A Kindle kind of life

Illustration by Augusto Jacquier

In the mid 1990’s, neuroscientist Vilyanur S Ramachandran conducted a series of experiments on patients with phantom limbs. One of such patients felt as if his phantom fingernails were digging into his clenched fist, an agonising sensation that had no apparent cure. Ramachandran placed a mirror between the patient’s arms and asked him to open and close both his hands (his healthy one, and his phantom one) simultaneously whilst looking at the reflection of the healthy limb. The patient’s brain, fooled by the trick, released the phantom limb’s clenched fist almost immediately.

Though I don’t know enough about the brain to even attempt to understand the importance of such a discovery in the field of neuroscience, one thing is evident: tricking the brain can be easier than we think.

It’s a statement that seems to become truer with every new, incremental advancement in the field of Virtual Reality. Initially pitched to (and quickly adopted by) gamers, VR is making itself known to a host of different and very diverse domains: surgeons are learning to operate on virtual patients, clinicians are treating phobias with headsets, athletes are training better and quicker in simulated worlds. You can get better at public speakingovercome your fears before a job interviewbe prepared for when the next tsunami hits and, of course, go shopping.

Dr. Christopher Duma uses VR prior to brain surgery.

Yet for every piece of VR promise, there seems to be a never-ending list of hurdles to overcome, aspects that are stopping most virtual reality explorations from becoming truly realised, comprehensive and, most of all, convincing experiences.

For one, there’s the physicality of it: you can move to a moderate degree, but unless you’re willing to strap yourself to a cumbersome, expensive and awkward circular treadmill, that’s about it. Then there’s touch: haptic feedback is a very rudimentary attempt to bridge this gap, but it doesn’t come close to the nuances of our somatosensory system. Smelling, a sense that seems to have proven too difficult to emulate in any other media, is also absent from most conversations around VR.

So, if VR’s intent is to trick our brains, how far can it go before revealing itself as prisoner to its own limitations?

Walking loose

If you go to Zero Latency, in North Melbourne, you might find yourself at odds with what’s on display: a huge, empty warehouse, nothing but black walls and concrete floors, framed by a network of cameras. In the middle, a group of people, each strapped to a VR headset and armed with a two-handed gun, walk around in apparent disarray. They talk to each other, and yell, and laugh, and unless you’re experiencing what they are, act in a manner that seems to make no sense. For outsiders, it likely reads as an episode from Black Mirror.

Places like Zero Latency continue to trend around the world, spaces where people have the opportunity to step into a different reality. Whether you’re in it for the thrills or the exploration, for shooting at robots or walking on walls, they offer experiences unlike any other. These establishments are working towards what is arguably the very first significant step since the re-birth of VR: free-roaming worlds.

Free-roaming players likely shooting zombies at Zero Latency.

It isn’t until you feel like you’re about to fall down a 20-story building, or your sense of balance goes off-charts when walking upside down, that you truly realise the potential that VR has in the way we can perceive, create and modify the reality around us.

With more tinkerers willing to invest in the technology, and more people being welcomed to make use of it, it’s not hard to imagine the shape of (some of the) things to come.

The Kindle of reality

In 2007, after a decade of other companies’ failed attempts at making e-books “a thing”, Amazon launched their Kindle e-reader to tepid reviews and skeptical appraisals. Today, ten years later, many consider paper books a romantic notion, much like vinyl records. Kindles didn’t kill the book the same way video didn’t kill cinema: they just offered people a different vehicle to access and consume the same content.

A similar parallel can be established between virtual reality and actual reality. In its current form, the technology can photo-replicate simple locations, giving us the opportunity to explore certain places that would otherwise require us to travel halfway around the world to reach. Imagine visiting the Louvre without having to deal with long flights and jet lag, price tags and nosy tourists: all you have to do is drive to your local VR shop and strap on a headset for a few hours. In essence, VR could do just as good a job as going to the real place, if not better. And so, inaudibly, the question sets in: is this virtual reality any less real to our brains?

It’s a fascinating premise, one that will most likely divide opinion: if you could live in a lucid dream, would you choose that instead of reality? For the outsiders, the unsleeping audience, it’s a no-brainer: that’s not reality per sebut a weird simulation that your brain likes to create when you’re unaware. But for those inside of it, for the dreamers, it’s as real as it gets, only better: you can fly, and any one thing can be multiple things at once, and it’s all so bright and vivid and brimming with feelings. Your brain considers that to be as real as this, your own physical reality.

Will there ever be such a tipping point for VR? Will it ever be able to replace, or rather, mimic, reality in a way our brains cannot distinguish? The short term answer, the one that our current technological limitations dictate, is rather simple: no. All of those things we still haven’t figured out about VR are expensive and difficult to solve, and might never be fully cracked. And yet, if Moore’s Law is anything to go by, we might get there after all, and quicker than we imagine. Solutions to the “simple” problems are on their way: better screens, wider depths of view, lower latency rates, smaller, less cumbersome headsets, wireless technology. And then there’s the rest: graphics are improving by the minute, we’re getting better at synthesising smells, we’re exploring ways in which we can touch what’s not really there, AI is becoming more conversational and quickly learning how to sound like us.

When (if) these reach moderate success and make their way into our headsets, what will then be the difference between walking through a realmarket in Bali, and going to a warehouse somewhere in your own town where you can strap a headset on and have a near-identical experience, one where your senses can be stimulated in the right ways? Because when what you see looks like the real thing, and the conversations you can have with AI beings are indistinguishable from those with friends, and the smells imbue your surroundings, then that reality, that complex combination of astounding technical prowess and our brains’ disposition to be tricked, will be just as real as anything else. And then, maybe, some kinds of physical reality might become a romantic notion, much like paper books are after Kindle.

Augusto Jacquier, Studio Lead & VR Enthusiast

This article was originally published on Isobar Australia’s blog.

Text credits to Augusto Jacquier, Senior Designer – Studio Lead, Isobar Melbourne.

A Developer’s Guide to Empathy


UX. User Experience. Usability. These terms keep popping up in all the product development meetings I attend, and I’m told it’s the key to success in the world of technology design and development. Jeff Bezos (you know, the guy behind Amazon, the Washington Post, and other great hits) seemed to agree when he said

Above all else, align with customers. Win when they win. Win only when they win.

But as a front-end developer, I don’t need to worry about it — I work on a team with a UX designer, so they’ll have it covered. I’ll take care of the codebase, the user is their responsibility. Right?

Who is in charge of the user’s experience?

Traditionally, the web and software development cycle has been broken up into silos, with experts in charge of all the deliverables in their fields of work. Business analysts, for example, extract and document business requirements; visual designers create the visual designs for the product, and developers, well, develop the final working product. Looking at it this way, it makes sense that our UX designers would be responsible for all aspects of the user’s experience. It’s right there in the name!

Siloed teams rarely work well together (image sourced from Thomaslarock.com)

One problem with this siloed approach is that it takes the user out of the equation for everyone but the UX designer. Inevitably, situations come up where we have to deviate from the proposed design or solution — because of time, technical constraints, or otherwise. As a developer, If I’m not focused on the user’s needs, I am more likely to choose the option that keeps my code looking pretty, or the easier option to develop.

A better perspective is to understand the role each team member plays in the final product, and therefore in the user’s experience. For instance, my decisions as a front-end developer can impact the time it takes for a page to load, or how performant a given piece of functionality is, which will have an impact on the user.

Ultimately, it’s about understanding, and building empathy for, your users. If you understand the user’s needs (and care about them!), you’re more likely to try find a solution that helps the user achieve their task with less fuss. This is a win for your users, and ultimately a win for your business too!

Meeting often with users will help to build empathy within your team

How do you make your team care about users?

So obviously, if your team cares about your users you’re more likely to come out with a good user experience. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to care about someone you don’t know — especially when their needs make your job difficult! Luckily, there are a few ways to build empathy for your users, even when you’re not meeting with them daily.

Framing is everything

When we develop user-centred products, we break up tasks into user stories, but not all are created equal. Compare these two stories:

  1. As a user, I want to open a product detail modal so that I can see the details of a product
  2. As a researching customer, I want to see detailed photos of a product so that I can make an informed purchasing decision

Both aim to present the functionality from the user’s perspective, but which one tells you the most about the user’s problems, and how the solution will solve it?

It seems simple, but thinking a bit deeper about how you write your user story names will go a long way to putting your team in the user’s shoes.

Ask for context

Developers already know that more information makes for better products, but we often only ask for technical details. Some other helpful questions include:

  • What is the user hoping to achieve with this functionality?
  • How does this fit with the user’s overall journey?
  • How do we think this functionality will help the user achieve their goals?

In general, the more you know about the user’s context, the better.

Designers, the more context you provide upfront, the easier it is to build empathy into each piece of functionality, so help your team by providing answers to these questions with each design.

Meet your users (or develop personas)

Even if you’re not a UX designer or researcher, you can benefit from sitting in on a user research session. As a developer, I’ve found that participating in user testing sessions, for example, gave me a better understanding of the real user problems we were trying to solve. And if you can’t participate, a summary of the results can be super helpful too, so go ahead and ask your designers and researchers for this kind of information.

If you don’t have the time or budget to meet with real people (or even if you have already participated in a handful of user testing sessions), personas can be a great tool to help enrich your understanding of your users. They represent core aspects, demographics, needs and pain points of your users. They help to keep your team focused on your users, and can be a valuable compass when making design or development decisions.

How do I start?

If you’re currently locked into a siloed workflow, it can be hard to make changes to your team’s processes or attitudes. However if you look at the benefits to your product, your users and your business, it’s clear that it’s worth the effort. Start your next development task by getting to know your users and their needs, and soon enough these steps will become second nature.

Juan Ojeda, Front End Developer (UX Enthusiast) @ Isobar Australia

Originally published on Isobar Australia’s blog.

Why major US movie studios are pulling off from Netflix.

Twin Design / Shutterstock.com

In case you missed it, it’s been a long time since Netflix was just a streaming service.

Founded in 1997, its business model was mainly focused on DVD sales and rental, but a year later Reed Hastings (Netflix’s founder) dropped DVD sales to focus on the DVD rental by mail business. In 2007 the streaming service was launched and it rolled out to 160 countries as of January 2016.

One of Netflix’s key moments takes place in February 2013, when they debuted their first original series. 13 episodes long, starring acclaimed actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, produced (and partially directed) by renowned filmmaker David Fincher, House of Cards quickly became an international sensation and the first of a long series of “Netflix Original” content.

And although there are some turds in their original catalog (see the recent War Machine starring Brad Pitt), there is a very long list of critical and commercial successes (series such as Orange is the new Black, Sense8, Narcos, Black Mirror, Stranger Things, Marvel’s DareDevil and Jessica Jones; feature films like Beasts of No Nation and Okja to name a few).

Recent productions have attracted major talents such as Will Smith, Robert Redford, Tilda Swinton, Jennifer Jason Leigh or Jake Gyllenhaal.

Last week, Disney announced their intent to launch their own streaming service in 2019 (à la HBO Go). This means that the current deal with Netflix that allows the platform to stream hit franchises such as Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbeans, but also the whole Marvel MCU catalog (Iron Man, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.), is coming to an end.

A few days later, 20th Century Fox revealed they were considering a similar move.

It’s evident that studios are looking to cut off the middle man and make a bigger profit by distributing content themselves. However, the biggest development is the fact that Netflix is not just a partner anymore.

They are competitors.

And as always, consumers will have to chip in, waiting for the dust to settle while retaining access to their favorite content. Or revert back to downloading for some.


Edit August 18th, 2017

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple will invest approximately $1 billion in acquiring and producing original TV shows over the next year. The investment could result in as many as 10 new shows, a source told the publication, with the iPhone-maker looking to match the high-quality output of networks like HBO.

Why Isobar Greece Started Selling Its Own Sunglasses.


Our colleagues from Isobar Greece have decided to jump the fence and see what really happens on the advertisers’ side.

Wanting to have a better understanding (albeit on a smaller scale) of the challenges clients are facing, they have created, produced and marketed a sunglasses brand called We Are Eyes.

In a market challenged by the aftermath of the economical crisis, they decided to dive in a real-life situation so that they can be closer to clients.

This is not about bringing in alternative revenue streams (their goal is to break-even). This is about empathy.

Read the full story originally published on Ad Age.

10 Reasons Why My Tattoos Are My Greatest Business Asset


“You better wear long sleeves and cover that neck.”

I’ve been given a lot of advice about my tattoos, especially when it comes to landing a job. From recruiters, friends and one time, after requesting a finger tattoo, a tattooer told me the tattoo would be a ‘job-ender’. If I’d listened to any of them, I would never have discovered what a valuable business asset my tattoos would turn out to be.

“Business asset? You’re joking!” I hear you say. Yes, they are my greatest business asset and I’m going to tell you why.

It all started a few years back, at a time I thought I was almost unemployable. I applied for job after job, without much response. I was warned at the time to cover my tattoos during interviews (technically impossible considering my neck, chest, hands and head are tattooed) because it might be the reason I wasn’t getting offers.

Eventually, I was asked in for several interviews and had the pick of some great offers. Despite wondering why the hell they’d offered me a job in the first place, I chose the most corporate of them. Fast forward to my first week and corporate induction. The facilitators asked us new joiners to individually write down on a post-it note something no one knew about us that would benefit the company. Being the show-pony I am, I knew exactly what to write.

The facilitators gathered the post-it notes and huddled at the front of the room, reading and whispering to each other. One announced, “We weren’t going to read these out, but there’s one that we want to know more about.” I knew what was coming. The facilitator continued reading, “Could the person who wrote ‘My body is 75% covered in tattoos’ explain how this will benefit our business?” Everyone in the room turned to look at me (it wasn’t half obvious who’s post-it it was). I had nothing to lose, so I stood proudly and stated that when clients see me walk into a room, they think they’ve hit the creative mother load. I instantly start conversations and challenge the status quo.

Little did I know, word of my cunning stunt spread like wildfire. Shortly after, I heard leadership were quite chuffed about my antics, especially as it had ‘gone viral’. A few weeks later, I was asked to make a video that global HR could use to promote diversity. And a short time after that, my work proved my value as a designer — and I realised the reason they hired me had everything to do with what I do, and nothing to do with my tattoos.

In case you’re wondering, I’m in the business of design. And although being a designer is seen as an acceptable reason to have visible tattoos, being heavily tattooed and working in the corporate world is no cake walk. And being a female in leadership and tattooed is even more challenging. I’ve been subject to judgement, stereotypes and the occasional stank-eye. I’m not always acknowledged as being as capable or experienced as I am. People assume I’m younger than my age (some side effects are pretty awesome!). I’ve been asked by receptionists to show my I.D. or security pass, even after walking past them for months. Working late at night, I’ve been asked to leave the building because I could not possibly be an employee. And I won’t bore you with the number of times I’ve been held up at border security — even carrying platinum status.

But I’m sure those things happen to people with or without tattoos. Either way, ignorance and intolerance isn’t acceptable. Whilst there’s a lot of talk about what diversity means, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion or physical appearance are one way to view diversity, but another is as a mindset. The value and respect given to each employee’s individuality is a reflection of an organisation’s culture and business conduct.

Diversity and inclusion are the cornerstones of great culture, and great culture is critical to sustainable business success. It takes all sorts to achieve great things together, and we must encourage cultures which embraces a mix of backgrounds and soft skills to blaze a trail of thinking and acting differently that results in the kind of change we want to see in the world.

10 Reasons Why My Tattoos Are My Greatest Business Asset:

1. Instant creative credibility. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked if I’m a designer (or tattooer) in an elevator, I’d be a millionaire.

2. I’m comfortable with being uncomfortable. Tattoos don’t tickle, and I’ve sat through more hours of tattooing than I care to remember. They’ve taught me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

3. I have creative confidence. I wear my heart on my sleeve — literally. I have a heart on my hand that is there to remind me that I continuously to grow creatively and to be confident in what I do.

4. I’m an agent of change. People often tell me they’d like to get a tattoo, but are afraid because they might change their mind after it’s done. Nothing is forever, and the one thing you can be sure of is change. You can always get a cover up. Or laser (see 5.)

5. I’m not afraid of commitment. A tattoo is for life, unless you’re prepared to get laser ( that’s painful story for another day).

6. I’m a conversation starter. I get as nervous as the next person. Opening lines don’t matter so much because I’ve already given people something to talk to me about.

7. I smash the stereotype. Tattoos have a bad reputation for being on bad people who do bad things and live bad lives. Well I’m a good person trying to do great things to improve people’s lives, and I have tattoos.

8. I leave a lasting impression. It’s hard to forget the ‘one covered in tattoos’.

9. They make me work harder at being the best I can be. The stereotypes are there to be broken, and that’s my personal incentive to go the extra mile.

10. They remind me of why diversity is so important. Everyday when I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that I’m responsible for what I’ve done to myself. But others who are subjected to intolerance or ignorance are not. We’re all made of flesh and bones, let’s be excellent to each other!

Chirryl-Lee Ryan, Head of Experience Design, Isobar Hong Kong

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Facebook taking augmented reality (AR) to the mass market.


At this years Facebook F8 conference in San Jose, California Zuckerberg (2017) announced the launch of a suite of new AR features and tools for the Facebook camera that are collectively branded the Camera Effects Platform. And this is good news if you’ve ever wanted turn your face into an animated character or fill your home with virtual Skittles or maybe play virtual chess on your dining table.


Facebook actually released the first Camera Effects April 2017 for iOS and Android which include several branded effects, masks and interactive filters. Some of these new features are available today and to the average consumer this will appear at first very similar to SnapChat’s own live filters. The difference is not only the greater user base with over 1.23 billion daily active users (DAUs) on Facebook but also the room scanning technology and most importantly Facebook’s commitment to create a medium for independent developers and artists


3D artists, developers and organisations who are members of the Facebook Developers program can apply today for a beta version of the AR Studio. This toolset will enable individuals and organisations to create exciting new AR experiences that take advantage of the Camera Effects Platform. The demonstrations highlight a sophisticated framework for constructing AR experiences including 3D object placement, animations and user interaction. There’s no details yet of how to construct the more advanced technologies announced during the F8 Keynote such as Simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) or object recognition. But it’s safe to assume that these technologies will be coming to the AR Studio toolset. It’s also not yet entirely clear how these experiences will reach the consumer audience. Presumably it will follow prior distribution concepts utilised by Facebook’s other platforms such as Pages and Apps. These platforms typically saw new content discovered via the News Feed either by direct advertisement or peer to peer sharing and required the user to opt-in.

One way or another consumers will soon find new filters alongside the launch filters available today. And this future state, soon to be reality, will allow artists to take AR experiences that explore the boundaries of AR technology to the mass market faster than ever before.

Anton Wintergerst, Mobile Developer @ Isobar Melbourne

Cannes in 48 Hours: Through a Designer’s Eyes

Jack Gipp, Designer @ Isobar Global, takes us through his Cannes Lions experience.


Cannes Lions is undoubtedly one of the biggest creative festivals in the world, so naturally I was super-excited to have the opportunity to attend this year.

After pulling into Gare de Cannes on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, I headed straight for the heart of the festival. Bustling with activity, the Croisette was filled with creativity and inspiration at every turn. From an immersive and interactive Pinterest experience that matched real-world items to products for purchase, to Snapchat’s bright yellow Ferris wheel; big technology platforms felt very present within minutes of arriving.

My first full day was spent soaking up the talks in the Dentsu Aegis Network Beach House, and by the end of the day, the key trend that was emerging from this year’s festival became very clear to me: Artificial Intelligence.

After attending a few of the DAN-hosted panels in the beach house, and watching back Isobar’s main stage presentation, a similar question seemed to pop up: how will AI impact creativity? Jean Lin, Isobar’s Global CEO, said that “the power of being human lies in empathy”, further adding that “we shouldn’t be threatened by AI and technology” and that we should “embrace” them. It’s something I agree with, AI will likely take the repetitive and mundane tasks off our hands, freeing up more time for us to be truly creative.

As a designer, this really excites me. We all want the opportunity to focus our energy into the bigger and more exciting pieces of work, but as we’ve all experienced, the necessary, yet often dull day-to-day tasks sometimes get in the way of that. With AI as an ally, we’ll be able to give our full attention to the work that we really want to be creating.

A stand-out experience I had over the three days was the opportunity to attend a Spotify for Brands meeting, held at Spotify’s tech-filled Cannes Lions HQ and set up by Sven Huberts, Isobar’s Director of Strategic Growth for EMEA. People don’t often talk about this side of Cannes — away from the glamour of the Palais — the technology partner’s venue’s is where the real business happens.

The Spotify team spoke about how their platform is a great place for brands to influence and target potential consumers — and by matching creativity to context, businesses and brands can catch users at key moments of their listening activity. For example, you’re in the gym, working out to your ‘Motivation Mix’ and a sports brand serves you an ad, something that, based on your listening behaviour, you are actually interested in. It was really interesting to see how Spotify are using their data and insights to deliver more tailored and personal experiences based on the moods and behaviour of their users.

I spent my last full-day in Cannes filming content for Isobar’s global social channels. My team and I spent the morning talking to some of Isobar’s key leadership about their views on this year’s key trends, as well as the festival as a whole. When asked whether craft is still relevant with the industry heavily focused on technology, Kai Exos, Chief Creative Officer at Isobar Canada said that “it is absolutely still relevant.”, further explaining that Isobar Canada stay 70% creative in their total make-up, allowing them to have “much more comprehensive solutions that can scale globally for brands to be truly transformative.”.

As a young creative, Cannes provided me with an amazing opportunity to meet and connect with the movers and shakers of our industry, with years of experience under their belt, and after chatting about all of the different projects coming out of Isobar across the world, it became really clear to me how culture and diversity can really impact and benefit creativity.

The energy and fast-paced feeling of the festival is really motivating and inspiring, and it gave me a great insight into why the festival is championed throughout our industry.

Jack Gipp, Designer, Isobar Global