Augmentation Futures Wearables Writing

ReadyBrek, AR, and Flirting in the age of Corona

If you grew up in the UK in the 1980s, you’ll know this image. It’s from a TV advert for a breakfast cereal called Ready Brek. It’s porridge, but much more finely milled, so it’s ready to eat as soon as you add the milk. It is unredeemingly grim, as are their adverts. I mean, I’m not saying that this part of my childhood is why I’ve spent most of my adulthood in Mediterranean climates, but watch this:

If this makes you nostaligic, you’re insane.

Anyway, the red outline to the child, denoting a belly full of carbohydrate mush to fuel their way through the Thatcherite dystopia, is actually a pretty good bit of user interface when applied to the present day unpleasantness.

We know that Apple have AR glasses coming to market in the next year or so. From this sort of reporting and this and this. And despite the social nightmare of the forward facing camera that contributed to the Google Glass fiasco, AR glasses rely on forward facing sensors of some form. It’d be easy – trivial, in fact – to overlay a social distancing guide to your field of view. And maybe a bit trickier, but still thereabouts, for a forward facing IR camera to overlay anyone running an obvious fever with a ReadyBrek outline.

Apple, of course, have a patent for technology that would do this very thing​*​.

The social practices that might come from exposing feverishness without contact, or from actually giving a genuine measure of the six-foot social distancing radius, are interesting to consider. After it becomes a matter of etiquette and good social graces to keep a distance, the violation of that boundary can be either an act of extreme aggression, or one of subtle intimacy: the On peut se tutoyer of public space. Or perhaps something more flirtatious. After all, fans, which given the unpleasantness of wearing a facemask in the summer, are due a comeback, have a long tradition of signaling and seductive language. Tiny breaches of the 6 foot boundary will take on their own greater meanings, while the unveiling of the lower half of the face becomes the most private of moments.

  1. ​*​
    One of the dark secrets of the Futurist trade is that people generally announce their plans well in advance. Whether in patent applications or political manifestos, most people are quite open about what they’re going to do – even people who you might think would want to keep their Evil Plan secret. At a rough guess, 99.5% of all punditry is just special pleading around this: “Surely they won’t do what they’re plainly said they will?” Yes, yes they will.