COVID Finally Crushed by Disney Augmented Reality Game

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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.

 

 

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.

 

US Motorists Road User Charge Taxes Create Windfall for Kiwi GPS Developers

The solution to a massive nose dive in US domestic tourism has come from an unlikely source, specialists in GPS vehicle tracking, Road User Charge rebate and electronic in-vehicle tax payments by Fleet Management companies in a place that many Americans couldn’t even place on a map, close to the bottom of the globe, New Zealand.

When the USA introduced national Pay As You Drive road user tax for all other than electric vehicles a few years ago, no one appreciated the impact this would have on a variety of industry segments. The intention was to encourage commuters and urban business travelers to make more use of public transport. Having a blanket rule resulted in a significant negative impact on the cost of living for rural Americans who typically have to travel much greater distances even for basic needs such as food, health, shopping an getting to work. It also decimated the domestic tourism industry.

Whilst rental vehicles were exempted which ensured international tourist numbers weren’t impacted, the tourism industry still  went into free-fall as domestic tourists couldn’t afford the increased cost to their trips. In the last few years US residents ‘for leisure’ person trips have dropped by a staggering 350,0000,000 from the 1.6 billion person trips recorded back in 2012.

Enter new rules designed to encourage people back onto the  freeways and into small town USA, which allowed rebates for motorists who met certain conditions. These included a ratio of distance traveled on non urban roads, or on private roads and proof that the vehicle was more than 100 miles away from home for one or more nights.

In Car RUC System

In Car RUC System

New Zealand Fleet Management solution companies, having had many years developing Road User Charge tax rebate solutions with GPS tracking for commercial diesel fleets, were able to offer a ready made answer. Not only did they have low cost solutions ready to plug in to most vehicles manufactured since 2007, they also had the ability for people to pay those taxes direct from the vehicle and included an in-vehicle display which both Police and the public could use to ensure that taxes had in fact been paid. Several Kiwi companies have now partnered with US organizations including domestic Fleet Management companies and major vehicle brands.

The AAA and insurance companies also welcomed the move as the Fleet Management systems monitor car driving behavior, encouraging green driving and enabling PAYD (Pay As You Drive) insurance, where premiums are reduced for people who don’t use harsh breaking, over-acceleration and other behaviors which reduce risk. Several car and motor-home manufacturers are now considering putting this technology into their vehicles as standard features.

According to US Travel Association research in 2012, 1 out of 8 US jobs depended on travel and tourism (representing 14.6 million jobs supported by travel expenditures), which was in the top 10 income earners for 48 states.

It is hoped that domestic tourism will make a big swing back in the coming year, with the costs of the initial investment for motorists being offset by a variety of discounts, special tourism industry offers and off course road user tax rebates for those who meet the criteria.

Boy Racers Make Sport With Driverless Cars

Driverless Car photo by Steve Jurvetson

Driverless Car photo by Steve Jurvetson

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A dangerous new sport has started with boy racers trying to run driverless cars off the road. Car manufacturers fight back by capturing video and emailing to police services.

Whilst the concept of driverless cars has been well accepted and offered mobility and new levels of freedom to many users including blind and disabled people, a new challenge has arisen. Boy racers growing bored with illegal street racing have found new antics to amuse themselves and endanger others.

Driverless cars have been designed to deal with a wide range of conditions, able to monitor the speed of vehicles around them and deal with weather and other hazardous conditions. One thing that was never anticipated was dealing with deliberate erratic driving behaviour from other motorists.

Several incidents have occurred where drivers have deliberately swerved into the path of these vehicles which in several cases have resulted in hit and run accidents.

Following meetings between car manufacturers and law enforcement agencies, an emergency feature has now been installed into the car computers. These cars already have several external facing cameras mounted on them and are connected to the cloud anywhere that cellular mobile services are available. The camera software has been enhanced and is currently being tested with a number of new software features including car make and model, color and number plate recognition.

A 911 feature is also being tested,  so that if an incident occurs, the occupant can transmit video combined with the data collected to the nearest emergency call centre, complete with their GPS coordinates and the direction they are driving in. The boy racers may very soon find themselves racing to find themselves behind bars and not the kind that serve alcohol.

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.

Crime Stats Are Tracking Way Down with GPS Anklets

Philip K Dick would be shouting warnings from the rooftops if he was still in the matrix, but you can’t argue with the numbers. Since GPS anklets became mandatory for all parolees national crime statistics in almost all sectors have reduced by over 25% and growing. Sure people tried covering the anklets in aluminium foil and other tricks, but as soon as the location signals stopped, the alarms were raised and the penalties for tampering are high.

Prison populations are decreasing and levels of offending from domestic violence to gang related crimes have reduced dramatically. Call centers have been established all over the country and as soon as it appears that people are not adhering to their parole conditions, action is taken.

If someone doesn’t turn up to their job in the morning, they will get a friendly call asking if they are ok. If people come within proximity of someone they have a non consorting order against, or someone are not allowed to be near, an alarm goes off on their anklet as a warning. Initially it is just a vibration, which also sends an alert to the call center and the CRM database monitoring them in case it is an accidental situation. If they do not back off, it becomes an audible alarm and security or emergency services are called in.

In addition to many success stories where parolees have been able to start a new life through the restrictions imposed on them, those that have tried to go back to old habits have inadvertently guided police to gang locations, meth labs, car theft enterprises and other places where crimes were being committed. The criminal landscape is being mapped in such a way that police are able to predict where criminal activity is about to take place and shut it down.

Some activists are saying that the GPS anklets deprive people of their civil rights, but most people are just happy that the streets are safer to walk on. I just wish I had invested in the company that developed the anklets and the knowledge based software behind them. Now if only I could go back in time to around 2014.