Phones for urns: Hong Kong turns to virtual reality to honor ancestors

Anthony Yuen, CEO of iVeneration.com, demonstrates an augmented reality graveyard at his office in Hong Kong, China, November 13, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 09 December 2017
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Phones for urns: Hong Kong turns to virtual reality to honor ancestors

HONG KONG: A lack of space for cemeteries in crowded Hong Kong clashes with the age-old Chinese tradition of reverence for one’s ancestors.
But one entrepreneur uses virtual reality software to reconcile the two, allowing people to honor Confucian traditions of filial obligation in the territory where it can cost up to $130,000 to store the ashes of loved ones.
Anthony Yuen’s firm, iVeneration.com, offers users the ability to create virtual headstones anywhere in an augmented reality landscape of Hong Kong, including such unlikely places as a downtown park.
Apart from the cost savings, Yuen expects his business model to appeal to more eco-conscious young residents.
“The dead are taking so much more space than those who are still alive, as those buried use that piece of land for many years,” said Yuen, as he manipulated his mobile telephone to correctly position a candle in front of a virtual headstone.
“For those who are still alive, they won’t stay on the same piece of land forever.”
Yuen, who hopes to launch the website to the public in the first quarter of 2018, has already attracted 300 users.
Filial piety, or respect for parents and older people, is a paramount virtue in the Confucian tradition.
“We need to educate the next generation on filial piety, no matter how you show it, as long as it comes from the heart,” Yuen added. “We think the next generation might use these services for their parents.”
Alex Lee, a 46-year-old employee of a technology company, uses iVeneration to pay his respects to his departed grandfather.
“Everyone is aware the lack of land is a problem in Hong Kong and the government has been encouraging green burial,” said Lee, as he leafed through an album of family photographs.
“For me, you don’t have to go to a thing to remember those passed away, it’s all in your heart.”


First sounds of wind on Mars captured by InSight spacecraft

Updated 09 December 2018
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First sounds of wind on Mars captured by InSight spacecraft

  • 20 second audio clip shows sound of wind on Mars
  • Clip also supports evidence of wind speed and direction on Mars

DUBAI: An audio clip of the first sounds captured on Mars by its latest inhabitant, the InSight probe, was released last week, British broadcaster BBC reported.

The clip, 20 seconds long, has captured the sound of the wind on the desert planet.

InSight carries a British-made seismometer package, which was able to detect the vibrations from Martian air rushing over the solar panels.

Professor Tom Pike, leading the seismometer experiment from Imperial College London, likened the placement of the solar panels to the robot “cupping its ears”. “[They are] the perfect acoustic receivers.” he said.

The wind on Mars moves from the northeast to the southeast at about five to seven meters per second, according to the latest estimates. This falls in line with evidence shown by satellite pictures that display the tracks left by dust devils travelling in the same direction.

 “This is brilliant news because it means we know the sensors have survived the rigors of landing on Mars and are meeting the requirements to achieve their science goals,” Sue Horne, head of space exploration at the UK Space Agency, told the BBC.

“It is just amazing to hear the first ever sounds from Mars,” Horne added.

InSight landed on Mars on November 26th, following a six-month journey from Earth. Its overall aim is to study the world's interior from the mission site, a flat plain just north of Mars's equator.