Read for Later: The New York Times and Virtual Reality, Just and Equitable Cities, and Short Story Vending Machines

When it rains, it pours. And this seemed to be one of those week with a downpour of interesting news - some over and over, like the partnership between The New York Times and Google to produce The Times' first virtual reality film titled “The Displaced." Now that the week's scanning has concluded, I'm particularly excited to dig into Next City's new collection "The Just City Essays," which hope to answer “what would a just city look like, and what could be strategies to get there?”

Check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our future work - and let us know what you're reading this week to help think about later.

Assorted Interests

  • Following an announcement for a national registry for drones, a new regulatory filing from the Department of Transportation has suggested that it will require new drone owners to have “aircraft identification and marking” on their aircraft, similar to tail numbers on manned planes.
  • Option to create two-choice polls from the compose box that remain live for 24 hours
  • Users can vote on any poll, individual voting is not shared publicly (or shared with marketing firms or brands), and when the poll closes a push notification is sent to those who participated to view the final results
  • Also covered in Government Technology
  • With support from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Internet Archive expects to launch a rebuilt, modernized, and improved Wayback Machine sometime in 2017 
  • Marcelo Rinesi, chief technology officer for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), believes the technology industry allows corporations to exploit consumers, thwart regulation, and maximize profit with minimal repercussions as  consumers willfully ignore the risks of mostly free technologies and governments fail to regulate them on the public’s behalf

Books, Publishing, and Media

  • Great Big Story, or GBS, is conceived as a video network that will release three to five non-fiction videos per day of untold stories about new frontiers, the human condition, planet earth and tastes and flavors, intended to deliver young, millennial, and intellectual consumers
  • With a new commitment of $10 million over the next five years to publish more works in translation, AmazonCrossing plans to publish “77 titles from 15 countries and 12 languages” in the United States – and that number should continue to grow in the near future
  • The New York Times Research & Development group ponders the evolution of news from what has historically been represented (and read) as a series of articles that report on events as they occur to new directions for information to accumulate upon itself and react to new reporting and information
  • Working with Short Edition, the French city of Grenoble will install short story dispensers in public spaces, offering residents the chance to pass time reading instead of checking their emails, sending a text or playing a mobile game
  • Automated Insights’ Wordsmith, the technology that helps generate stories for companies like the AP, has been released in a free beta version that allows anyone to create their own templates and upload structured data to turn the various data fields into variables that can be plugged into a news story template


  • According a report from Class Central, the cumulative number of MOOCs has reached nearly 4,000 and even as the hype around MOOCs has waned, interest hasn’t tapered off.
  • In a letter to the Senate and House of Representatives, a coalition of companies and organizations are advocating for computer science to remain in a pair of bills that are part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
  • Seventy-Two civil liberties groups representing women, people of color, the LGBT community, and religious minorities have sent a letter to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Education asking it to clarify university responsibility for harassment on anonymous social media apps like Yik Yak
  • The groups suggest that colleges that don't police cyber harassment are violating Title IX and Title IV that ensure students have a safe campus environment free from discrimination
  • Also covered in Ars Technica
  • In a school district where seven out of ten students are at risk of hunger, the school’s nutrition services department has worked with local and regional farmers to affordably introduce healthy and delicious meals and stimulate the local economy
  • As machines take on a larger role in the workplace, the preparation of students may need to change to emphasize social skills and thinking, especially mathematical thinking, which have fared best in employment growth and pay


  • Apple has removed “a group” of apps that violated the company’s guidelines regarding user privacy, secretly accessing users’ private information like email addresses and device identification number
  • Also covered in The Verge
  • Facebook’s search feature that searches individual posts has expanded from searching friends’ posts to now search all public posts – a collection of almost two trillion posts – increasing opportunities for discovery, but also raising concern for privacy on the popular social networking site   

Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants

  • A photo collection documents Japan’s exploding “jutaku” movement – gravity-defying microhomes often crammed into skinny plots on leftover land
  • Common, a new co-living development in Brooklyn, will house nineteen tenants for the monthly price of $1,800 apiece, sharing a space that comes equipped with a rooftop garden, shared dining room, furnished rooms, utilities, kitchen appliances and a weekly cleaning service
  • Also covered in CNN Money, Gizmodo, and TechCrunch
  • Food Tourism, a growing part of the travel and tourism industry, is about more than just good restaurants says Helena Williams, a researcher at Susquehanna University, “Learning about a particular food, or even better a regional food culture is the big draw. Vacations and trips revolve around distinct foods and flavors, not restaurants. For a restaurant to enter into the experience realm that food tourists seek, it needs to do more than just prepare and serve great food.”

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

  • Magic Leap is a tech startup in "stealth mode," with what little the world knows coming media stories, screenshots, and videos originating from the company itself, focusing on "mixed reality" or "augmented reality" (AR), using a camera to seamlessly layer computer-generated content on top of the real world, but allowing virtual objects to create virtual interactions with real things  
  • In collaboration with Google, The New York Times will distribute more than a million cardboard VR viewers to home delivery subscribers and some digital subscribers, coinciding with The Times Magazine’s release of a VR film titled “The Displaced,” about children uprooted by war
  • “The Displaced” is the first in a series of VR films that The Times plans to present along with a VR app available on November 5
  • Also covered everywhereThe Daily DotFast Company, FortuneGizmodo, MotherBoard, TreeHugger, The Verge, and Wired
  • VR is the ultimate manifestation of the collision between our physical and digital worlds, poised to become a mainstream platform that completely reinvents how we work, play, share and collaborate