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Apple yesterday released the first SDK for visionOS, and we dived into the Xcode simulator to take a look at what we can expect. The company also released Vision Pro developer guidelines, which provide more clues about the upcoming spatial computing experience.

Developer Steve Moser highlighted some of these.

Vision Pro developer guidelines on fitness apps

Apple is clearly concerned about the risks of motion sickness when using Vision Pro, as the guidelines warn developers to be careful to ensure “visual comfort.”

Use cues like dimming, Spatial Audio, and gentle transitions to engage users in key moments. Ensure people’s comfort & safety, and avoid sudden movements. Adopt ARKit for content blending and pay attention to visual comfort.

Creating lifelike experiences

Apple provides a number of guidelines on ensuring that VR elements feel as real as possible.

Anchor content in space instead of the user’s head for natural interaction, and use depth to create lifelike visuals with hierarchy.

Shadows and occlusion also help with natural depth perception, though developers are asked not to go crazy with this.

Don’t overuse it though – it should add value, especially in separating large elements. Avoid adding depth to text.

visionOS has a number of tools to assist in creating a natural-looking world. For example, the size of a window will automatically increase or decrease as it moves closer or further away in the virtual world.

Passthrough

Passthrough is the ability to use the external cameras to blend your actual environment with AR and VR content.

One visual shows the range of transparency available for Passthrough, with Apple inviting developers to experiment with this.

▶️ Play with the spectrum of immersion using passthrough to blend virtual & real worlds. chúng tôi Steve Moser (@SteveMoser) June 22, 2023

We shouldn’t necessarily expect third-party apps to choose one level of transparency and stick to it: Apple suggests that developers “consider varying levels of immersion to suit different moments within the app.”

Additionally, apps should allow users to “choose immersion levels” using the Digital Crown. Interestingly, apps wouldn’t be able to tell how much immersion you have chosen, as this setting is not shared with them.

‘Ornaments’ help usability

With some apps, there may be buttons and controls you’re going to use frequently, and visionOS provides a way to keep these readily available.

In visionOS, ‘ornaments’ are elegant UI elements that offer controls and info related to a window without cluttering the content. They float parallel to the window and move along with it.

Ornaments can be placed on any edge of a window and include buttons, segmented controls, etc. They’re ideal for frequently accessed functions, keeping them within easy reach without extra windows.

Accessibility

Apple says that developers should make full use of accessibility features, like VoiceOver.

One of these is Describe Passthrough, a feature aimed at Blind or low vision people users. As Steven Aquino points out on Mastodon, Apple’s accessibility features, like Describe Passthrough, are designed to give Blind or low vision people “access to things we otherwise could not experience.”

“The whole point of accessibility, whether in computers or the physical world, is to give us access to things we otherwise could not experience,” Aquino explains.

In the future, my expectation is that this is a feature that will also be key to Apple Glasses, where it could prove a huge help in navigating the outside world.

Check out other recent Vision Pro news and features below:

Photo: Michael Dziedzic/Unsplash

Editor’s note: This story was updated on June 23 to provide more context around the Describe Passthrough feature and Apple’s accessibility focus for Vision Pro.

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You Can Expect More Blackouts As The Country Heats Up

Electricity shut-offs in Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area have affected more than a million people and killed at least one, a 67-year-old man who depended on oxygen and who died within 12 minutes of losing power. The company responsible, Pacific Gas and Electric, has been accused by CA governor Gavin Newsom of failing to maintain and upgrade its aging power lines, which sparked 2023’s deadly Camp Fire and devastated Paradise, CA.

Early Wednesday morning, PG&E began power cuts on well over half a million homes and businesses, affecting millions of residents. At press time on Friday, thousands of PG&E customers are still without power. High winds in the dry season prompted the blackout. Last year, toppled PG&E power lines caused the most deadly and destructive forest fire in state history, and the company claimed suspending service was the only way to be sure it wouldn’t happen again. As the winds move down the coast, CNN reports that South California Edison is cutting power to thousands of its customers for the same reason.

This move takes the risk—and significant parts of the cost—away from the companies that operate the power plants, and puts it on their customers. Even people who can survive for a few days without power have to look after their parents, children, or other vulnerable people, miss work, and spend money on things like batteries and bottled water.

“Energy access is not some kind of luxury good,” says public health scientist Jonathan Buonocore of Harvard University. When PG&E turned off the lights, they also cut power to assistance devices, air conditioners, and essential communications lines. Although the company portrayed the decision as risk management, turning off the power created a host of other problems for vulnerable people on the ground.

The current situation in California, Buonocore says, shows “a real example of how climate change can affect people’s health.”

Power outages due to climate change-related weather are already happening around the country, and most aren’t preemptive. A huge heatwave gripped much of the East Coast during the summer of 2023, causing power outages and at least six deaths. Weeks later, a heat wave in the South prompted record electricity demand on the Texas grid and caused outages. As Popular Science reported earlier this week, power grids across the country are aging and in need of cash for upkeep—and as the Union of Concerned Scientists noted in a report issued earlier this year, the weather currently pushing that infrastructure to its limits is only going to get worse.

“If you look at what’s been happening over the past 100 years,” says Arizona State University sustainable engineering professor Mikhail Chester, the main causes of blackouts are wind, ice, and squirrels. As the continental United States heats up, high temperatures are becoming a more frequent culprit. But a myriad of other kinds of extreme weather, from wind to flooding, can and do cause outages.

The problem of the existing electricity grid, how to change it, and how to prepare for the future, is multifaceted, says Chester. Fixing the problems isn’t as simple as fixing some power lines. But what’s happening in California makes it clear that we must find a solution.

“The Nation’s economic security is increasingly dependent on an affordable and reliable supply of energy,” the Fourth National Climate assessment states. “Much work remains to establish a climate-ready energy system that addresses present and future risks.”

More Thoughts On Apple Vision Pro, One Week After My Hands

I had the chance to try Apple’s new Vision Pro spatial computer at WWDC last week, and I quickly published my first impressions that same day. Over the past week, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the experience and read first impressions from a number of other sources.

How have my thoughts changed? Not really… and I think that says a lot about just how impressive Vision Pro is.

Vision Pro demo inside baseball

I was lucky enough to be one of the first five to 10 people in the press to try out Vision Pro. After the WWDC keynote, I went to Steve Jobs Theater, where I snapped some very quick pictures and video of the new 15-inch MacBook Air. After just 15 minutes at Steve Jobs Theater, I met my Apple PR contact, and we took a golf cart ride across campus.

At this point, I still had no idea where exactly I was being taken and what was going to happen next. I knew I had an Apple briefing, but a briefing for what? The new Mac announcements? iOS 17 features?

One thing I neglected to mention in my initial hands-on post was the process of the demo itself. The demo occurred in a private room at the Field House with me and two Apple representatives. There were demo units available to look at inside Steve Jobs Theater and in the common area of the Field House, but (with the exception of Robin Roberts) all demos occurred in private, and pictures and videos were not allowed.

Because I was so early in the hands-on briefing schedule, I left the Field House in my own little bubble. I hadn’t spoken to anyone else about my first impressions or about their first impressions. I was blown away by the Apple Vision demo, but were my thoughts clouded by the general excitement of being at Apple Park and the associated adrenaline rush? Even as a member of the press, it’s hard not to get swept up in the moment.

And after I published my story and others started to publish theirs, it was clear I wasn’t alone in walking away, stunned by what I had experienced.

This is one of the reasons I wrote my story immediately after my Vision Pro demo. I left the Field House, hopped on a golf cart for a ride back to the Apple Park Visitor Center, got in my rental car, and drove back to the hotel to start writing. I didn’t want to see anyone else’s first impressions before I had written and published my own. I was so focused on writing that I had lunch from Lazy Dog delivered to the hotel through DoorDash and made Zac pick it up in the lobby and bring it to my room. I ate half my burger and left the french fries untouched. I did, however, demolish the Diet Coke.

Anyway, I could have waited to publish my story until I had time for my thoughts to fully cement and develop, but I felt I had an obligation to publish something as soon as possible. After all, I was one of the few people who had tried Vision Pro at that point. My plan all along was to publish that story and do a follow-up after a week or so, which is what this story is.

When I talked to Federico Viticci from MacStories later that week, he also echoed the benefits of writing stories like this in a silo. Viticci published his full hands-on today, and it’s just as beautifully written as everything he writes.

After publishing my story on Monday night, I headed back to Apple Park, where I recorded a special episode of 9to5Mac Daily with Zac live from Apple’s special on-campus podcast studio. When we sat down to record, I realized I had largely forgotten Apple’s other announcements that day. Luckily, Zac had prepped some notes.

Why 9to5Mac?

One thing I’ve been asking myself since last week is why 9to5Mac was included in that very first set of Vision Pro briefings. I have a good relationship with Apple PR, but to try out Vision Pro at the same time as some of the biggest publications and YouTubers in the world was a surprise. There were further sets of briefings later in the day on Monday and on Tuesday.

My assumption is that Apple realizes it needs to reach as wide of an audience as possible, and 9to5Mac is part of that audience. We reach a much different audience than other publications, and Apple seems keen on including our audience in as much Vision Pro coverage as possible.

I’m very intrigued to see how Apple’s strategies ebb and flow over the coming months in the lead-up to Vision Pro’s release in early 2024.

The keynote and announcement

Part of this is also due to the fact that Apple has more time to refine and perfect its keynotes now that they are prerecorded and not live. There are no live demos that can fail, presenters can’t misspeak and stumble over their words, and Apple can clearly craft a movie-style narrative.

While there might not be a clear story on who this first version of Vision Pro is for, Apple’s keynote unveiling did a superb job of showing the potential of this technology going into the future.

If there was one moment that fell flat and was the subject of quite a bit of mockery, it’s this shot of the dad wearing Vision Pro to record spatial video and take photos. I get what Apple was going for when it decided to include that, but it stood out as a major “uncanny valley” moment in an otherwise excellent keynote.

Presumably, there’s more coming here at some point in the future. Maybe an upcoming iPhone model will let you shoot spatial videos and photos. Maybe Apple has some impressive machine learning technology that will be able to convert normal videos and photos to spatial format. Either way, I don’t think we’ve heard the full story here just yet.

I rewatched the keynote one more time with my wife yesterday. She was equally as impressed, but two things stuck out to her as someone not immersed in the Apple universe: the Persona feature for FaceTime and the EyeSight feature.

She explained that when she FaceTimes with someone, she wants to see their “real face,” and she wants the other person to see her “real face.” This is a fair criticism and one that I generally agree with.

I don’t know of a solution to this problem, and in fact, it might be an unsolvable problem. In the meantime, Apple can work to make the Persona even more lifelike and realistic because, as I pointed out last week, it still has a ways to go before it’s perfect.

Highs and one low

As I’ve thought more about the various demos I saw in my time with Vision Pro, a few things have stood out.

The FaceTime experience – in its current form – was the least impressive. I can absolutely see a use case for productivity and collaboration, but for person-to-person communication between friends and family, I don’t think the current implementation works.

This is largely due to what I mentioned above about the Persona, but there’s also a lack of flexibility when using FaceTime via Vision Pro. You can’t move the camera around to show different things, you can’t flip the camera to show off something around you – like your dog or someone else in the room with you.

But that was the singular low point of my Vision Pro demo. I can’t stop thinking about the other things I got to experience. Apple Immersive Demos transported me into a world of 180-degree 8K video. Imagine Apple TV 4K screen savers, but fully immersive from a first-person point of view.

This sounds creepy, but I also can’t stop thinking about the kid’s birthday party I got to relive using spatial videos. I don’t know who those kids were, but I hope they invite me to next year’s birthday party.

But what stands out most to me a week later are the sports and music videos I got to watch using Vision Pro. That clip of the Suns-Nuggets basketball game has been playing in a loop in my head since last week, as has the clip from the Boston Red Sox game that was shot from Boston’s dugout.

Finally, as a music fanatic, there’s the Alicia Keys video I got experience in immersive virtual reality. I could look to my left and see Alicia Keys playing the piano and look around the rest of the room to see her bandmates playing right along with her. I can’t stop thinking about this and daydreaming about the same experience with other artists.

The other things I tried during my demo were also impressive: Environments, movies (both 2D and 3D), mindfulness, multitasking, and more.

On isolation and loneliness

Earlier today, Zac published a piece detailing his concerns about how Vision Pro might exacerbate the feelings of isolation and loneliness that current technology has already perpetuated. While I agree that these are questions that need to be addressed by each Vision Pro user, I think there’s more to the story.

My belief is that Apple doesn’t want you to use Vision Pro as a replacement for in-person experiences and interactions. Its goal is that Vision Pro will be used to expand your interactions with other people and events.

Personally, I would never choose to watch a concert via Vision Pro if I also had the choice of going to that same concert in-person. But I would absolutely use Vision Pro to watch concerts I wouldn’t otherwise have the ability to see. I would also use it to rewatch and relive concerts that I’d seen in person but wanted to experience again.

Alternatively, look at the productivity example. Vision Pro can open the door to far more immersive collaboration than currently available if you’re a remote worker. Maybe you’re traveling, but the rest of your team is back at the office. You can join in via Vision Pro and be fully immersed in that experience.

What Vision Pro can do is give you the ability to experience things that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience.

The world has evolved a lot since the first iPhone was introduced. There are robust features for managing and limiting things like screen time, which weren’t available for the first 11 versions of iOS. As a society, we know more about how to handle technology now than we did in 2007. It’ll be up to each user to set those limits.

TikTok memes and “real” people

Vision Pro is already having a viral “moment” on TikTok, where users are faking a VR world to imagine themselves watching some of their favorite content – and jokingly watching some of the most iconic memes.

To me, this shows how much interest there is in Vision Pro. I’m particularly fond of the video showing off watching Taylor Swift’s Eras tour using Vision Pro. Something like that would be enough to push a lot of people over the edge when deciding whether or not to buy.

Here are some links:

Q&A

The Vision Pro displays run at 90Hz with HDR support.

The version of Vision Pro that I wore during the demo had a head strap on the top, which isn’t shown in any of Apple’s marketing materials. My belief is that this was used during the demos for added support because Apple didn’t have every size of the Light Seal available for testers. Whether the final version of Vision Pro that ships has that top head strap remains to be seen.

Third-party app developers will not have the ability to integrate with the Vision Pro’s cameras.

Comfort, fit, and sweat

As I wrote in my piece last week, I found Vision Pro to be comfortable to wear, but I only wore it for 30 minutes. That could change when you wear it for multiple hours at a time.

I did not get sweaty at all while wearing Vision Pro. And that’s saying something as I had just been baking in the sun at Apple Park for nearly an hour.

What will the buying process be for Vision Pro? What about outside the US?

I asked Apple about this, but the company didn’t have much to share. All we know is that Vision Pro will be available online and in Apple Stores in the United States next year. The company believes that its retail experience will be a key aspect of Vision Pro education, fitting, and demos.

Michael Steeber has a great piece speculating on how Apple Stores might present Apple Vision Pro in his Tabletops newsletter.

More details on the battery pack?

How natural is the gesture and eye control?

Very, very natural. I remain impressed with the accuracy of the gestures. The eye control works great as well. I think this will be a revolutionary way of interacting with software, just like multitouch was on the iPhone.

Is it a feasible replacement for large TVs?

Yes, but with the major caveat that it’s only one person watching at a time. And that’s a pretty big caveat.

Is it worth $3,500?

That’s for you to decide, but I plan on buying one based on my experience last week.

How stable was the placement of windows?

Everything was stable and consistent. I could place windows and then look around in other directions, and everything stayed exactly how I had arranged it. Things like furniture and people did not get in the way.

You can also use the Digital Crown to re-center your point of view at any time.

Can it replace a laptop?

Maybe? I’d want to spend more time with it before making a conclusion there either way. The real benefit is using it as an external display for an existing Mac – including a headless Mac such as a Mac mini or Mac Studio.

Is the mixed reality resolution good enough to make you think you’re actually looking at the world?

Yes, the two 4K displays combined with the incredibly low latency make for a superb experience. It does not at all look like you’re looking through a screen showing the outside world. There is no “screen door effect” whatsoever. This includes your peripheral vision as well.

How did what you saw during the demo compare to what Apple showed during the keynote?

It was spot on. Apple explained to me that everything we saw in the keynote was 100% real and not edited or crafted just for the sake of the keynote.

Was it annoying looking side to side to look at different windows/screens?

You also have full control over how close the windows appear in your field of view. I would imagine that moving windows closer and further back could help mitigate some of this.

Will Vision Pro be a “hit” product?

This is, of course, the multibillion-dollar question. After all, Apple has spent nearly a decade researching and developing this product. And to be extra clear, this is the first version. There are still years and years of R&D to be done to truly make the mixed reality products that Apple thinks will change the world.

After reading those stories and watching the videos, it was immediately clear, just hours after Apple’s keynote, that there was a general consensus: Vision Pro’s technology is incredible, though there are questions about who the product is for and what the most common use cases will end up being. The answers to those questions will emerge over the coming months.

One Vision Pro hands-on story that I’ve found perplexing comes from the New York Times. Brian Chen had the chance to try Vision Pro at WWDC and seemingly came away with an entirely different impression than everyone else, saying, “there wasn’t much new to see here.”

Chen continues:

Vision Pro in and of itself almost certainly won’t be a mainstream hit. The $3,500 price tag alone puts it out of reach for the average consumer. The key, however, will be that Apple use Vision Pro and visionOS to build a platform on which developers and content creators can build.

In the meantime, we can speculate while also marveling at the pure technological feat that is Vision Pro.

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Apple September 7 Event: Latest Rumors And What To Expect

Today, Apple will hold its traditional event. Although there are several products the company could be readying, two of them people are expecting the most: the iPhone 14 series and the Apple Watch Series 8. Here’s what Apple could announce at its “Far Out” September event.

iPhone 14 at the Apple September event

The iPhone 14 series will be the star of Apple’s “Far Out” September event. With four new models set to be introduced, expect a lot of hype from a new iPhone 14 Plus. Although the regular models won’t have much to differentiate from the current iPhone 13 generation, a bigger model will be a nice addition.

Expect great changes for the iPhone 14 Pro at the Apple September event, as reported by 9to5Mac. With a new design, a better processor, and huge improvements on the camera’s side, the iPhone 14 series will likely be one of the biggest Apple launches in years.

Latest rumors on the iPhone 14 models

In these past few weeks, 9to5Mac has reported that while there won’t be a price increase for the regular iPhone 14 models, Apple will likely raise iPhone 14 Pro prices by up to $100. In addition to that, a well-known iPhone case leaker shared identical silicon cases for the iPhone 14 line that Apple will likely announce alongside the new phones at its September Event, as you can learn more about it here.

Another leaker shared the iPhone colors he expects Apple to introduce in a few weeks from now:

iPhone 14: Green, Purple, Blue, Black, White, and Red. Pink is replaced with Purple, according to his sources;

iPhone 14 Pro: Green, Purple, Silver, Gold, and Graphite. He says purple takes the place of Sierra Blue.

In these past few days, 9to5Mac learned that the new, bigger iPhone 14 model will be called iPhone 14 Plus and the new hole-punch + pill on the iPhone 14 Pro will be, actually, a larger pill shape cutout, as you can learn more about it here.

Read more:

Three new Apple Watches are coming

Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman has been reporting that Apple will introduce three new Apple Watch models in 2023, which he’s calling the most important update for the watch in years.

These watches could be unveiled at the Apple September Event. The Apple Watch Series 8 will get at least a new body temperature sensor and a better battery life. The Apple Watch SE will likely see a second generation while Apple is also readying a rugged “Pro” version of the current watch with a different design and premium finish for extreme sports.

Below, we gathered everything we know about these upcoming Apple Watches that will likely be unveiled during the Apple September event.

AirPods Pro 2 at the Apple September event

Apart from the iPhone 14 series and new Apple Watch models, Apple could introduce at its September event the new AirPods Pro 2. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says this is exactly what’s going to happen.

With a similar design to the current generation, 9to5Mac sources confirmed that the next AirPods Pro model – code-named B698 – will feature the next version of the H1 chip, Apple’s own audio processor. In addition, references for LC3 codec support on the AirPods Max beta firmware tease that AirPods Pro 2 could be the first to add Bluetooth 5.2 support.

This codec will bring more stability and efficiency to wireless earbuds. Not only that, but this new standard will help AirPods Pro 2 improve the sound quality for voice calls and songs with higher-bitrate support. Although low-energy Bluetooth and LC3 codec don’t promise “Lossless Bluetooth,” they will surely improve sound quality significantly.

Rumors currently expect it to be unveiled as soon as late this year and start being sold in 2023. The Apple September event could be the perfect timing for Apple to disclose to the public that it’s entering a new market.

For example, early this year, the company teased it’s working on a new Mac Pro without further details.

Are iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13 Ventura, watchOS 9, and tvOS 16 coming during the Apple September Event?

It depends. According to Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman, iPadOS 16 has been delayed for at least a month, as Apple is aiming for an October release – alongside macOS 13 Ventura. During the Apple September Event, its CEO Tim Cook will likely announce the release date for iOS 16, watchOS 9, and tvOS 16.

You can learn more about these upcoming OSs in the guides below:

In his newsletter, Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman said Apple has new Mac minis and high-end MacBook Pros for later this year. 9to5Mac sources have confirmed that Apple is working on the tenth-generation base-model iPad and a new iPad Pro.

When will Apple hold its September event?

Apple will hold its iPhone 14 event on September 7, a Wednesday. The invitation teases an in-person event at the Steve Jobs Theater, although Bloomberg has reported a few weeks ago that Apple was already recording its keynote.

With an earlier announcement, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple wants to report a stronger Q3, in addition, to avoiding supply constraints, as you can learn more about it here.

The “Far Out” message could mean that the company is aiming at an astrophotography feature or even the long-awaited satellite communication support. We’ll know in less than two weeks.

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What To Expect From Amazon’s Big Hardware Event In 2023

And it has now sent out invites to the what it is calling a “Devices & Services and Ring event” on 28 September 2023 where we expect the unveiling of new products in its Echo, Fire TV and Ring ranges – and maybe others besides.

It’s a private event that won’t be streamed to the public, so keep an eye on Tech Advisor’s home page as we’ll be there to bring you the news.

But what will the company launch? Here’s what we think you should expect.

New Echos

Last year, Amazon surprised everyone with an even bigger smart display: the Echo Show 15, at 15.6in screen designed to hang on your wall like a digital picture frame.

What it didn’t do was to update its core Echo speaker, so while we’d predicted the Echo 5 (and Echo Dot 5) we got it wrong.

This year then, surely some new Echos will be wheeled out. It’s hard to say whether they’ll have a new design or if Amazon will simply update the internals and keep the existing spherical form factor.

Jim Martin / Foundry

We already know that new devices will support Matter – the new smart home standard – but this won’t exactly be a reason to buy the new devices because Amazon already said last year that “most Echo devices” will get a software update to enable this. There’s no definitive list of which models will and won’t, though.

The Echo Studio may get an update – rumours about a new model were floating around a few weeks back – and there might even be a second-generation Echo Show 15. We’ll have to wait and see.

Will Amazon launch new Fire TV sticks?

The Fire TV Stick 4K Max launched about a year ago, and isn’t really due for an update. The range is already larger than it needs to be with four models all closely priced.

The third-gen Firestick launched around 18 months ago with a faster processor and the latest remote control, so again doesn’t really need updating.

Chances are, then, that Amazon won’t unveil new models at its hardware event this year.

It might announce that it will sell its own-brand TVs in other countries. They’re currently exclusive to the US and, being based in the UK, we’d certainly like to see them this side of the pond.

Amazon

New Ring cameras

The 2023 hardware event was memorable for the wacky Always Home Cam – a flying home security camera that use drone technology to manoeuvre the camera around your home.

This still isn’t on sale except by invitation, but that’s true of many of the more experimental devices that have been launched at these fall hardware events.

A new Ring alarm system debuted at the 2023 event, but it’s difficult to say what we might see this year.

Other Amazon gadgets

A large proportion of the 2023 announcements were totally unexpected. The $999 Astro home robot, for example, introduced a new category of device, as did the Amazon Glow, a “video-call and play together” device designed to help children “bond with remote family”.

Amazon

Maybe we’ll see more of these oddball devices. However, Amazon might be gearing up to take the wraps off its own Bluetooth item tracker. Dubbed the Amazon Fetch, this was rumoured ahead of the 2023 devices event.

It’s slightly surprising that Amazon hasn’t jumped onto this particular bandwagon, especially as it could use the Alexa app – installed on millions of phones – to anonymously note the location of Fetch trackers and help reunite them with their owners.

Related stories

Misan Harriman Shares His Vision For A More Equitable Web3

Five years ago, Misan Harriman picked up a camera for the first time. Three years ago, he became the first Black man to shoot a cover for British Vogue in the magazine’s 104-year history. Today, he’s on a mission to use Web3 to level the playing field for artists around the world.

As someone who’s struggled with dyslexia and was afraid to pick up his camera for years, Harriman’s journey is as much about personal and artistic growth as it is about the democratizing potential of blockchain technology.

Finding his artistic voice

Shortly after he picked up his camera for the first time, and several years before he would officially enter Web3, Harriman’s life would take a drastic turn. He photographed protestors during the summer of 2023 at the George Floyd demonstrations in London. Martin Luther King III shared Harriman’s photo on Twitter. 

Things developed quickly from there, and Harriman became one of the most widely-shared photographers of the Black Lives Matter movement. His work caught the attention of British Vogue editor Edward Enninful. Enninful commissioned Harriman to shoot the magazine’s coveted September issue, marking the first time a Black man had ever done so.

Harriman recounted his journey into photography in an interview with nft now. The Nigerian native had a desire to get into photography, but self-doubt and imposter syndrome kept him from picking up his camera. Harriman also has dyslexia and has struggled with shame about his disability, and indeed admits to being ashamed of his own mind.

Credit: Misan Harriman

It wasn’t until his wife embraced the aspects of his mind he had once been ashamed of and the internet provided him with a platform to express himself, that he finally gained the confidence to turn to photography and share his unique perspective with the world.

This transformative experience set the stage for the fateful day in London when he ventured into the streets to photograph the George Floyd protests, aiming to be, as he puts it, “a custodian of truth.”

His perspective on the role of art in society is clear: art is for community, introspection, and truth-seeking. Humanity should decide art’s value, not a select few gatekeepers. And that’s where he sees the opportunities with blockchain technology: at the intersection between technology, art, and equity.

Blockchain’s potential for equity

Harriman believes that blockchain technology has the potential to democratize the art world. He explains, “blockchain is the first piece of technology that has irrevocable provenance to confirm ownership of items without government or institutions run by a small group of people to confirm if it exists or not.” He sees it as a means to take power away from traditional gatekeepers and enable communities to support artists from anywhere in the world.

The decentralized nature of blockchain allows artists to connect with audiences and showcase their work, even if they are in remote areas of the world that sit far from the luxurious galleries where so many creators have exhibited and, in so doing, made names for themselves. 

Harriman, now one of the top photographers in the world, says that these technologies ultimately open doors for talented individuals who would otherwise have few (if any) options. “There are people with as much, if not more, talent than me who will never have access to [galleries and curators in] New York, London, Paris, or LA. Should they abandon their passion? The answer would be yes, if not for blockchain technology,” he said.

Yet, Harriman emphasizes that the real benefit of the technology rests in its ability to remove power from the hands of a select few. 

With blockchain technology, communities can unite and decide if they want to support artists from the Middle East, South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, or other underrepresented regions. In this respect, Harriman notes that “smart contract technology allows the perception of art’s value to be crowdsourced” and taken out of the hands of small groups of power.

More than just lip service 

In 2023, Harriman joined the Tezos Foundation as a curator and manager for its £1 million permanent art collection. His motivation stemmed from the lack of intentional support for underrepresented groups — including Black and Brown people, women, and people with physical disabilities — in the blockchain space.

As a collector, Harriman takes pride in using his personal collection to support artists worldwide with diverse stories and backgrounds.

Recently, he’s been interested in the talent coming out of Argentina, including Dr. Alejandro Burdisio, who Harriman likes because of Burdisio’s film concept style and his age making him significantly older than other artists in Web3. Harriman has also supported Argentinian painter Anibal Argañaraz, whose work Harriman calls staggering.

La Scaloneta – Chronicle of a passion. Credit: Burdisio

Harriman also supports a Nigerian iPhone photographer who goes by Blessing Atas, who Harriman calls “a true poet of light with any instrument.”

However, despite his efforts to support artists from around the world, Harriman still hasn’t seen blockchain technology used to its full potential in promoting equality. Indeed, Blessing Atas, for one, is exactly the type of artist who may not feel confident enough to go into a Twitter Space with a dozen VC-backed men from California screaming about what Degen play they’re making. 

“Why shouldn’t she have a voice?” Harriman asks. “Why shouldn’t her talent be supported?”

But there’s a problem

The current Web3 landscape is dominated by developers from North America and Europe, limiting the potential for global talent to emerge. Harriman notes, “Most of the highest paying jobs in Web3 go to developers.” He sees no reason why the lion’s share of devs should come from commonly represented regions. 

Coding is a language; anyone can learn it. Why can’t there be a broader array of men and women from Latin America, Africa, and other traditionally underrepresented regions in Web3, he asks. Opportunities outside of Silicon Valley, New York, London, and other western seats of culture remain limited. 

But Harriman believes improved access to liquidity could be the catalyst for meaningful global change. This would allow talented artists and developers alike in economically impoverished nations to stop worrying about survival and start building instead. As Harriman points out, “It’s really hard to be a founder when you’re worried about your next meal.”

The existing builders have created impressive platforms, but Harriman envisions the potential of replicating that talent worldwide. He argues that part of the problem is the disconnected nature of well-intentioned efforts. Solutions need to be built from the ground up by those directly affected in the regions concerned. For example, people in Turkey could establish a DAO to direct relief funds in response to a natural disaster like the February earthquake that hit the region. Blockchain technology enables scalable solutions like this.

“We can still build degen communities, but that doesn’t mean we should lack empathy or understanding of what’s happening in the real world.”

Misan Harriman

“We can still build degen communities,” Harriman says, “but that doesn’t mean we should lack empathy or understanding of what’s happening in the real world.”

He’s determined to foster these conversations, which is why he founded Culture3, a publication dedicated to showcase artists, builders, and communities augmented by and built on blockchain.

Envisioning a more inclusive future

Harriman’s vision for the future of Web3 extends beyond artistic representation. He sees commercial value in connecting talented individuals from the Global South to blockchain technology.

As middle classes grow rapidly in places like India and Sub-Saharan Africa, Harriman believes that companies should focus on building marketplaces and exchanges tailored to these regions that have been traditionally ignored by VCs, builders, and developers.

Harriman points to Nigeria as an example. The country has a population of over 200 million, with around 70 percent of those people under 30 years old. By connecting those young people — artists and otherwise — to blockchain technology, Harriman believes countless opportunities could be unlocked.

Yet, at the moment, Harriman says he doesn’t believe any major crypto exchanges actually work in his country of birth. He also sees potential in one-of-one art collections, where creators make art for the love of it, and collectors support them for their passion rather than for profit. He believes this approach can help onboard more people into the space and create a more inclusive environment.

In his own work, Harriman continues to create art that resonates with people while illuminating truth and injustices. As an ambassador for Save the Children, he documented the worst famine in decades in Somaliland, bearing witness to the suffering of innocent children born into a hellscape they never chose.

Ultimately, Harriman hopes that blockchain technology will be used more intentionally to help those who have been unseen and underrepresented.

“This is not about handouts,” Harriman asserts. “This is about a commercial opportunity to service a global family through smart contract technology.”

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