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Weekly Vision: June 18, 2017

The Weekly Vision is a collection of stories that are worth consuming as whole, or just not worth the time editing. You’ll find out either way.

1. Inside the chaotic battle to be the top reply to a Trump tweet. How it offers the most valuable real estate on the internet.

2. A brief history of the pencil, as told by a pencil aficionado

3. How money made us modern

4. There really was a liberal media bubble. A failure of underestimating Trump’s chances (though we’ve probably had enough of stories rooted in hindsight bias).

5. Mark Zuckerberg on the importance of doing something — anything — even if it’s not perfect


There are plenty of digital drawing apparatus out there and they all boast the same feature: virtually no lag and “like paper”. But that’s the story with every update, add: reduced latency . But where exactly are we? And how good can digital drawing potentially get?

About a month ago Microsoft refreshed its Surface Pro range and one of the features it touted was the “industry leading” latency of only 21 ms for its Surface Pen. This was in reference to the Apple Pencil, whose latency was 51 ms at the time. Microsoft is rightly competing with the iPad; not only because of the substantial computing features over other drawing-only tools but that their screen is significantly superior. A paper-like experience is equally dependent on the screen, and the iPad’s laminated screen in particular pushes the pixels right to the surface.

But then Apple pushed its Pencil even further with the iPad Pro implementing a 120 Hz refresh rate, essentially reducing the latency to 20 ms. The 2.5x reduction is noticeable, and makes for a much better drawing experience but again, we’re dealing with comparables here. It’s definitely better than before but there is still lag and it can’t quite hold up as well to a pen (or pencil) substitute yet.

That’s where the above video kicks in; around five years ago an Applied Sciences team within Microsoft document the variations in latency of digital input and the impact it can have on drawing comfort. They start with 100 ms (which was standard at the time) and go all the way to 1 ms. I don’t know how far we are from achieving the latter in everyday consumer items, but the improvement is obvious.

We’ll eventually blow through that threshold as well with < 1 ms lag similar to ‘retina’ screens where the individual pixels are no longer visible. However its safe to say that we’ll reach a paper-like experience only once we hit that level.

Uber board member resigns after making a sexist remark at an event on sexual harassment

Johana Bhuiyan, writing for Recode:

David Bonderman, an Uber board member and founding partner at TPG Capital, stepped down from the company’s board after he made a sexist remark at the company’s all-staff meeting today. The meeting was prompted by an investigation into accounts of sexism and sexual harassment at the company.

Uber confirmed that Bonderman has stepped down.

Fellow board member Arianna Huffington was addressing the staff during the meeting and said, “There’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on a board it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board.”

Bonderman responded: “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.”

Let’s just say that Jack Dee knows when it’s appropriate to say what’s on his mind.

Silicon Valley thieves unwittingly decide to steal GPS tracking devices

Via Tech 2:

Silicon Valley thieves made their way into Roambee, a technology company in Santa Clara. They grabbed a beer from the fridge, cut themselves in the process and left behind plenty of fingerprint and blood evidence. However, what made the job of the police much easier was the choice of the devices they stole from Roambee. The thieves made off with about a hundred GPS tracking devices, together worth $18,000 (roughly Rs 11,56,000).

Immediately after the detection of the theft, Roambee went into damage control mode and provided the police with the software needed to track the GPS devices. The police zeroed in on a warehouse as the location, but two of the trackers were mobile and the police could see where the thieves were driving around. Two men were arrested, and the police found other stolen property at the location.

The mother of 4K TVs, at 262 inches

That second image may be the least appetising photo of the bunch but the most important; that’s the comparison of a tiny 50-inch TV with its 262-inch counterpart (ignoring the aspect ratio) – roughly 26 times larger.

From their product page:

Stay seated in your favorite fauteuil and push the remote control button. Watch the customized fabric cover fold away to reveal the enormous 4k LED TV. Pick content from the integrated 4k media server and enjoy a viewing experience that up to now was simply unavailable outside a private movie theatre in a remote corner of your mansion.

You definitely need a mansion. Or at least be able to afford one. Price: 35,000 euros.

Sorry, that just covers installation. Add another 490,000 euros.

Oh, and leave some contingency fees for (re)making the reinforced concrete wall behind it; 800 kilos isn’t going to support itself.

P.S.: That is the customised fabric cover in action.

A look inside Europe’s most enchanting libraries, completely empty

Christopher Jobson, writing for Collosal:

Over the last year, photographer Thibaud Poirier has traveled across Europe to photograph some of the world’s most incredible libraries. The series includes both historic and contemporary libraries with a special emphasis on the varied designs employed by architects. Poirier captured each image when the buildings were closed and empty of people to focus entirely on structure and layout.

So far Poirier has photographed 25 libraries and says he intends to add to the series as time permits. If you liked this, also check out his Berlin Interiors series.

Awe-inspiring; good design never stales.

iPad Pro (2017): Reviews round-up

Federico Viticci, writing for MacStories:

The first time I swiped on the 10.5” iPad Pro’s 120Hz display last week, I thought it looked fake – like a CGI software sequence. It was incredibly, utterly crisp and fast. It didn’t look like iOS belonged on the screen: after years of iPad usage, my brain was telling me that something didn’t seem normal about the way iOS was animating. Except it’s all real, and it simply takes a couple of days to get used to the new display and the work Apple has put into ProMotion for smoother scrolling and fluid animations throughout the system.

Personally, after a week of usage, I’ve appreciated the 10.5” form factor and new display so much, I’ve ended up somewhere in the middle. The 10.5” iPad Pro feels great to hold with one hand when catching up on Twitter, reading articles saved in Safari, and putting together advanced automations in Workflow.

Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch:

After playing with the new iPad Pro 10.5″ for a few days, I am convinced that it’s fairly impossible to do a detailed review of it in its current state. Not because there is some sort of flaw, but because it was clearly designed top to bottom as an empty vessel in which to pour iOS 11.

I know this isn’t really helpful to those of you who have or wish to buy the device when it drops on Tuesday, but don’t worry, I can save you all of that flim flam. This is an amazing iPad. It pays off years of setup in ways that come home when you see how well iOS 11 works.

Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica:

Knowing what we do about iOS 11, any review of an iPad Pro running iOS 10 is going to feel unfinished. iOS 10 neither taxes nor takes full advantage of this hardware. The iOS 9-era multitasking features (nearly untouched in iOS 10) feel clunky and anachronistic two years in, especially with foreknowledge of the altogether more natural and macOS-esque improvements that are coming in a few short months.

So we’re left to evaluate the improved hardware without the virtue of the improved software that Apple announced with it. And it is very good hardware!

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

To me, if you’re going to spend $650 on a computer, it should almost surely be your main computer. And if you’re going to make the iPad Pro your main computer, you should probably get more than 64GB of storage and you should also probably get a keyboard to go with it (to say nothing of the Apple Pencil). It hits the $1,000 mark very quickly.

If you’re going to spend that much money on an iPad, you should know exactly what you’re going to do with it that takes advantage of all the Pro features. There are people who are already doing that, but I don’t think the majority of computer users can be comfortable using an iPad as their main device. For those who can, go out and buy the hell out of this thing.

I keep going back and forth on the the value of the iPad Pro. I feel it’s ultimately a little bit of the right product at the wrong time and a little bit of the chicken-and-egg story.

Firstly, I was surprised when all reviews spoke about how expensive it is. Isn’t this the most value for money product category in Apple’s line-up? It’s on par with an entry level iPhone (in US, cheaper than in most other countries) and blows away the latter in display quality, speakers, size and performance, not to mention doubling the storage. It’s cheaper than all Macs as well, if you don’t need that kind of functionality; but that’s exactly the point: what is its functionality?

iPhones can be charged at a higher margin because they are exactly that; everyone needs a phone and they use it all the time. Thus spending on an iPhone is only a question of spending more, and the premium quality (and better camera) is more advantageous.

The iPad Pro cannot yet compete with a MacOS interface in getting computery tasks done [especially on the current OS.] And Macs are still bought at a fraction; part due to the high prices and part due to most people being comfortable and familiar with Windows. For all of its merits, neither of these operating systems are as simple as the mobile operating systems (and in fairness that’s by design and a good thing.)

Unless you’re an artist, the iPad Pro makes little sense as it stands today. I’m surprised that Apple decided to ship it before (or without) iOS 11, since the new features define and justify the price point, and Apple knows well how important it is to marry software with hardware. Right now it feels like driving a Ferrari on a busy paved road.

I can only assume they’ve done this to accelerate developer app support. Whatever the case, it’s a better buy for the fall. They’ve already bridged the gap for people needing a bare-bones laptop or media consumption device; it’s the regular 9.7-inch iPad.

Weekly Vision: June 11, 2017

The Weekly Vision is a collection of stories that are worth consuming as whole, or just not worth the time editing. You’ll find out either way.

1. How the troubled Chinese tech firm LeEco borrowed $2.1B since the beginning of 2016 through China’s shadowy informal financial system

2. How fake news tricks your brain

3. Don’t worry about any interaction you’ve had with another human being for longer than seven seconds

4. Before the Flood – A National Geographic documentary which features Leonardio DiCaprio exploring climate change (Free for a limited time)

5. The art and science of comedic timing


Eleanor Gibson, writing for Dezeen:

Japanese brand Muji has unveiled its design for a compact nine-square-metre prefabricated house, which will go on sale later this year.

The Muji Hut will be available for purchase in Japan for ¥3,000,000 (£20,989) from August 2017. The minimalist retailer intends the simple cabin to suit a wide variety of locations, describing it as somewhere between a permanent residence and a holiday home.

“Put it in the mountains, near the ocean, or in a garden, and it immediately blends in with the surroundings, inviting you to a whole new life.”

The Muji Hut’s price tag will cover all the materials needed for the construction as well as the costs of the project’s contractor. The brand is yet to release a date for sale outside of Japan.

Though this concept is not new — Muji itself has sold huts by established industrial / product (note: no architects) designers before — it’s definitely not common. Architecture historically has always produced a trickle down effect i.e. notable architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier have extended their influence to the furniture, lighting and objects in a house.

While interior design may be a new (ish) phenomenon for a separate agency, products has always been a different domain. The furniture in a Corbusier space was designed quite specifically with its context in mind, but it’s this same design which makes it un-product like; the beauty of products is to de-contextualise to work in a wide variety of surroundings, some of which may not even be anticipated (but always encouraged).

Of course, Wright’s and Corbusier’s furniture is patronised in design circles so it’s hard to objectively evaluate the efficacy of working as ‘an architect’ working in the product design realm. In that sense it makes perfect sense for the trickle up effect i.e. equally influential product designers engaging in space making and making the reverse work – asking the consumer to situate the product well within a context.

How well does this work? Let’s evaluate the two sides of the coin. Pro – the standalone nature might ensure pleasant internal spaces, with well worked details, durability (or maybe not, let’s get to that later), cost effectiveness, exact costing and most importantly, what you see is what you get.

Con – limited pragmatism of standalone huts in today’s world, bad positioning is harder to correct and more permanent, materials chosen may not work with all climate (unless there are individual tweaks) and lastly, a total hit-and-miss with the shape, proportions and views with the outside i.e. context.

All in all though it seems worth a shot. Muji might a team of consultants to aid in location, and the design is currently made and sold in Japan so it does work from a technical point of view. I wonder whether there’ll come a time of generating interior layouts with respect to a range of dimensions (since most are orthogonal). It might not be the perfect solution but if the parameters are set right, it would be better than consumers doing it by themselves or from some . Something along the lines of a half-injured world class sportsman being better than an fully-fit low key player.

And let’s not forget, the internet has established the zero distribution economy. Design fees can be easily subsidised by mass outreach i.e. sunk cost fixed, marginal cost [every additional customer] zero, value to both sides.

MIT’s $10,000 furniture downsizes your home budget, but tries to make it worthwhile

Mariella Moon, writing for Engadget:

A few years ago, MIT designed a piece of furniture worth $10,000 — not because it’s made of luxury materials, but because it can transform at the press of a button. Now, that piece of robotic furniture called “Ori Systems” is available for pre-order, but only to large-scale development companies. Originally called CityHome, Ori is a single unit that looks like a large wooden cabinet meant for small homes, condos and apartments.

The current Ori has a control interface with buttons you can push to eject the bed, to slide the bed inside the unit and to move the cabinet to make more space for the desk on the other side. Too lazy to stand up? You can also do all those things through Ori’s accompanying app or by using voice commands through Alexa.

Multi-faceted, ultra-customisable objects sound good on paper but are rarely good in practice. Even an act of opening up a sofa bed is only done as a necessity. Components in tower PCs (of non-geeks) are hardly ever replaced until necessary, and even Google’s modular Project Ara smartphone was scrapped.

At $10,000, I see more value in a larger studio.

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