Friday. 31/5/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Hitting the net

Remember the QR Code? That squat little barcode that we were told would be the future a decade ago? For a time it was shoved into every magazine and newspaper so that readers could scan it with their smartphones and be taken directly to a particular product on an online shop. Alas it never took off: it looked bad on page and was too fiddly for readers to use.

But now, if NBC Universal (NBCU) and French clothing brand Lacoste have their way, our pixelated pal is making a comeback. Yesterday NBCU launched ShoppableTV, a broadcast initiative in which an alert appears on television sets when a product is shown on screen. Viewers can hold forth their smartphone and use the QR code to buy the product. The first carrot it is dangling is a new Lacoste line being worn by tennis superstar Novak Djokovic as he competes at the French Open, which is running in Paris until next weekend.

ShoppableTV’s success will depend on how seamlessly the technology operates – and how annoyed viewers will be when Djokovic’s matches are interrupted to display the Lacoste x Novak Djokovic collection alongside that familiar black-and-white square. At first sight, it looks like an unforced error rather than an ace.

Society / South Korea

Game-changer

Video gaming is so popular in South Korea that the game Starcraft has a televised professional league watched by millions. But the hobby has led to a government spat this week. The welfare ministry argues that game addiction should be an official disease, in line with last week’s World Health Organisation (WHO) decision to classify excessive gaming as a disorder. The culture ministry disagrees: it says that the ruling lacks scientific grounds and erodes personal freedom. And there’s another problem: adopting the WHO classification could mean a hit to the gaming sector, costing the country’s economy more than €8bn according to research by Seoul National University. The debate could yet go up a level.

Society / Canada

Face off

San Francisco might have banned its city police from using facial recognition technology earlier this month but not so in Toronto. Police chief Mark Saunders revealed this week that the force has been using the system since March 2018. The technology analyses surveillance-camera images of suspected criminals and then matches people in the footage to the police’s mugshot database, enabling them to keep better tabs on the movements of suspects. The police have repeated the process 2,600 times and praised it for helping them drum up new leads. But not everyone is so effusive. A growing number of citizens are calling for further debate, regulation and transparency on how such innovations are used.

Aviation / Japan

Time flies

Japan’s Mitsubishi Aircraft was due to have completed its Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) six years ago – but the company has yet to fulfil a single order. After delaying the launch five times, the plane-maker is set to begin deliveries of its 90-seat aluminium aircraft – the country’s first domestically made passenger aircraft since 1965 – in mid-2020. By then the MRJ will go by a different name: Space Jet. The name change, unveiled this week, is meant to draw attention to the fuel-efficient aircraft’s extensive redesign (there will also be a 70-seat version). Test-flights could start in June; the airlines that have placed orders will be hoping that, this time, the project gets off the ground.

Architecture / UK

Now you’re talking

While the mood among London’s architecture firms is hardly celebratory (UK property development has slowed during the Brexit uncertainty), this community certainly has plenty to talk about. Conversation will come to the fore during the London Festival of Architecture, which kicks off its series of dialogue-sparking events tomorrow and will run throughout June. Much is centred on the development of the UK capital, with talks on gentrification and urban greening that aim to open discussion about London’s architectural future. But at its core a good festival is about fun and, with a bit of sunshine forecast for the weekend, we hope punters will be out enjoying beautiful installations that showcase the creative might of the city’s architects.

M24 / The Urbanist

Private and public development, part two

We continue our conversation with architect Monica von Schmalensee, developer Jared Della Vale and urban-planner Alfredo Caraballo on private developers’ role in cities. Plus: a look at the new World Trade Center.

Monocle Films / Italy

Venice biennale: best in show

We sit down with Ralph Rugoff, the artistic director of 2019’s Venice Biennale, to round up the highlights of this year’s event.

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