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Jan 8, 2020

January 8th 2020

Baked and Awake 

Episode 096


Don’t worry, I never heard of Parallel Reality before, either


Source:  Fast Company, via Slashdot


Original Article by Harry McCracken (

Misapplied Sciences:

  • Delta Airlines bought ($8million in a Series A) into a Redmond WA Based startup not at all ominously named Misapplied Sciences (MSFT Alums). Misapplied was operating in “Stealth Mode” (since 2014!) while building a new tech that Delta now intends to deploy ubiquitously throughout airports all over the world (presumably) that would create a new experience for its customers whereby the signage the traveler sees will be entirely personalized to each individual. From the story: “It’s almost limitless, the product map,” says COO Gil West. “Curb to gate, for things like wayfinding, boarding, upgrades, service recovery if your flight is delayed or canceled.”
  • The tech accomplishes this seemingly miraculous feat by hyper focusing pixels on a special display, which depending on the viewers position will only beam specific images, colors, text (anything) to each individual user. Oh yeah, and AI and a bunch of video cameras mounted all over the place where the system is deployed. I choose that word for a reason.   
  • The screens, still early versions of the tech- currently have some limitations on the number of different subjects they can display unique information for, but even these limits are staggering:  one iteration of the parallel reality screen can display unique information to 18,000 different points in front of it, while another is claimed to be able to split it’s display A MILLION times. I’m imagining billboards on roadways and window signs of businesses that deliver customized targeted ads.  I’m also envisioning dystopian “Public Service” displays that beam reminders and warnings to people who have forgotten to pay a parking fine, or might be in the midst of considering other mundane civil infractions like jaywalking, littering, parking in the load zone, jumping a mass transit turnstyle etc. 
  • The Company’s CEO, in a quote for the Fast Company story said that “The system is agnostic to the tracking technology—all we need to know is a three-dimensional location that we want to send a piece of content to.” This statement I find concerning when referring to a technology that mostly relies on *many cameras being arrayed and networked together to follow the traveler around the airport so that the system can tell when someone is standing in front of one of the displays, and can then perform it’s magic. For the sake of clarity and in order to quell my initial weird feeling about this choice of words, I looked up the definition of agnostic: As applied it is an adjective, although a person can also be labeled “an agnostic” and in that case of course the word is a noun.  Sticking to the adjective however we find, per Google, that: adjective

adjective: agnostic- Relating to agnostics or agnosticism. Synonyms: skeptical, doubting, questioning, unsure, cynical, unbelieving, disbelieving, nonbelieving, faithless, irreligious, rationalist, nullifidian. Nevertheless, further clarity may be gained by also reading the noun’s definition, which reads: “A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God” 

  • Speaking of magic, I saw some (weed and paranoia fueled no doubt) red flags in the language chosen by the article’s author, over and above Misappllied’s CEO’s glib take on his responsibility to acknowledge the true scope of their tech’s wider applications. The article opens with characterizing the airport traveling experience as a ritual. A couple paragraphs down, a statement about how the tech in question is being judged as “a technological magic trick”. There were references to the Startup being in “Stealth Mode”, and the choice to use phrases like Deployed and Deployment, which appear three times when referencing additional applications for the tech as well as where Delta is currently planning to test it (Detroit, by the way). To be fair, I assume Mr McCracken is a tech writer by trade,(UPDATE: Oh yeah is he ever) and in that realm, specifically in software development, “Deploy” is frequently used as a label for certain workflows including pushing updates to servers, handing off new builds from developers to Testers, etc.  “We deployed the new build this morning so you clowns should be able to break it as soon as you’re ready” that sort of thing, so it could just be force of Techboy habit- but I don’t like the word here. Whenever your car’s infotainment system receives an OTA update, some Sys Admin somewhere a few hours before got a little IT Boner when they said “We’ve deployed the latest code to the Live Server”, or words to that effect. I don’t know, it all smacks of para militarism or something. 
  • The whole project was borne out of a 2014 Microsoft experiment with Spectators at a Pro Sports event where cell phones were used to signal individuals to sit or stand on command, effectively turning them into “Human Pixels” (Ahem- cybernetics- cough). 
  • Misapplied also has a connection to Walt Disney Imagineering, through Co Founder Dave Thompson, who previously worked in creating theme park experiences for Disney. (More pure psychology and cybernetics all with the express intent of getting you to stay longer and spend more in The Enchanted Kingdom)
  • Delta will be showing a Future Visions video at CES that depicts a Parallel Reality powered security check-in experience that appears to be a seamless, hands free operation- something that I think will be leveraged heavily to push for widespread use of such systems in many other public spaces as well as secure buildings (Malls, Stadiums, High Rise Offices, Apartments, etc).
  • The article closes with ...Future possibilities aside, once Delta’s beta experience is up and running, it should be worth at least a few minutes for anyone who travels through the airline’s Detroit terminal and wants to see something genuinely new. Ng, however, remains insistent that the ultimate goal isn’t to wow anybody. Like many a potential breakthrough before it, parallel reality will matter most if we start to take it for granted.

“It’s not about people appreciating the technology,” he says. “It’s about people going through these venues and getting a seamless experience. And when we can get to that point, where the technology blends away, that means we made it. That means that we were successful.”

Thanks for listening to today’s story, I hope you enjoyed it and it gives you something to think about as you continue your day.  I also want to thank my instagram friends @melbournemudflood and Sean McCoy of the Come to The Table podcast for sharing my Guardians of the Galaxy meme over there yesterday- you guys are the real MVP’s!  Honorable mention among my IG family for today also includes @itsyourgirlm7 who posts uncomfortable truths all day long on her account, and yet still manages to have a sense of humor about it, and @allenwolfphotos, who listens to the podcast, recently was traveling in Spain, and went a little mudflood crazy while he was there.  Allan, I’m looking forward to poring over some of those images you took at full resolution soon brother!


Only three more shows until episode 100- what do you think I should do for that milestone?  Anything special? Get at me, always, at talktous@bakedandawakecom, and visit my permanent internet home at where you can always find the podcasts, learn more about me, connect with other listeners in The Smoking Lounge, and support the show by buying some podcast merch or checking out my Amazon affiliate links for my journal and daily planner and other fine products you probably need in your lives. Maybe. 


Alright everyone, that’ll do it for this episode of the Plagiarizing Slashdot Podcast, I’ve been your stoney host Steve, and you can make me happy this week by posting an image to your favorite social media platform and tagging it with our motto, #smokeindicadoshitanyway.  


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