Hello, this is the (optional.is) quarterly email. Mostly the thoughts of Brian Suda. 

02020Q3 REYKJAVIK:  We're deep into the third quarter. Projects are picking up again as the midnight sun fades slowly towards the equinox.


Our newest tech gadget is an Oculus Quest VR headset. For the last few months, we’ve been part of a team working on a secret VR project. Having our own device makes testing much faster and easier.

In 02019, it was estimated the entire VR headset sales were 6 Million units. To put that in perspective, over the last 11 years, it's estimated that 2.2 Billion iPhones were sold (that's 200 Million per year).

VR is not mainstream. There are just a few competitors and none are the major vendor. The question is not when, but if VR will ever become a household device. 

Mixed-up in all the Virtual Reality discussion is also Augmented Reality (AR). Most new phones can demonstrate some AR capabilities. These are usually 3D objects displayed through the phone screen. As you walk around, the size and perspective of the 3D object changes so it appears to exist in real space. 

"What the desktop computer did for the productivity of accountants, Augmented Reality Glasses will do for manual labor."

We are much more 🐮 Bullish on AR and 🐻 Bearish for VR.

Style Transfer 🖼

We’ve been getting more into style transfer. At first glance it looks and feels like magic and we wanted to learn more.

We’re used to camera apps with filters. These filters are just shortcuts to predefined style settings such as increasing contrast, hues, saturations, etc. A style transfer is something different. There are no photography settings you could adjust to create the same outcome. The trained style transfer model applies itself to this new image in an attempt to meld the image into something new. 

As we started to explore, it kept coming back to one of the big ideas we are turning over: this concept of the Material of the Web. We even have a small annual conference exploring this idea

If we render a sphere with a wooden texture, you’d no doubt say it is made of wood. If it is rendered with a metallic texture, you’d guess metal. The look of the material defines what you perceive the object to be made of. Even though it is a digital representation, we still see it as that material.

Now we get to style transfer, deep dream slug puppies and GAN Model Garfield (GANfield). Like a square is one side of a cube in 2D, and a cube is in turn a "side" of a 4D hypercube in 3D, style transfer is a shadow of an algorithm making itself apparent. It is a glimpse through the keyhole at a digital algorithm exposing itself in a way we see.

We started to explore the possibility of creating a set of style transfer models to emulate the great Icelandic painter Kjarval. He was a prolific painter of many different styles. Kjarvalstaðir is the museum in Reykjavik dedicated to his works

After a lot of trial and error, we managed to create a few style transfer models we are happy with and we're exploring what we can do with this next.

This excites us because it is a start of something purely digital. Style transfer isn’t a traditional darkroom technique, it is a new discipline. Maybe, just maybe, we can start to ask “What does the Web's Material look like?” The results of black box, style transfer algorithms will surprise us.

mages via Glass Gem Corn Facebook

Cornteen 🌽

During COVID-19, social media has been lit-up with this new word ‘cornteen.

It is a misspelling of Quarantine. It seems that a lot of the commentary is laughing at people and their inability to spell. I find it more fascinating as an evolution of English language as usage.

Take for instance a mondegreen. This is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase in a way that gives it a new meaning. These are all over the place, from song lyrics to phrases we all probably get wrong. (I bet you didn’t know “All Goes Well” is actually, “Augur well” - no one laughs at you for these mistakes)

Icelandic, like other languages, have dropped unused letters. For instance, there is no W, C, or Z in official Icelandic. English used to have Æ, Þ and Ð (which Icelandic still does), but they were replaced through lack of usage or other factors.

So who’s to say that the strange ‘Qu’ in English must continue? ‘Co’ might just be the start of that transition. This is evolution in action, and we could be witnessing an inflection point.


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