Smileys are dead, literally ☠️

Happy Friday! Based on the OOO replies last week, it must be August. So that means you’re either on vacation or covering for folks who are. So let’s get right into it…

Let’s Book a Virtual Conference Room for This Meeting: Would you do your next meeting today in VR? 😎 Facebook has plans to make that a reality. A virtual reality. And despite your initial skepticism of that idea, avatar-based chat, and collaborative software is now decades old. This week they introduced Horizon Workrooms, a VR app for users of its Oculus Quest 2 headset that lets you feel like you’re sitting in a conference room with your coworkers to talk, collaborate, and…work!

In what Mark Zuckerberg says is his first-ever interview in VR, CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King interviewed him through the platform as part of the announcement. Despite knee-jerk pushback, thoughtful pushback, and thankfulness for big innovation moves in a nascent office tech category, the metaverse is coming. Facebook has 10,000 employees working to make it a reality, and just last week the company shared a prototype that displays your real eyes in VR, a stepping stone to what could be a more natural way to communicate in VR. Horizon Workrooms are another signal of where VR could have as much utility as entertainment value in the coming future. Watch the demo here.

Google Assistant Helping with IRL or Virtual School: The folks at Google have added a number of features to their products to help with back-to-school or school-at-home. With Family Bell, you can add bell reminders throughout the day that announce when it’s time to get on the bus, start an online class, take a break, settle in for reading time, have a snack, or even for bedtime. To get started, simply say “Hey Google, create a Family Bell.” Read about other new features here.

Innovations in Smart and Dumb Phones to Watch: Recent reports indicate that although the next-generation iPhone will look and function pretty much the same as current models, it will include new camera and video capabilities perfectly suited for our photo and content-obsessed culture.

The new phones may include an “AI-driven filter system that stylizes photos and a higher-quality video-recording format. The filters will let users adjust the color temperature, shadows and contrast more precisely than with traditional software app methods, while the video offerings will enable more editing flexibility and the ability to change the amount of background blurring afterward.”

Meanwhile, companies are still developing and selling “feature phones” that cost <$400, don’t have a camera, and can’t access the internet or play games – on purpose! Here’s an unlocked Zoolander-esque tiny feature phone for $30. In the age of smartphones, “dumbphones” can seem extremely attractive, but what would you do with all that free time if you didn’t waste every second of your free time on your phone?

Are You Using the Smiley Emoji Incorrectly? If you’re over 30, you probably are. Gen Z and young millennials are once again shaping slang’s ever-changing culture by evolving the smiley to communicate sarcasm.

Key quote from The Guardian: “A smiley face emoji at the end of a message is a patronizing pat on the head from somebody who wishes you nothing but ill fortune.” What to use instead if you’re really happy? A skull and crossbones, which means “I’m dead.”☠️ But in a good way. 😊

Reads of the Week: 1)Intoxicated online shopping is soberingly big business. 2) Bringing your AI coworker up to speed. 3) How a man with a meme account raised over $5 million to fund rescue missions in Afghanistan. 4) Bella Poarch can wear the ‘TikTok pop star’ badge with pride. 5) Taliban Ramp Up on Social Media, Defying Bans by the Platforms.

Quick Hits:

See you on the internet!

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