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.”


Japan space probe Hayabusa2 drops hopping rovers toward asteroid

Updated 21 September 2018
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Japan space probe Hayabusa2 drops hopping rovers toward asteroid

  • If the mission is successful, the rovers will conduct the world’s first moving, robotic observation of an asteroid surface
  • The Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014 and will return to Earth with its samples in 2020

TOKYO: A Japanese space probe Friday released a pair of exploring rovers toward an egg-shaped asteroid to collect mineral samples that may shed light on the origin of the solar system.
The “Hayabusa2” probe jettisoned the round, cookie tin-shaped robots toward the Ryugu asteroid, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
If the mission is successful, the rovers will conduct the world’s first moving, robotic observation of an asteroid surface.
Taking advantage of the asteroid’s low gravity, they will jump around on the surface — soaring as high as 15 meters and staying in the air for as long as 15 minutes — to survey the asteroid’s physical features with cameras and sensors.
So far so good, but JAXA must wait for the Hayabusa2 probe to send data from the rovers to Earth in a day or two to assess whether the release has been a success, officials said.
“We are very much hopeful. We don’t have confirmation yet, but we are very, very hopeful,” Yuichi Tsuda, JAXA project manager, told reporters.
“I am looking forward to seeing pictures. I want to see images of space as seen from the surface of the asteroid,” he said.
The cautious announcement came after a similar JAXA probe in 2005 released a rover which failed to reach its target asteroid.
Next month, Hayabusa2 will deploy an “impactor” that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a two-kilo (four-pound) copper object into the surface to blast a crater a few meters in diameter.
From this crater, the probe will collect “fresh” materials unexposed to millennia of wind and radiation, hoping for answers to some fundamental questions about life and the universe, including whether elements from space helped give rise to life on Earth.
The probe will also release a French-German landing vehicle named Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) for surface observation.
Hayabusa2, about the size of a large fridge and equipped with solar panels, is the successor to JAXA’s first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa — Japanese for falcon.
That probe returned from a smaller, potato-shaped, asteroid in 2010 with dust samples despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year odyssey and was hailed a scientific triumph.
The Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014 and will return to Earth with its samples in 2020.