Blending adds believability to AR scenes. Left, blending is disabled; right, it’s enabled.

There are two important concepts arriving in smartphone AR technology at the moment: believability, and persistence.

Believability comes from digital and physical objects appearing to naturally occupy a space together: for example, if you move a physical object in front of a digital object, the digital one should appear to be partly obscured. In AR parlance this is occlusion, or blending.

You can see the advantage of blending in the two photos at the top of this post: in the photo on the left I’ve disabled blending so the image of the goat appears in front of the table, flattening…

The Great Fire of London, 1666. Unknown artist, after Waggoner. From the Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London.

There have been a lot (a lot) of articles written about life after the COVID19 pandemic, and there are no doubt a lot more to come (like this one). Some are fairly prosaic, others imagine radical changes to our way of life. They all reflect the existing biases of their authors. My own bias is towards this take by Mark Ritson:

When we emerge out of lockdown the consumers, the media and marketing itself will quickly snap back to former heuristical norms. That does not mean society and the consumer will not have evolved from the late 2019 period, but…

Some Burberry products are showing up with high-quality 3D models in Google search results. Burberry is, as far as I know, the first brand in the UK to take advantage of the AR search feature that Google announced back in May last year. You can see an example of how it works in the video below.

Product previews and try-ons are a genuine use-case for AR, contingent on them being the right product; shoes and accessories (Burberry), spectacles (Snap), electronics (Apple), and furniture (IKEA) are all good examples.

Trending AR VR Articles:

1. Augmented Reality Robotics

2. Infographic: The Future of Virtual Reality

These are the quotes I read in 2019 that I felt were worth saving and sharing. The quotes aren’t necessarily from sources published last year, but they were new to me. I also sneaked in one from 2020.

Mosaic Virus, Anna Ridler


We have an extraordinary superpower as humans, which is to see with our eyes closed.

Chris Ware

Intelligence and stupidity are not just traits; they are practices, or habits. Being intelligent is one thing; staying intelligent another. The brightest minds can dim themselves over time through dogma and laziness.

Ian Leslie

It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘Try to be a little kinder’.

Aldous Huxley

Humans + Technology

Technology is the reason we get old enough…

From AR to Synthetic Media, via Smart Assistants and 5G; a few things I think are worth keeping an eye on in the year ahead.

At the start of each new year I like to clarify my thoughts by writing about a few things I think are worth keeping an eye on in the year ahead. They’re not predictions; I’m not a futurist. In previous years I’ve described these as trends, but they’re better thought of as signals. Or, even better, just some things I think are interesting.

Extended Reality (AR & VR)

The first big technology platform was the web, which digitized information. The second great platform was social media; it digitized people. …

Thoughtful Net #69: curated links from the past week

Photo by Matthew Bennett on Unsplash

For a supposed ‘more than monthly’ publication, this is actually the first time that I’ve managed to send two editions out in the same month since October last year. Mind you, I’ve only managed to do that by keeping it down to six stories. I’ve not had much time to read recently as I started a new job three weeks ago and my commute is much shorter; I used to read four or five articles a day, and I’m barely managing that a week at the moment. Plenty to catch up on.

My new job’s working in a technical innovation…

Thoughtful Net #68: curated links from the past few weeks

I don’t know quite how this happened, but I appear to have forgotten to publish this edition. I wrote the content below over six weeks ago, and was just preparing to write a new edition when I realised that I hadn’t sent this one yet. Ugh. I’m getting old. Charles Arthur’s The Overspill recently celebrated it’s 1000th issue. He (usually) posts five times a week. I bet he’s never forgotten to send one.

Wow, I’m embarrassed. Anyway, expect another email very soon.

The Best

The Soothing Promise of Our Own Artisanal Internet, Nitasha Tiku.
Abuses of power, or just plain irresponsibility, from big…

Voice-forward phones could make the internet more accessible in the developing world

Scott Huffman, vice president of engineering for Assistant in Search presenting the KaiOS-powered WizPhone WP006 at Google for Indonesia on December 4. Source: KaiOS

A wide range of new phones were shown off at Mobile World Congress last month. At one end of the scale, Samsung introduced three variations of its premium Galaxy S10, though many of the headlines went to another new model, the Galaxy Fold, with its innovative folding screen — and almost $2,000 price tag.

But for a large portion of the developing world, the most important announcements came from companies like LG, Nokia, and Orange. LG announced the K40, K50, and Q60 and Nokia revealed the 3.2 and 4.2 model phones, all mid-to-entry level Android smartphones, which will sell for…

Thoughtful Net #67: curated links from the past week

Illustration by Nick Sirotich for Washington Monthly, and used without permission.

Last year I bought a Pixel 3 and its wireless-charging dock, the Pixel Stand. When the phone is docked the stand can make it act like a digital photo frame, displaying at a set interval photos that it’s selected from your Google Photos account using some kind of ‘interestingness’ algorithm — it chooses only the photos which meet some unknown criteria, showing you places and friends and avoiding things like receipts and screenshots. Where photos are too big for the frame (say, in landscape) it crops to show only the most interesting part of your interesting photo. It’s very clever.

A short note about process

For the last couple of years part of my job has been to keep my colleagues and employer up to date on technology trends; to make sure that everyone knows the moves in the technology landscape, and to try to follow trends in the market to help the company position itself well to meet them. This post is about a new process I’m implementing on a couple of aspects of that part of my role.

I have two problems that I want this process to solve. The first is that I want to be able to better track trends in…

Peter Gasston

Innovation Lead. Technologist. Author. Speaker. Historian. Londoner. Husband. Person.

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