Friday Five: futuristic farming and augmented animals

4 min readJun 14, 2019

Zone’s Matt Blackwell handpicks and shares the five best stories on new digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Rebuilding our trust in tech

It’s not tech, it’s you. At least that’s what this article claims is the reason for the widening trust gap between us humans and advanced technologies. It argues that our own emotional intelligence (or lack thereof) is preventing us from truly embracing game-changing developments in fields such as AI.

It seems to boil down to the fact that we don’t like what we don’t trust, and we don’t trust what we don’t understand. To heal the rift, industry leaders need to acknowledge the trust gap and be transparent about the intentions of their tech. Although good luck engaging the average person on the street long enough to explain the complexity and nuance of machine learning algorithms.

2. Ocado ploughs ahead with futuristic farming

Have you ever looked at a farm and thought “yeah, it’s nice, but it’d be great if it was a bit more vertical”? No? Well Ocado has, and that’s why the online supermarket has invested £17m into Jones Food. The Scunthorpe-based company specialises in hydroponics (growing stuff without soil) to create produce in stacked trays.

The idea behind the investment is to address customer concerns over freshness and sustainability. Ocado’s ultimate aim is to co-locate these vertical farms next to their distribution centres so that food can be delivered to your kitchen within an hour of being picked. And I suppose it literally doesn’t come any fresher than that.

3. Spielberg sets sights on night frights

Steven Spielberg seems to have put aside his beef with streaming platforms (for now). The legendary filmmaker is working on two new projects: one for Apple TV+, and the other is a horror show that you can only watch at night for mobile streaming service Quibi, which is set to launch next year.

You just don’t get the same chills from watching horror in broad daylight, so making you wait until it’s dark outside is a pretty cool idea in my book. It’s an interesting attempt to blend digital with the real world to produce a certain experience, and environment-specific content is a concept I’d love to see explored further.

4. Augmented animals solve climate conundrum

Tricked-out elephant seals, backed up by satellite images and floating robots, are helping scientists figure out why giant holes periodically appear in the Antarctic sea ice. It’s like a real-life episode of Paw Patrol, minus the sugary anthropomorphism.

Sensors attached to seals have built a picture of the mysterious holes, known as polynyas, revealing that they are largely formed naturally as a result of unusual ocean conditions and severe storms. However, it was also found that the circumstances that lead to polynyas are only set to become more common as the global climate changes. Perhaps we really do need Chase on the case.

5. Airbnb embraces its adventurous side

Peer-to-peer rental site Airbnb has added another string to its considerable bow with the launch of Airbnb Adventures. Continuing its growth beyond pure housing rentals, the platform will now offer trips and tours that promise to get you just about as far away from the beaten path as possible.

As is often Airbnb’s style, it is working with local guides as opposed to mass market tour companies to provide a more bespoke and authentic experience to travellers. With more than 200 trips available to destinations worldwide there’s plenty of choice, but given that one of the tours costs £400 for a two-night stay in a tent, you may need deep pockets to satisfy that wanderlust.

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