset, feed in a picture or two of the room that needs a renovation, you can build a new space with 3-D tools.  

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Collaborative experiences beyond traditional gaming are gaining momentum, you can tap in friends to help you build a 3-d painting -Google’s Tiltbrush.  You can use apps and wand-like controllers to add further customisation to the 3-D experience.

Gaming has gotten infinitely cooler with VR as now game designers flip the switch on traditional designing, creating easter eggs and predicting where their player will actually turn or reach out and touch in the gaming dimension – the possibilities are only limited by their creativity

Did you listen to my latest podcast ‘Virtual Reality: Are We There Yet?’? 

There is the logical extension of VR tech with Tourism and Exploration of places near and impossibly far – Google Cardboard and others promise a tour of the Planet Mars.

However, I think the potential of disrupting Meditation is infinitely more exciting!  Psychologists in the United States have already starting using it with army vets to treat Post-traumatic Disorder.  Researchers are using VR worlds to explore human behaviour in a safe space, suspended from reality.

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Studies have shown VR sessions to work better than traditional painkillers – meaning it can be used in place of medicines to heal with distraction and engagement of the mind.

Video conferencing has become common-place, but VR technology means logging onto a Tele-presence robot that wheels around automatically in the workplace while you work from a remote location.  It’s not all work, you can also log onto a chat room, not much different from The Sims, and chat or play in the guise of your game avatar.

Shopping in virtual reality is gonna be like never before,as you can try on a new pair of shoes or  squeeze into a shirt before buying it online.

What Skills Are Required to Break into VR Tech Industry? 

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The virtual reality space has taken off and the demand for job candidates with VR knowledge has gone up by 37% since 2015! Since the tech is new, VR Startups and research companies are facing difficulty filling that demand.  There are a large number of jobs available for those open to building virtual-reality apps, games, and experiences. If there is anything that screams CAREER OPPORTUNITY – this would be it.

There are two different types of VR content being created for VRX:

  1.  360 VR Video, and
  2. True-VR .

A career in 360 VR Video asks for experience in  Film Production and VFX skill-set.  The 360 video medium is a highly complex mixture of on-location production skills, sophisticated technical cameras and detailed post-production techniques. Once the experience is hot, technicians need to stitch scenes back into 360 spheres with tools like Kolor, or Nuke compositor. The final edits are made in Premiere, while any motion graphics tweaking is accomplished with After Effects or Fusion.

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360 VR Video content can be used on Youtube 360, Facebook 360 as well as all apps and devices that play VR.

A contender for a job in the 360 VR would require portfolio that exhibits:

  • Examples of grading and editing,
  • VFX breakdowns of complex fixes ,
  • Motion Tracking and embedded motion graphics,and
  • A showreel with their best 360 video work, including samples of before and after post-production stitching.

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Entering into a career in True-VR requires a strong pre-knowledge of game engine technology as well as a demonstrable game design skills-set.  The workflow for True-VR is similar to traditional game development, from modelling and animating to the eventual rendering.  Virtual Experiences created by True-VR technicians are geared for headsets such as Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, HTC Vive, and even the humble Samsung Gear VR.

Familiarity with the following programs will be beneficial for any True-VR hopeful:

  • Animation and Modelling: Maya or 3ds Max
  • Sculpting and Texturing: Mudbox, ZBrush, or Mari
  • Final Rendering and Publication:  Unity or UnReal Engine

Within True-VR there are two career paths:

VR Developer

Those looking to become VR Developers should have a showreel of VR experiences they have created for game engines, a downloadable link to the game or experience, sample code in C#, C+ or equivalent and further detail of the content they have created.

3D Artist

Those wanting to become 3D Artists should have a showreel that best exhibits their artistry in live games and experiences, wireframes and samples of their work in a game engine like Unity, UE4 or Marmoset.

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Interested in the software end of things and itching to break into Virtual Reality Development? You will need experience in the following to break into B2B VR startups:
  • Strong Knowledge of Realtime Game Engine Tech + Arts Skills: Designing and Developing with 3D Modelling Software such as 3ds Max or Maya, texture or sculpting in Zbrush or Mari and Unity or UnReal Engine to pull the whole project together.
  • SDKs (Software Development Kits) being used by VR developers, such as SDK 0.8 for Oculus,
  • Head tracking, 3D calibration and side-by-side rendering, and
  • Programming Experience with C or C ++ languages.

Leaning towards hardware? Skills from PC and Mobile Phone technology easily transfer over to immersive filming. You will need experience in Optics since visualisation is key for developing engaging Virtual Environments (VE).

Past Gaming – Where Else Can VR Be Found?

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VR jobs are expected to show up in education, military and medical fields as tech can be used for trainings, simulations, safety modulations  – as well as construction, engineering and architecture that can exploit 3D design to optimise models/estimates.

Venture into Computer Vision to understand the fundamentals of VR Tracking and camera-based user interaction.  Cognitive computer engineers are needed to help businesses create, test, and evaluate cognitive software designed for their computer network.

On The Horizon

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Scientists are also exploring the possibility of developing biosensors for VR use. A biosensor can detect and interpret nerve and muscle activity. With a properly calibrated biosensor, a computer can interpret how a user is moving in physical space and translate that into the corresponding motions in virtual space. Biosensors may be attached directly to the skin of a user, or may be incorporated into gloves or bodysuits. One limitation to biosensor suits is that they must be custom made for each user or the sensors will not line up properly on the user’s body

Thinking Out Loud

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Is this it, fellow humans? Is the pinnacle of human ingenuity and creativity  limited to regurgitating real-life scenarios onto digital screens for rapid consumption?  Are we fulfilling the prophecy predicted by the animated movie ‘Wall-E’?

Are we destined to become increasingly sedentary, floating about on hoverchairs, consuming packaged foods, viewing the world through strapped-on headsets and booking our flights to the nearest planet?

Listen to latest Catalyst Woman podcast ‘Virtual Reality: Are We There Yet?’? 

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Virtual Reality: Are We There Yet? (Podcast Episode #7)

Hey hey! The latest episode of the Catalyst Woman podcast is out – so give it a listen on iTunes , Soundcloud or right here.

The write-up will be coming out later today. Get in touch – drop me an email at talk to catalyst woman at gmail dot com or tweet at me  @ the rate of catalyst woman.