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.”


Instagram unveils new video service in challenge to YouTube

Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram said he hopes IGTV will emerge as a hub of creativity for relative unknowns. (AP)
Updated 20 June 2018
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Instagram unveils new video service in challenge to YouTube

  • Video will be available through Instagram or a new app called IGTV
  • Before, Facebook and Instagram have copied Snapchat — another magnet for teens and young adults

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook’s Instagram service is loosening its restraints on video in an attempt to lure younger viewers away from YouTube when they’re looking for something to watch on their smartphones.
The expansion announced Wednesday, dubbed IGTV, will increase Instagram’s video time limit from one minute to 10 minutes for most users. Accounts with large audiences will be able to go as long as an hour.
Video will be available through Instagram or a new app called IGTV. The video will eventually give Facebook more opportunities to sell advertising.
It’s the latest instance in which Instagram has ripped a page from a rival’s playbook in an effort to preserve its status as a cool place for young people to share and view content. In this case, Instagram is mimicking Google’s YouTube. Before, Facebook and Instagram have copied Snapchat — another magnet for teens and young adults.
Instagram, now nearly 8 years old, is moving further from its roots as a photo-sharing service as it dives headlong into longer-form video.
The initiative comes as parent company Facebook struggles to attract teens, while also dealing with a scandal that exposed its leaky controls for protecting users’ personal information.
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told The Associated Press that he hopes IGTV will emerge as a hub of creativity for relative unknowns who turn into Internet sensations with fervent followings among teens and young adults.
That is what’s already happening on YouTube, which has become the world’s most popular video outlet since Google bought it for $1.76 billion nearly 12 years ago. YouTube now boasts 1.8 billion users.
Instagram, which Facebook bought for $1 billion six years ago, now has 1 billion users, up from 800 million nine months ago.
More importantly, 72 percent of US kids ranging from 13 to 17 years old use Instagram, second to YouTube at 85 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Only 51 percent of people in that group now use Facebook, down from 71 percent from a similar Pew survey in 2014-15.
That trend appears to be one of the reasons that Facebook is “hedging its bets” by opening Instagram to the longer-form videos typically found on YouTube, said analyst Paul Verna of the research firm eMarketer.
Besides giving Instagram another potential drawing card, longer clips are more conducive for video ads lasting from 30 seconds to one minute. Instagram doesn’t currently allow video ads, but Systrom said it eventually will. When the ads come, Instagram intends to share revenue with the videos’ creators — just as YouTube already does.
“We want to make sure they make a living because that is the only way it works in the long run,” Systrom said.
The ads also will help Facebook sustain its revenue growth. Total spending on online video ads in the US is expected to rise from nearly $18 billion this year to $27 billion in 2021, according to eMarketer.
Lele Pons, a YouTube sensation who also has amassed 25 million followers on Instagram, plans to launch a new cooking show on IGTV in hopes of increasing her audience and eventually generating more revenue. “It’s like Coca-Cola and Pepsi,” she said. “You will never know what you like better unless you try both.”
IGTV’s programming format will consist exclusively of vertical video designed to fill the entire screen of smartphones — the devices that are emerging as the main way younger people watch video. By contrast, most YouTube videos fill only a portion of the screen unless the phone is tilted horizontally.
Snapchat began featuring vertical video before Instagram, another example of its penchant for copying rivals.
But Systrom sees it differently. “This is acknowledging vertical video is the future and we want the future to come more quickly, so we built IGTV.”