Episode 1: Meron Gribetz | Augmented Reality | Click to Listen

This is the first of eight special episodes of the After On podcast. It surveys the world of augmented reality (AR) in 2017, via a long interview with Meron Gribetz, CEO of Meta – one of the world's leading AR companies. Toward the end of the podcast, my co-host Tom Merritt and I also discover pages 1-51 of the novel, After On.

A quick note: these may ALL turn out be special episodes! In other words, I may never make another one after episodes 1-8. Or if I'm having fun (and if people seem to be listening), I may keep it up for a while. In any event, episodes 1-8 can be viewed as a sort of accompaniment for the novel - although It is NOT necessary to read the novel in order to listen to them and learn from them! The sole exception to this is at the tail end of the episode, Tom and I will relate the week's interview to a section of the book. If you're not reading the book, you can just tune out then.

The wonderful blog Boing Boing will be co-promoting episodes 1-8 with me, so what follows is the post I'm placing on their site to describe this episode. You can consider this to be the episode's "Show Notes."


Introducing The After On Podcast

Writing science fiction can get you amazing access to thinkers, founders, and scientists whose work touches on the stories you tell. It’s one of the great things about my job. Sure, writing cover stories for Wired would get my calls returned faster! But countless science and tech leaders trace their interests back to tales they read as youngsters. And so I have great success in requesting interviews to support my research of a novel or other story.

Setting my books in the present-ish day, I try to keep things consistent with current technology and knowledge, so I conduct lots of these interviews. And I learn troves from them. But as I get excited about a new field, I become prone to giddy tangents about how it all works, or why it matters. Giddy tangents have a place in fiction – but a limited one, and they should be used sparingly.

I conducted dozens of interviews while writing my new novel After On (which comes out today). Focusing on the storytelling meant leaving out huge amounts of newfound learning that just didn’t fit. Which was the right decision! But it also felt like a lost opportunity. And so I’ve created eight podcast episodes that deeply explore areas that fascinated me during my research. I’ll be posting them to Boing Boing on a weekly basis, starting with Episode One, which is all about augmented reality:



A quick word on how these episodes are structured. My co-host is grizzled podcasting veteran Tom Merritt, who has been presenting tech news & culture to the world for over fifteen years. We open the show together, then cut to a long-form interview with an expert in the field in question (this week, I talk to Meron Gribetz, the CEO of Meta – a top AR company). Then at the end of the episode, Tom and I relate the interview back to the novel. Prior to this point, it is in no way necessary to read the novel in order to connect to the podcast (non-readers can just tune out for the final section).

AR is at a fascinating point in 2017. Meta, Microsoft, and their various AR competitors (including the capital-inhaling Magic Leap) have invested literal billions in the field. Yet few people have had any AR experiences beyond the constricted aperture of Pokémon Go. This is about to change. Meta’s latest product (the Meta 2) is thrilling to use, and is finding major enterprise customers. Google’s much-maligned Glass product is also enjoying enterprise adoption. I find Microsoft’s HoloLens underwhelming, but the company’s investment in the market is highly validating. And other shoes are surely yet to drop, from Apple, Facebook, and perhaps even Snapchat.

Meron is a great guide to his emerging market, which we cover thoroughly in our wide-ranging interview. The ethical issues that next-generation AR will raise particularly intrigue me. I explore some them in my novel, and Meron presents an interesting take on them here. Here’s a quick guide some of the episode’s highlights:

0:04:47– How a company that has raised $100MM began with a Kickstarter.

0:09:34– Why Meta thinks AR’s near future is about productivity, not entertainment.

0:25:03– Ethical issues of AR in the wild, and the concept of “public by default.”

0:42:07– A neuroscientific take on how UI elements light up different brain regions

Or, you can subscribe to the podcast within any podcast app. Simply use your app's search function (type in "After On") to find & subscribe. To subscribe via your computer on iTunes, just click here, then click the blue “View on iTunes” button (under the square After On image on the left side of the page), then click “Subscribe” (in similar location) in the iTunes window. Or follow the feed http://afteron.libsyn.com/rss


Rob Reid