I Had a Dream About COVID19

Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay

Is fact stranger than fiction or the other way around? For the last few years I have felt like an extra in a science fiction movie. One of the bit actors that don’t appear on the credits, isn’t really seen, but is part of the macrocosm. It’s a surreal piece about climate change, politics, smart technology, transport and people. The latest chapter in the movie is the emergence of COVID19.

I live in New Zealand and we have one of the lowest rates of COVID19 in the world, low deaths and so far no significant community transmission. I am so proud to live in this country where the majority of the people do the right thing. Sure, we had people stock up on so many toilet rolls and bottles of sanitiser that they probably won’t have to buy any more for the rest of the year.

Fundamentally we did what we had to do in lockdown, we supported each other, we were mostly kind and considerate, supported local businesses and looked out for our neighbours.

Many companies pivoted and did what they could, for example investing in R&D to build medical equipment needed to care for COVID19 patients. Companies like Fisher & Paykel Healthcare are an example.

Another is a University of Canterbury project which is a collaboration with other countries, including Belgium and Malaysia, creating a solution which allows two people to be supported by one ventilator, supported by a New Zealand MBIE COVID19 development fund.

Is it random that New Zealand is doing well? Is it because we have a woman Prime Minister? Is it because it is election year? Is it because we are so remote from most of the world, basically a few islands. Those things help, but I think a lot of it is about what Prime Minister Adern calls the Team of Five Million. I don’t know if she coined the phrase, but if the shoe fits…

Despite being election year, most Kiwi politicians have agreed that the safety and well being of our nation must transcend politics. We all have to do the right thing and focus on the ecosystem rather than the ego system. We have exceptions, we’re human, but most of us are on the same page and it shows.

Flip to other parts of the world where we see politicians playing the same games we laughed and sneered at when we watched Jaws.

Do you remember when the Police Chief demanded that the beaches closed down, but the Mayor overruled him because of the potential loss to the tourism industry.

The scary thing was of course that we knew this wasn’t just a work of fiction. This is how many parts of the world work. I’m not going to point fingers, you all know who the players are and how they work. Some are better than others. Here are some of the plots and subplots in our movie.

  • It’s no worse than the flu, lockdown is a waste of time.
  • Let’s have a COVID19 party.
  • It’s summer break, noone is going to stop me from having fun at the beach.
  • Herd immunity is the way to go
  • It’s all the fault of the (insert your favourite ethnicity to pin it on)
  • I want to fund research into a vaccine, but then I want exclusivity for my country.
  • Why bother collaborating when we can simply spy on other countries and steal their vaccine research?
  • Every day sees a record increase of people testing positive.
  • Hospitals are close to full.
  • Mass graves are becoming more common
  • Cruise Ships offer their liners as makeshift hospitals or quarantine sites
  • Some drug companies lock their doors while others others agree to open source.

Here’s what I am not seeing. All the superpowers collaborating openly, to get the best minds on this problem. All parties in countries putting aside petty politics and focusing on survival, solutions based on fighting a common enemy. A virus.

As a parent, how would you explain what is happening in the world right now to your children? Tell them why the world can’t get together as one, saving lives, saving economies, fighting for a better planet?

How will this movie end? I continue to be so happy to live in New Zealand. We aren’t perfect. We have our share of people who are corrupt, racist, criminals, tall poppies, and lowlifes, but I believe the majority of us are good, kind people who care more about their country and people than politics. I think we will do well out of this in the long run, including a new focus on self sufficiency.

However, we care about the whole world. We are all immigrants or descended from immigrants. We love the world, we love to travel, we have family and friends all over the world. We watch many countries behaviour with disbelief. Maybe we are the children.

When the history books look back at the COVD19 pandemic, what will the learnings be?

COVID Finally Crushed by Disney Augmented Reality Game

Mice

After COVID19 several countries in Europe, as well as the USA, started relaxing their lockdown requirements. More people went back to work, and there was an explosion of activity in the hospitality and entertainment industries.

From bars and clubs to restaurants and of course the beaches, people flocked in droves, reuniting with friends and family. They went to the parks. Football and other sports held field days and played demonstration matches because the leagues and tournaments had been cancelled.

Three weeks later COVID20 emerged. It was even more virulent than COVID19 and hit hard. Worst hit were young people in the 16-30 age bracket. It was believed the reason was that they were the group who had felt the isolation the most and therefore binged the most on the return to society.

Despite the numbers of those affected growing exponentially within weeks, teenagers and young adults resisted going back into isolation lockdown and once again the ICU’s were full.  Sadly these were mostly young people, not the older people with additional health complaints that made them less able to resist the previous coronavirus strain.

Then the mobile games division of Disney came up with an idea based on concepts of Game Designer Jane McGonigal. They modified an augmented reality location-based game that had already been in the making. McGonigal explained, “We needed to positively reinforce the behaviour that would incentivise players to stay close to home within the lockdown requirements, but not stifle them so much that they would go stir crazy.”

The game, called Lockdown, like Pokemon, was based around capturing Disney characters. It only worked within a three-mile radius of the home location of each player. Characters were more interesting and had greater value, the closer to home and the farther away they were from people, not part of their bubble.

If players went within 4 meters of a player, who were not members of their bubble, (which the game worked out using AI) captured characters would escape at the rate of 50% per minute that people stayed within vicinity of those people. The other people didn’t even have to be playing the game. As long as they had any form of mobile device on their person, characters were lost.

Miraculously, like the happy ending of a Disney movie, 4 weeks after the game was launched, the peak died down and, well the rest is history. So many lives had been lost, but the world settled down to a new state of normal over the final months of 2020.

The president hailed McGonigal as a great, great person, who triumphed over adversity as he predicted someone would. “Of course, it was no coincidence”, he explained, “that it was Disney, an institution as American as apple pie, that came up with the solution to this second horrible, horrible pandemic.”

McGonigal said, “This was a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the power of games to influence people to want to do the thing that needed to be done, by positively reinforcing the correct behaviour. I was lucky that Disney believed in me because everyone else was focused on punitive measures and of course dealing with the health crisis.”

And the rest folks is history.

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Snuber Ski Drones Replace Chair Lifts Opening New Slopes

Global Alpine Sport, the recent startup has opened up its first ski field near Cardrona in New Zealand’s South Island, with a couple of major differences.

There are no chair lifts, no rope tows, no pomas, not even a T-Bar, in sight! This means you are looking at pristine slopes without pylons and towers. Instead, passenger drones fly skiers and snowboarders up the mountain.

Ski Field Manager, Snowy Porter said “This has really opened up adventure tourism, providing people with an exhilarating ski vacation. Guests include many Rich Listers from around the world as well as international ski teams. The attractions include being able to book exclusive areas for ski parties or training, some of the best off (Northern Hemisphere) season snow and of course the fun of flying back up the slopes in a harness under a drone, which is great fun just by itself. Video drones are also available to capture memories of the adventures and of course for pro-skier training.”

APAC Manager for GAS, Christie White told reporters invited on piste to experience it for themselves, that they have been overwhelmed the snowball of inquiries received since announcing the opening, from the ski industry and tourism operations all over the world. “This is a game changer”, she announced. “New ski fields can be opened up in a fraction of the time of traditional fields, without sacrificing safety. All the normal functions like slope preparation and avalanche prevention are still required, but we can now do away with much of the ugly infrastructure that clashes with the beautiful environment of the sport.” She went on to say that because skiers had access to larger areas, everyone on the mountain had to carry a GPS transponder, which includes an emergency call and a pick me up function if people injure themselves or have had enough.

 

I Love my Driverless Hotel Showroom

People on a PlaneBack in the day I when I first used to sell scanning systems to supermarkets. I’d hop on a plane and fly somewhere like Napier, get into a rental car and then drive to visit all the large owner operated supermarkets between there and New Plymouth. It would take me around 3 days. A lot of that time was spent driving or waiting to see the owner.

What a difference to the hotelpod I use today. When they came out in 2025, everyone thought it was a load of hype. Who would bother?

So now I leave the night before. I take my guitar, a demo system that the engineers put in before sending it on to me, and settle in to relax on the drive down in the executive sized hybrid pod. It arrives in Napier during the night and when I wake up at 6AM, it has already docked into the hotel proper, so I can have a nice hot shower and catch up on the news on the 75″ TV.

I go down to the restaurant and enjoy a fresh flat white with my buffet breakfast, go back to my room and make sure everything is back in the pod before it un-docks and takes me to my first supermarket call.

Instead of waiting in the queue of sales people and merchandisers, I have a wander around the store and look at how things are working, chat with a few of the staff and then head back to the pod, for a one-on-one with the owner operator, who is curious to see the pod and the new 3D scanning system I’ve brought with me to show him.

He’s curious about my travel mode, so I take him for a drive along the freeway, building my relationship with him over a coffee. I probably should get a commission from the manufacturer because I think he’s deciding to buy one himself to replace the old Winnebago, which was great in its day, but pretty tiring as a way of having a holiday.

We have a good discussion about his aged stock, the concept of putting people on checkouts as a novel way of building a relationship with customers again and I soon take my leave.

As I hop back in the pod at 9AM, heading for my second call of the day, I record a video proposal for my prospect I have just visited, with stats based on how I can improve his stock using 4D heat maps of the product groups I believe have a lot of upside; and a presentation of the ROI I believe the system will deliver with 18 months.

The pod advises me that there has been an accident ahead, a serious one between a Level 4 and an old school car that has left the road closed. It recommends that I switch the order of my visits, so I have my Virtual Assistant shuffle my meetings with my clients’ Va and she confirms that my next call is now 90 minutes away. I relax and catch up on some email Yep still that dreaded Inbox, as I head to my next stop.

On Friday night, the pod drops me back home at around 7 PM. 10 years earlier, that’s the time I would have been waiting on my luggage at the airport, having seen the still heavily congested traffic on the motorway from the air and it would have been more like home at 9PM tired and frazzled. I unload my kit and the guitar (I wrote a new song on the way home called Blues in an Airconditioned Pod), and greet the family, probably feeling more relaxed and refreshed than they are. The pod heads back to the office where they will remove the scanning demo kit and release it for housekeeping to ready it for the next happy traveller.

Wonder Why My Garage is Humming

 

20160511_073523

So I finally did it and decided to go for an electric car and to make the Corvette my summer weekend car.

So what am I getting that changed me from being a bit of a petrolhead to electric besides the price of petrol? A friend of mine  was involved in a US startup which he has brought to NZ called 3D Car Ltd. You buy a car chassis complete with electric motor, running gear, a choice of dashboards and light systems and you get a 3DPaaS or 3D Printer as a Service.

The cars themselves start with a choice of 10 models, and I have chosen a stock model, just for confidence that it has been designed and testing for aerodynamics and safety. There is already a group of 200 Open Source designers, mostly in the US and Europe who are creating variants and new designs as well as custom shops who will design a car to your specs for a fee. None in New Zealand yet. They are super fast to 110 km per hour and then all but silent. I’m wondering if I should have a white noise generator so that pedestrians and cyclists will hear me coming. Any ideas on what that sound could be?

I got together with my next door neighbor and we both bought kits and shared the rental cost of the printer. They came with a choice of models and I bought a design that looks like the 2025 Corvette (but with 4 seats, right hand drive and gullwing doors).

So that humming sound you can hear from my garage is a mix of my kids moaning because they had to clear all of their stuff that they haven’t looked at for 15 years to make room for the 3D printer which is currently manufacturing the rear panel in go-fast yellow. It actually makes very little noise and I went to check on it a few times to make sure it was working. It’s mesmerising and I love watching it, which means the Corvette is getting plenty of polish while I watch my new car emerge from strands of polymer composites (super strong).

The system has to go through compliance when it is finished but 11 New Zealand built cars have already been given certificates and passed their Warrants of Fitness with flying colors. So in 2 months time, my neighbor and I will both have brand new electric ulta modern looking sports cars for around $40,000 each.

You can stop reading here, but I want to tell you about my favorite feature of 3D Car’s services. First of all a little about an OCD obsession I used to have. Back before digital picture frames I used to have a wooden frame on my office desk that held postcards and similar sized photos. I inherited about 1,000 old postcards from my late grandfather, which started it all, because it seemed a shame that no one ever saw them. Every day I used to religiously swap out the image and put in a new one. It was a habit I did for years and I used to feel a little uneasy if I didn’t do it. I loved looking at something different every day.

So here’s what 3D Car Ltd offers. Any time you like, you can rebuild your car into a totally new model that might not look anything in the slightest like your last car, or you can build modified components of your car, so you could have new features as people open source design them, like new LED lights or an electric spoiler that comes out of the back guard when you reach a certain speed.

Some of the components can be nibbled and reused although the parts requiring structural or aerodynamic strength have to be replaced with new polymers.

What this means is that in 2 years time, if I wanted to, for the cost of the raw materials and the rental of a 3DPaaS, I can rebuild a totally new looking car, or if I still love the car I have but hate the stone chips, I can just recycle and rebuild the parts that don’t look like they came straight out of the showroom any more.

Anyway, I have to go, the Corvette Car Club is coming over to see what I am doing and no doubt to give me a hard time. Actually they won’t, they are very supportive and one of them has already pre-ordered one of the first generation electric Corvettes which is costing a lot more than my new beaty I might add!

See you in the future.

PUBER Startup Gains Traction and Provides Employment for Powerless People

ev chargerRecent startup PUBER has signed a major contract with a Chinese manufacturer to produce hundreds of thousands of trailered EV chargers as they roll out their new mobile charging service for electric vehicles that have run out of power on the road.

These new devices have power adaptors for most brands of electric cars and can charge them back to full charge in around half an hour.

CEO Max Power said that one of the things he was really pleased about was being able to provide self employment opportunities for people who had lost their incomes when companies like Uber and Lyft made the shift to driverless cars. “It’s kind of ironic”, he said from his home in Chattanooga TN ” that we are offering employment to people whose livelihoods disappeared when these companies replaced the people who built their business with autonomous cars.”

He went on to say that PUBER was launched in a think tank at the 10th annual Chattanooga startup week and immediately gained traction with investors who recognised that there was a major opportunity with a growing trend of people running out of electricity during their trips. “Many people haven’t made the mental shift from having cars that can drive for 500 miles on a tank, to a car that can only do about 200 miles. Many forget to charge them up and overestimate how far they can go when they get back in.”

Owner operators buy one or more towable trailers fitted with a large powerpack and power adaptors for most brands of car. Customers have a mobile app which allows them to send their GPS location, prepayment and a service request to the nearest PUBER operator who can’t wait to get them on the road again.

Taxi Drivers Strike Against Driverless Cabs

cabTechnology has finally caught up with another industry and is forcing many cabbies out of their jobs. It started with services like Uber and Lyft bringing in driverless cars that were cheaper to use than normal cabs (including those driven by Uber and Lyft themselves). Then taxi companies started experimenting with driverless cars as well, some even teaming up with public transport, providing shuttles to rail and bus stations.

Customers liked it. It was the next best thing to car ownership. You didn’t have to deal with a driver, worry about being taken on the long route, the odor of their last cigarette in the cab, the lack of privacy. It was cheap and convenient.

Companies didn’t have to pay drivers, lose business if drivers were off sick, insurance premiums were reduced and there were less accidents, meaning better return on assets.

Effectively driverless car technology has made taxi drivers redundant. Many of these people are migrants and don’t have other opportunities available to them and there have been many protest marches in cities around the world.

Car sales have also dropped for the third consecutive year and are sliding at a rapid pace. Many car dealerships have closed shop and more car manufacturing plants have closed down.

Ultimately it is a win for society when it comes to traffic congestion and pollution, but at a cost to a section of society that can least afford to lose their jobs.

I Found the Real Auckland Transport Plan

Everyone thought the new Auckland transport plan was going to be about a second harbour crossing, a tunnel, more busways an extra lanes. The new Labour Government together with Auckland Transport came up with a much cheaper plan and it only took a year to complete!


Yep, it was pretty obvious given input from rich list Kiwi, Allan Gibbs of Aquada fame. he started with cars, then trucks and then he said to the Government (I didn’t get where I am today by building tunnels) why not give me a small fraction of the money you were going to spend digging holes under the harbour and we’ll drive on water?

So now he is building Gibbs Amphibious Buses for Auckland Transport (yes I know Aqua Ducks have been around for years but not for commuters) and we now have a regular stream of amphibious cars going from Gulf Harbour all the way through to the city, the inner harbour, and even a special commuter lane to Onetangi on Waiheke Island. It was pretty obvious really wasn’t it? I just don’t know why they didn’t think of it back in 2013?

The toll booths on the boat ramps can be a bit annoying on sunny days, but I guess that’s the price you pay. The bonus is you can try to catch your dinner on the way home from the office.

Facebook Goggle Phone Is Better Than I Thought

Facebook has joined the fray with not just AR Goggles, but the Goggles are the phone and its quite cool.

When Vodafone  gave me the glasses to review, my first reaction was, to be honest, pretty much, whatever. It reminded me of way back, maybe 2010 when I was presenting at a conference at Auckland University and Telecom announced the Bebo phone. I don’t know how many they actually sold, but I doubt there were more than a hundred. Bebo Phone

Then in Barcelona 2014 Facebook launched a mobile of their own. It wasn’t spectacular and I thought they would give up at that point, realizing that whilst most people used Facebook, that didn’t mean that it was the number one communication tool in their lives or that they wanted FB getting too much private information about them, not that they hadn’t already been doing that with Google for most of their lives.

Through Facebook Goggles

Through Facebook Goggles

Anyway, I took them to a SMCAKL event to try them out. Social Media Club Auckland now provides a live list of who is attending via their Facebook page.

Using the Goggles plugin I identified the people I want to meet up with from the list. I was also able to send them a notification that I was going to be there and was keen to have a chat.

Sure enough, just like the AR in Daniel Suarez‘s prophetic books  Daemon and Freedom, I was able to see the names of the people I wanted to see, above them in the crowd, which was very cool. I was also able to see the names and profiles of virtually every person in the room.

Everyone wanted to try them on and it was a couple of hours after the event closed that Vodafone pushed me and a last few Facebook Goggle fans out of the door.

As to the smartphone functionality, it is pretty well featured. I am now one of those people who are constantly looking up into the corners of my eyes as though I have a nervous twitch and am waving  my hands in the air like a New York Italian singing the praises of the veal at my favorite deli. Of course it won’t be long before you are doing that too.

Police Look Into Fake Google Glasses

Police are struggling to enforce the new law banning wearing Google Glasses whilst driving a motor vehicle according to spokesperson AR Seymour. “From a distance many of today’s Augmented Reality glasses are indistinguishable from normal eye-wear. This has been compounded”, he said “by the many cheap knock-off’s that young people are wearing today that look like AR glasses with a HUD (Heads Up Display, but are in fact just plain plastic imitations.” 

There have been suggestions that a driver mode be enforced, which only allows certain functionality, such as GPS car navigation, however there appears to be no way to police this. Google has suggested adding functionality that allows the glasses to check whether there is a steering wheel in front of the driver or not and if there is, automatically put it into driver mode. Hackers are already saying that if this is done, they will develop jailbreaks for this functionality.

Meanwhile there have been more and more motor accidents occurring due to distraction by drivers, including many involving pedestrians, often the fault is in fact the pedestrian not paying attention as they cross busy roads. This technology is very exciting and unstoppable and authorities are holding meetings with Google and others to explore possible solutions.

Hundreds more bars, Government Departments and workplaces have followed the example of The 5 Point in Seattle in banning Google Glasses, as an invasion of privacy.