Augmented Storytelling As A Force For Good – ReWILD Our Planet

Today, we were joined by over 70 journalists from Southeast Asia to launch REWILD Our Planet, Singapore’s first Social Augmented Reality (AR) experience jointly developed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Google, Netflix, ArtScience Museum of Singapore, and PHORIA.

I was particularly proud of steering this effort given the pedigree of partners we had the pleasure of working with as well as the important cause we were championing. It wasn’t easy, but we successfully pulled off the launch of a sensorial experience that connected people to nature and one another through immersive storytelling that blended cutting-edge AR technology with stunning 4K video footage from Our Planet, a new Netflix original documentary series voiced by world-renowned naturalist, Sir David Attenborough.

Experiencing REWILD Our Planet

Combining spectacular IMAX-style projections with spatial soundscapes and AR, the experience lets participants explore four landscapes representing the last wilderness places on Earth: the forests of Borneo and India, the oceans of Asia, the grasslands of Mongolia, and the frozen worlds of the Arctic. It then highlights the urgency of restoring (or, “Rewilding”) nature by encouraging groups of participants to work together to unlock global weather patterns and magical animal encounters. The experience ends by leaving participants with a deeper understanding of shared solutions and a meaningful pledge to act and help bring nature back.

Ultimately, this immersive storytelling experience – where state of the art technology and quality entertainment meet – not only showcased the breathtaking diversity of our planet, but it also drove important conservation conversations, especially about how protecting our planet is a shared responsibility.

Spot.Ph’s video feature of REWILD Our Planet

The experience uses footage from Our Planet, an eight-part series that showcases the planet’s most precious species and fragile habitats, revealing amazing sights on Earth in ways they have never been seen using the latest in filming technology. From the creators of the award-winning series Planet Earth, and the result of a four-year collaboration with Silverback Films and WWF, Our Planet combines stunning photography and technology with an unprecedented, never-before-filmed look at the planet’s remaining wilderness areas and the rare and wonderful animals that call these places home. The ambitious project was filmed in 50 countries across all the continents of the world, with over 600 members of crew capturing over 3,500 filming days.

I’m really proud that we’re able to bring great and vital content like this to millions of people worldwide, informing and inspiring them towards taking action for the greater good. With REWILD Our Planet, I hope we are also taking this one step further by showing how stories can come to life in a way that spurs us all to help improve our environment. We couldn’t be more delighted to do this in concert with our amazing partners.

If you’re in Singapore, I hope you will go and check out this amazing experience at the ArtScience Museum – entrance is FREE! Also, join many others and watch this stunning documentary series, which starts streaming today!

Meet Mr Kamas, Inspiring UberEATS Delivery Partner & Singapore Para-athlete

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Photo: Screen grab from Straits Times’ video

I first learned about Mr. Kamas Mohammad when an UberEATS consumer shared how Mr. Kamas travelled 2.5km in a wheelchair to deliver his order. We got in touch and invited Mr. Kamas to share more about his story during UberEATS Singapore’s first anniversary in July. Besides delivering with UberEATS, we learned that he was also a para-athlete who represented Singapore at the 2015 Asean Para Games in wheelchair basketball.

Earlier this week, The Straits Times – Singapore’s most widely read newspaper – featured Mr. Kamas across print, digital and video.

In a very inspiring video (I really encourage you to watch it and add to the +52k views garnered since it was published 2 days ago!), Mr. Kamas shares his life story and how he delivers with UberEATS. He spoke about how grateful he felt being able to find a way earn his own income and care for his cancer-stricken elder sister through UberEATS, saying, (Translated) “They let me work, so I’m happy. I’m more encouraged to work. Since they let me work, I feel compelled to repay them by working hard. As long as I can work, I will work.”

 

Besides the video, The Straits Times also shared more in a written feature story. The story appeared online as well as in print – earning a front cover mention, as well as taking up 2/3 of a page in its “Top Of The News” section.

Once again, Mr. Kamas was effusive of his experience with UberEATS, saying, “I liked my previous job, but the salary was not enough to pay rental and buy food. Now, with this job, it is easier. I can follow my own time and target, and earn more.”

He also shared that seeing his photo being shared on Facebook made him happy: “Maybe then, more people like me will realise they can also do such jobs.”

As I’ve said before, this is the kind of technology-changing-the-world awesomeness that I signed up for by joining Uber!

Bringing the choice of mobility at the touch of a button to blind Malaysians

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L-R: Me; Moses Choo, Executive Director, National Council of the Blind, Malaysia; and Leon Foong, General Manager, Uber Malaysia. Photo credit: Sin Chew Online.

This past week, I was proud to help announce how Uber is helping blind Malaysians enjoy the power of mobility at the touch of a button, through a partnership with the National Council of the Blind, Malaysia.

Through this partnership, we will work with the NCBM to organise special training sessions for driver-partners on how to serve blind riders better as well as provide NCBM’s over 200 members with free rides.

I was especially blown away NCBM executive director Moses Choo, whom I personally think was a better spokesperson for Uber than even our own spokespersons! He passionately shared about how blind Malaysians have typically needed to rely on others for their transportation needs but with ridesharing services, they are able to get to work or visit friends independently.

Moses said, “I have been using Uber for about two years and it has met accessibility standards. I really appreciate the cashless mode of payment as being visually impaired, differentiating certain Ringgit notes which have similar colours such as the RM20 and RM10 can be confusing. I also like the digital receipts that would be sent via email which means making claims is a breeze.”

Moses also shared how blind users can get the hang of the smartphone accessibility options such as VoiceOver for iOS and TalkBack on Android in no time. Riders who are blind or have low vision could also share their journey details including specific routes and estimated time of arrival with family or friends for peace of mind.

Now, this is more of the kind of life-changing technology that I signed up for!

The Sound Of Empowerment

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This week was one of my more awesome weeks on the job at Uber: publicly launching app update features for hearing-impaired driver-partners in Singapore and Malaysia!

This is the kind of technology-changing-the-world awesomeness that I signed up for!

Internally codenamed “Beethoven” – after the master-composer who was deaf himself – these app features are designed to help hearing-impaired driver-partners earn an income to support themselves and their loved ones on the Uber platform. To develop these features, Uber’s research team invited hearing-impaired partners to participate in feedback sessions to learn what we could build that would improve their experience.

You can find out more about how the app works here.

In the course of preparing for this event, I really had my paradigm changed and many misconceptions broken – especially when I went through the research on road safety in the case of hearing-impaired drivers. Did you know, there was no evidence indicating a higher risk for deaf and hard of hearing drivers? The majority of the relevant information we receive to drive is visual, and there is no evidence to suggest that deaf drivers are at an increased risk for a crash.

  • “Deafness does not in any way limit a person’s ability to drive a car or other vehicles. Consequently, a deaf driver does not constitute a risk for safe traffic. There is no evidence that deaf drivers are involved in more car accidents, or are at any more risk on the road than those with normal hearing.” – World Federation of the Deaf
  • Almost 100 countries around the world – in Africa, Middle East, Asia, Europe and the Americas – allow deaf people to obtain driver’s licenses. – World Federation of the Deaf survey reports
  • “Evidence from the private driver’s license holder population does not support the contention that individuals with hearing impairments are at an increased risk for a crash.” – 2008 ECRI Report
  • In October 2014, the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that deaf truck drivers were allowed to obtain commercial drivers licenses (CDL) and attend CDL training schools. – FMCSA

The greatest highlight for me (and others in the team) was the stories of the driver-partners themselves! In Singapore, I got a chance to hear Andrew’s story and meet a really bubbly guy called Roland, who has conducted almost 3,000 trips and even runs a WhatsApp group to support other deaf Uber driver-partners (check out this video of being driven around by Roland here)! In Malaysia, I was introduced to James, a 3D designer in Petaling Jaya who decided to earn some extra income by becoming an Uber driver at night.

All of them were great examples of resilience and character, who overcome their “different-abledness” to become providers for themselves, their loved ones, and to be a productive member of society. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want to have an opportunity to do?

To our hearing-impaired driver-partners, thank you for being part of the Uber experience. This week has really been a blessing to me to be learn from and be inspired by all of you!

More pics from the events in SG and MY available here.

Obsolescence Makes VCR Manufacturers Press Stop

Photo credit: Adam Wilt, Provideo Coaltion
Photo credit: Adam Wilt, Provideo Coaltion

The news that the world’s last manufacturer of Videocassette Recorders (“VCR”) will manufacture its last VCR has gone around the world. 40 years after the first VHS video cassette recorder was manufactured, Japanese consumer electronics company Funai Electric – the last known company making the devices – is ceasing production of its VCR products. The company cited declining sales and difficulty in obtaining the necessary parts as reasons to cease production. At its peak, the company sold 15 million VCRs per year, which has since dwindled down to 750,000 units in 2015 (Frankly, still an astonishing number! Who knew that three-quarters of a million people still bought brand new VCRs?!).

The news caught my attention for a couple of reasons.

Recorded Nostalgia

First of all, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. When I was growing up, we had limited screen time (television, not tablet). My mother would record our TV shows during the week and we’d watch them during the weekend; after homework and revision, of course. Or that time when my friends discussed the first time they saw what was on the tapes dad had hidden away. 😉

I also remembered the “accessories” industry that sprouted around the VCR and VHS tapes. Who didn’t have some sort of VHS tape rewinder placed near their TV stand?

Remember these?!

Fast Forward To The End

Secondly, I was impacted by the fact that obsolescence has claimed yet another victim. Very specifically, it reminded me about the following clip from the movie, Other People’s Money, starring Danny Devito.

The bit when “Larry the Liquidator”, talked about obsolescence with the example of “the last company around […] that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw” is especially powerful for me.

This company is dead.

I didn’t kill it. Don’t blame me.

It was dead when I got here. […]

You know why?

Fiber optics. New technologies. Obsolescence.

We’re dead, all right. We’re just not broke.

And do you know the surest way to go broke?

Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure.

You know, at one time there must have been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw.

I turn to this scene time and time again whenever I think about my career or the brands I am working with (see: “Brands Will Last Forever… Right?” and “A truly innovative agenda and prepping for jobs that do not yet exist“).

Sometimes, it’s not just about product excellence or an endearing (even enduring) brand. Or, if you think about it from a career perspective – it’s not about your productivity or your personality.

It’s about whether you can successfully adapt to defend your place in this world.

Or, as General Eric Shinseki, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff puts it: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

News sources: