Filtered for just pandemic things

09.09, Thursday 16 Nov 2023


July 2020. Sales grow for private backyard labyrinths, portable labyrinths, and handheld labyrinths.

My take on activities like smartphone games is that they are a combination of rehearsal and wish fulfilment for whatever preoccupation you have. Like, I play Stardew Valley obsessively when I’m in a slow grind build; I play Drop 7 when I’m plate-spinning complicated projects. The wish, fulfilled in the game, is that these endeavours are successful.

What collective rehearsal did labyrinths fulfil?

In contrast with mazes, which generally have multiple branching paths and come to dead ends, labyrinths have only one entrance and path.

The only way out is through.


September 2020. Zoom and Zoom towns.

Truckee, Calif., is a mountain town just northwest of Lake Tahoe. …

Truckee is part of a trend that realtors and journalists are calling “Zoom towns,” places that are booming as remote work takes off.

Remote work was an amazing fantasy. There are pockets, rare startups, that got good at remote-first. Nobody does hybrid well, which is the reality, no remote. So I can’t see it sticking.

Which is a shame: there is talent everywhere and the rise of Starlink means that Zoom towns should be global.

So as awful as the pandemic was, it led to all kinds of forced experiments, and led to discoveries - like really good remote work - that almost became the new status quo.

Then the wave broke and rolled back.


May 2020. Eels.

The thing about the garden eels in the Tokyo Skytree aquarium is that they are really shy.

They got accustomed to humans, pre-pandemic, and stopped ducking under the sand whenever they saw a face.

But without visitors their bashfulness returned.

(You and me both, eels.)


the aquarium is setting up five tablets facing their tank, with users asked to connect through iPhones or iPads via the FaceTime app.

Once the video calls start, people are asked to show their faces, wave and talk to the eels.

When you gaze at the garden eels, the garden eels gaze at you.


July 2020. Teeny weeny telepresence robots.

Here’s Ross Atkin’s shop of kits for super cute cardboard robots: The Craft Robot.

One of the robots is a cardboard carapace for a smartphone and also it has wheels. You dial in remotely from any web browser.

The 2020 Kickstarter smashed it. Smartipresence: the cardboard telepresence robot.

In the midst of the pandemic I had a call with Atkin, teleported into one of his tiny robots!

We talked – a regular video call.

Only ALSO there were extra buttons in Chrome and so I was driving around his kitchen table, which from my perspective was scaled up to the size of furniture and buildings.

I could turn to look at him! Or I could not and we could walk-and-talk idly chat as I ambled and explored!

There is so much nuance in the body language of conversation that we don’t have in Zoom, or Meet, or Teams, or Slack Huddles, or FaceTime, or any system which lacks the analogue side channel of attention via stance.

Even now in my memory it wasn’t a call, I visited Ross Atkin’s tabletop.

Phones should have wheels?

That should be your takeaway.

RELATED: MobiLimb is a realistic, articulated human finger attached to the back of your phone. It can prop your phone up, point, and allows your phone to autonomously haul itself around. As previously discussed.


In the white heat of the pandemic we were teleported for a year to an alternate reality.

How would it have developed, had we continued in that world? Call this fiction pandemicpunk.

High-performance pocket labyrinths from Nike for mindfulness and psychically rehearsing the grinding march.

Smartphones that evolve as the exact opposite of augmented reality: instead of disappearing into our own bubbles we transport and teleport and inhabit the real world in whatever ways we can to compensate for endless lockdowns.

So our phones have skins of micro-wheel arrays for robotic motion, laser pointers and projectors, their own fingers, why not. Devices for telepresence in a world where presence has rare value.

I want this even outside the pandemic ngl

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