A unique photographic insight into Nauru, the world's smallest republic, plus a Japanese film magazine branching out overseas and a new robot-cum-video camera.
Australia’s media often mentions Nauru – it’s an offshore processing location for asylum seekers trying to enter the nation. Despite this, little is known about everyday life in the world’s smallest republic, but Melbourne-based photographer Kelvin Skewes has used a newspaper format to present a rare visual insight into Nauru entitled What Was Taken and What Was Given, to be exhibited at Melbourne’s Counihan Gallery in August.
“All we usually see of Nauru are one or two photos in a news article,” says Skewes. “Because of that it is largely just a word, not an actual place.” His photographs are from June 2013, just before rioting asylum seekers almost destroyed the island’s main detention facility. The price of obtaining a journalist visa in Nauru has since jumped 4,000 percent, meaning independent images are likely to become even more
Gigan (short for “Gigantic”) is a magazine looking to open up Japan’s independent filmmaking culture by sending it out into the wider world, while delivering a few home truths too. Now in its second edition and available in both London at the ICA Cinema and Tokyo’s Monocle Café, Gigan provides a diagnosis of films exploring complex issues. The most recent edition features the documentary Hafu (“half”), which looks at the experience of being mixed-race in Japan, elsewhere, interviews with stars such as Haruka Abe of 47 Ronin provide more traditional film-mag fare. The agenda-setting tone comes from editor-in-chief Yoshito Seino, who has spent time in the UK where he feels a wider range of Japanese films should enjoy a higher billing. “Many Japanese magazines focus only on the domestic market, which is very tight,” he says. “I want to put independent Japanese filmmakers on the international stage.”
A Silicon Valley company called Knightscope, founded by a former Ford executive alongside a onetime police officer, has created a 1.5m tall robotic cop that resembles a salt-shaker. The K5 comes equipped with a 360-degree camera and listening capabilities, and while it was originally envisaged to help guard schools against shootings, Knightscope say that the most obvious potential customers at the moment are companies with campuses and private security networks. It is set for testing on two such campuses throughout 2014. “The security industry rivals fast food for the fastest turnover in jobs,” says co-founder Stacy D Stephens. “Part of the reason is that it’s very boring, mundane, monotonous work.” The K5 is to take on these dull tasks, such as patrolling and keeping a lens out for unauthorised visitors. It is unarmed but if someone tries to tamper with it, say by tipping it over, Stephens says it will utter an ear-piercing squeal.
A new Boston tech company, Spritz, says that the most inefficient aspect of reading is our slow eye movements. So the company instead has developed technology to stream individual words in front of readers, and says they may be able to read up to 1,000 words a minute. The first use of Spritz will be implemented in an email application for the Samsung Gear 2 and Galaxy S5 smartphone. Monocle recently spoke with Frank Waldman, the startup’s CEO and co-founder.
Q: Where did the idea for Spritz come from? Do people need a new way to read?
A: Reading really hasn’t changed – we are still reading the same way on digital tablets as we did on stone tablets. The primary interest in developing the technology was to increase reading speed.
Q: Spritz works by streaming words at a fixed point on a display, so people don’t have to move their eyes from word to word as they normally do when reading. How fast can most people go?
A: We found that most people can read between 350 and 400 words a minute, which is considerably faster than conventional speeds of 200 to 220 words a minute per page of printed text. We also found in testing that comprehension slightly increases as the speed increases to 400 words per minute, then it drops off after that as they go faster. There are people who can read at 1,000 words a minute – however we’re not recommending that everyone try to do that.
Q: What about reading literature, where readers might want to linger with the words, with the cadence of sentences? Is Spritz the best option?
A: If it’s classic fiction and the words are unfamiliar to the reader or there’s a certain style of prose that is not what I would call conventional, like news prose or the way people would write emails then, yes, it would be difficult to appreciate that type of writing. It’s not for all models, that’s for sure. Spritz is for focused reading on the go, and for consuming information – social media, e-mail, news.
Q: Which companies will be the first to make use of your technology?
A: The first available use of Spritz is on Samsung’s Gear 2 smartwatch and also on the Galaxy S5.