The Austin Chronicle

Local Tech You Didn’t Know You Needed

By James Renovitch, May 11, 2016, 8:00am, Picture in Picture

Some of the greatest technological leaps were met with shrugs. The smartphone was seen, at first, as an unnecessary luxury before replacing the very fabric of society with an interweb of Tweets, posts, Grams, Vines, and Snaps. Like that, two smaller bits of locally designed tech might get filed in your brain's wtf folder at first.

Did you know today is Austin Don’t Rush day? Well, for those of you out of the loop, the plan is to encourage commuters to avoid peak driving hours and assuage the usual gnarled rush hour. For some that means working from home, others might go in early or late, and others could just sleep through the whole shebang. There’s also a chance that, like the ritualistic cup of morning coffee, you might miss that four-wheeled slow-dance that is I-35 between the hours of 7am and 8pm.

Believe it or not, someone has foreseen this inexplicable longing. Local interactive design firm Globotix Industries has made VR Rush Hour: Austin. With little more than a smartphone, you can sit on I-35 and watch your car’s engine not live up to its potential … in virtual reality! Sorry iPhone folks, this one is just for Android's Google Play.

This even got the attention of Mayor Adler himself who said via Facebook, “Now you can sit in traffic on I-35 from the comfort of your own home.” Globotix founder Zeke Brill added, ”We made this VR app because we were really frustrated with Austin traffic and we wanted to do something to address the issue.” We're not sure how this helps exactly, but Brill also claimed VR Rush Hour could help with the recent Uber and Lyft departures. Let’s spare the comments section this go-around and just let that one go.

On an almost completely different note, the latest from Party Time! Hexcellent! – the nom de hack of Rachel Weil – is an Internet connected Nintendo Entertainment System. Appropriately called the ConnectedNES, the device (in its current phase of development) can display Tweets in a tweaked version of Super Mario Bros. retitled Social Media Bros.

Is this necessary? No. Is it nifty as hell to see a Tweet pop up on the pixillated screen as you navigate the platonic ideal of level 1-1? Yes!

If, like us, you’re unfamiliar with terms like "node.js servers" and "Arduino C/C++" then you might need to call a pro to get this up and running on your Nintendo. However, the project is all open source with instructions and code available online. On the project page Weil describes the ConnectedNES as being in the “hey, that’s neat!” phase, which implies added functionality to come.

This is by no means Weil’s first unnecessary but rad-as-hell project. One recent example, the Deal With It Bot, helps the technically challenged make the ubiquitous sunglass meme gifs out of any digital picture with a face or faces on it.

To recap: You can now sit in I-35 traffic from anywhere in the world and read Tweets on your Nintendo. The future is now, people!

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