Pinterest Adds New Features to Its Group Boards

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Pinterest Adds New Features to Its Group Boards originally published on AdFreak

The company said in a blog post that 98% of group boards have five people or fewer, with 77% of them just being between two people.

Pinterest finally jumped on the reactions bandwagon, introducing new ways for Pinners to share feedback, including with a heart, a clap, a lightbulb or a question mark.

Its new sorting feature enables users to organize Pins by reactions and comments so that they can prioritize the most popular ideas. Pinterest said it will soon add the ability to sort by the Pinner who added the idea and when the idea was saved.


And Pinterest said that in the coming weeks, it will roll out a redesigned space that will let group members communicate with each other directly on the board, enabling them to track the latest thoughts in one place.


The updates are rolling out globally across all platforms, starting Thursday.

Here’s why so many apps are asking to use Bluetooth on iOS 13

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Here’s why so many apps are asking to use Bluetooth on iOS 13 originally published on The Verge

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Apple’s new iOS 13 update adds a new privacy measure that requires apps to get your consent in order to use your device’s Bluetooth. After installing the latest version of iOS, trust me when I say you’ll be surprised by the number of apps asking for Bluetooth permission the next time you open them. Some might seem very strange (like Dunkin’ Donuts in my case), but others probably won’t make you think twice about giving the thumbs-up.

The reason Apple implemented this is because Bluetooth has enabled companies to sneakily track your location over Bluetooth by using beacons in stores, shopping malls, and even on popular city streets if they’re placed within range of a place you’d walk by.

This is entirely separate from your iPhone’s location privacy settings, which makes it seem all the more underhanded. A beacon is very easily able to detect your device’s Bluetooth chip and log that with a retailer or some other app on your phone. So getting more strict about Bluetooth is a good move by Apple to prevent unwanted tracking of its customers.

Similarly, the company is also getting even more transparent about location, showing you on a map how often and where apps have recorded your position. This prompt is much easier to understand, and will probably startle people into slimming down the list of apps that can monitor where they are. As it should!

But there’s more room for confusion around the Bluetooth prompt.

At the most basic level, I think some iPhone owners are going to wonder and maybe even assume that they must grant Bluetooth permission for music and other media apps to continue working with their Bluetooth earbuds, headphones, or speakers. It’s a reasonable question when you see that an app “would like to use Bluetooth.” (To be clear, you don’t have to. Bluetooth audio is handled through system settings, is separate from apps, and will continue working for apps that you deny permission for.)

You’ll see a Bluetooth request from stores and even fast food chains that might utilize beacons for in-store promotions or to help you find what you’re looking for in the right aisle. Other common cases include companion apps for your fitness tracker, Bluetooth headphones, or apps from camera companies. (Most recent cameras support syncing photos over Bluetooth.)

Apps that support Google’s Chromecast streaming platform often ask for Bluetooth access as well. While Chromecast streams content over Wi-Fi, the platform has a “guest mode” that makes it convenient for visitors to play videos or audio on your TV without having to know your home network password. But to find nearby Chromecasts for guest mode, these apps use Bluetooth. Thus the permission prompt. Google is now letting developers integrate Chromecast without guest mode to avoid the Bluetooth request altogether if they choose.

But the key for all app developers is to be direct about why they’re requesting Bluetooth access. Apple’s generic message is far too vague and leaves plenty of uncertainty around exactly what it is you’re giving consent to. Here’s Sling TV succeeding at being clear:

Fitbit also nails it:

ESPN, meanwhile, just sticks with the default notification, and that was enough to set off alarms for Nilay. (Again, in this case it was because of the app’s Chromecast support.)

As more and more apps are updated, hopefully their wording around Bluetooth won’t leave any room for confusion. For now, if you see a Bluetooth request that seems unusual, you might want to just pick “don’t allow.” If a feature in that app stops working soon afterward, you’ll know why and can go into settings and enable Bluetooth access.

These Painfully Accurate Spotify Ads Want You to Get Back to Raging, Not Just Aging

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Dang. These ads are painfully accurate.

Generation X has been hiding in plain sight for years now. Today’s culture war is typically divided into two camps: fist-shaking Boomers who hate socialism but love Medicare, and millennials staring alongside Gen Z into a future that somehow promises to be both unaffordable and apocalyptic.

Source: These Painfully Accurate Spotify Ads Want You to Get Back to Raging, Not Just Aging

Every designer should have a side project.

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Every designer should have a side project. originally published on Muzli – Design Inspiration – Medium

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Every Designer should have a Side Project.

As a designer, therefore, a creative and impatient mind, you need constant change in your life to be more creative. We need to be challenged frequently in order to stay fresh on our ideas. And, sometimes, we can get caught up by our daily work routine, automating some tasks and slowly damaging creativity.

There are some ways to avoid this natural process and it usually involves to force your brain to step out of the routine and break the pattern. I like to say that the best way to do that is finding yourself a Side Project. One can argue that just by having a hobby would do the trick and yes, it can do it as well but, sometimes, you need something more challenging than a hobby, you need to feel useful, that you are working on something that can develop news skills and should, be related, to what you do as a designer.

Potencialize your creativity

If you work with creativity, you should know by now that to be even more creative and to have more ideas you need to step away from what you are doing and let the mind work for you in the background. Sometimes ideas come out of nowhere but in fact, it just your subconscious trying to solve a problem for you while you are doing something else.

Let’s have a look at David Lynch explaining where ideas come from:

New ideas will come just by being exposed to different things, just by the fact you took your brain out of its comfort zone. In order to keep your “creative freshness”, you need to live your life, experience things.

The most important thing here is to allow your mind to be constantly challenged with new things so it remains fresh and always open to the unknown.

What I’ve learned with my own side projects

Right now, by the time I’m writing this post I’m currently involved in 5 side projects. For some people that can be a lot, but for me, it still manageable, as long as they don’t require my work at the same time.

Having a side project constantly keeps me out of my work routine and constantly allows me to develop/improve news skills.

Although I have all those side projects, I would like to go back to one that had a big impact on my career. A project that was initially supposed to take 3 months but it took more than a year. A project I was proud to have started and finished even though it came with some physical and mental consequences.

I’ve learned so much with it that it opened a whole new career path for me that I could choose to pursuit if I want to. The project I’m talking about was my first attempt to do a mobile game, Tamaringo.

Back in 2014, I was working full time on an advertising agency as a Digital Art Director. The workload was intense and I was working too much and mostly doing some very automatic tasks. Basically, I wasn’t being challenged enough.

At that time there was a boom of apps and mobile games and lots of successful stories about apps just having thousands of downloads and people starting companies because of them. Then, I decided to follow the trend and make my way into the mobile game business and that’s when the idea for a side project came up.

I joined forces with a friend and former co-worker to start developing our first mobile game. We had nothing to lose, we had our jobs to support us and this felt like a fun escape from advertising and a possible plan B, in case the game was a success.

I don’t want to go in details of the whole process of creating the game but I’ll highlight some of the things that I learned with this experience.

Creating a mobile game that is good enough to be competitive in the market is a full-time job.

It’s very important, when choosing a side project, that it is by nature, smaller than your everyday work otherwise, it will become a nightmare until you finish it.

We didn’t know enough about games except on how to play them.

We thought just by being a gamer it would be enough to create our own product but there was a whole new world that we had to immerse ourselves in before we start doing anything. Now, we have a lot of knowledge about the process and the business of creating and publishing apps.

We learned the true concept of burnout.

Like I mentioned before, this was my biggest mistake, taking a full-time job as a side job. Of course, that would have some consequences on our mental and physical health. The end of that year we ended up so exhausted that we just wanted to end the project and finally have weekends and some free time for ourselves again.

Designing the UI of a game is not the same as designing an app.

Designing an app is very different from designing a game. There are lots of things that need to be taking into consideration when you need to use the interface while playing. You need to design it with constant motion in mind, always trying to predict where to place some elements in a way that doesn’t damage the gameplay.

It’s not just about design, you need to understand the business and how to market and publish a game.

We had to learn everything you need to learn to design and sell a game. That learning process gave us a lot of insights but handling all those things while creating it forced us to focus on the actual product and neglect the only thing we were both experts on it, marketing.

You always learn something…

After almost a year in the making, we had a game published at the App Store that sold around 200 units ($0,99 cost per unit), mostly to friends and family. It was a success and failure at the same time. In the end, we acknowledged that the game was visually beautiful but it was not fun to play, therefore, nobody would keep playing it for long. It would never be able to compete against Angry Birds, for example.

No matter the outcome, you will always learn something in the end, whether is throughout failing or winning. Now, I know a lot more about the game industry, the process of creating and publishing a product to an AppStore. Besides that, I improved significantly my designer skills by creating the whole UI and doing the game design for it. That wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t decided to go on this journey and start this side project.

If you are still with me on the importance of having Side Projects and you want to know how to start, keep reading.

How to find a side project

Sometimes its gonna be helping a friend with a project, sometimes you can spot a need that needs to be addressed. Ideas can come from everywhere, you just need to find something that can drive you to work on the side.

In my case, very often, my friends and colleagues have some ideas and they share them to me. If they are very interesting and can challenge me in different ways I have a hard time saying no. You can always find time for something that is going to bring some joy in the making.

Of course, if you have many side projects at the same time that can be a problem if they all require your attention at the same time. So, be careful not to have way too many. And, always start small, so you can learn how to manage your time well and then scale up.

So, keep your eyes open for opportunities, they can come from everywhere and everyone. But, if you are eager to start something soon, you could start by reading this post down below. I hope it helps.

The importance of side projects

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Every designer should have a side project. was originally published in Muzli – Design Inspiration on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mind Map within the walls of UI/UX

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Mind Map within the walls of UI/UX originally published on Muzli – Design Inspiration – Medium

Articulating an intricate thought can be challenging, however, XMind disentangles a strategy known as mind mapping, which can make the procedure a ton simpler.

Scroll down to read in detail

Mind Mapping

“A problem well stated is a problem half solved”

A mindmap is a useful tool for concept enrichment. A strong emphasis should be laid upon mind mapping as it helps in generating new ideas and in identifying relationships among different data and information.

I personally prefer XMind to create mindmaps.

A sample mind map from one of my projects

Get XMind for Mac

XMind lets you create a diagram where an overarching idea branches off into related ones.

To start, enter your core idea, then attach additional ‘nodes’, or subtopics. Each can split off into subnodes, which in turn can split off into further subnodes of their own. If at any point you start to lose sight of the big picture, simply take a look at the running list of all the nodes you’ve created.

There’s much more to mind maps than mere words: one can include icons, images to liven them up or make nodes easier to find.

Beyond brainstorming, mind mapping is also helpful when you want to break a sprawling project down into concrete action items.

A B C of drawing a Mind Map

The Tree Model

Most of the Mind Maps follow the Tree Model: they start from a single object, often positioned in the center and they then develop several branches that represent related concepts. Each branch can split into two or more branches but they never merge together: the whole map is a hierarchic scheme where each object has only one ‘parent’ but can have multiple ‘child’.

Designed in XMind

Because of its low complexity, this model is fast and easy to manage, but sometimes the constraint of hierarchical relations doesn’t allow a meaningful representation: sometimes we need more flexibility.

A Mind Map for UX Designers

As seen, Mind Maps are tools for brainstorming, pattern recognition, and process visualization, so there is an endless way a Mind Map can be useful in our UX design work. But I found one kind of Mind Map specifically useful to us because it shows the entities and the way we are connecting them: the Ontology Map.

Ontology is the philosophical study of being, it studies concepts that directly relate to being as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.

Ontology Map has some similarities with the Database Relationship Diagram used by developers and indeed they have the same goal: they want to represent the relations between the existing objects of the system. Nevertheless, the Ontology Map is more often a design tool than a documentation tool, so we use it mainly in the early stages of the project to help us define how the system can work.

Ontology Map from Jack Magma Studio

Characteristics of a Mind Map

  • Clear organization and structure. Mind maps are restricted to tree structures. They have clear, directed flows outward from the tree root to its leaves.
  • One central topic. In mind maps, all nodes (except the tree root) have only one parent node. Each node can have children corresponding to that concept’s subtopics. Every concept in a mind map can be traced directly back to the root topic.
  • No definition of relationships. There is no distinction between different types of relationships among nodes — all the edges in the tree are represented in the same way and are unlabeled.

Uses in UX

Mind maps help organize a collection of information connected to a single topic and structure it in a systematic, meaningful way. In UX, they are helpful when doing categorical ideation work, such as:

  • Breaking-down components on a specific webpage — for example, in order to determine the mini-IA of the page
  • Planning subject topics within a website
  • Mapping information covered in a segregated and much better way

Cool features that XMind Offers

XMind features that I personally like the most or help me the most are:

Seamless experience across all devices: Mind maps can be easily found on laptop and mobile devices, and XMind works perfectly across different platforms.

Dark UI: XMind: ZEN supports dark mode on any desktop platform. The interface can be switched between light and dark in Preferences.


Drawing a Mind Map at the micro-level can be really hard and is often useless. Overall during the early design phases, it’s more productive to create Lo-Fi maps instead of wasting time in detailing and codifying them.

Each designer will have their own preference for the model they like most after they weigh the pros and cons. I, personally, prefer the Tree Model because of its simplicity.

Thank you for reading my blog. I’m really excited to push more stories!
If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to clap?

All the points that I’ve mentioned are as per my understanding, so feel free to drop in your comments. Positive criticism is always appreciated. ???

Mind Map within the walls of UI/UX was originally published in Muzli – Design Inspiration on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Disney+ will give subscribers four simultaneous streams and free 4K

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Disney+ will give subscribers four simultaneous streams and free 4K originally published on The Verge

Image: Disney
Disney’s upcoming Disney+ streaming service is shaping up to be quite the deal. According to CNET, the service will launch on November 12th with support for four simultaneous streams and 4K included, all for the base price of $6.99 a month. Subscribers will also be able to create and manage up to seven profiles on a single account.

That will make it highly competitive with Netflix, which raised its prices earlier this year and has in place stricter limitations on simultaneous streams. Netflix now costs $9 a month for a standard definition plan with only one available stream. If you want HD streaming, you need to pay $13 a month, and that gets you two simultaneous streams. For 4K and four simultaneous streams, it’s $16 a month. (The company also recently bumped prices in the UK.)

Netflix’s price changes have been so dramatic, in fact, that CEO Reed Hastings blamed the hike for its dip in US subscribers last quarter, the first drop in domestic Netflix users since 2011. The setback slowed Netflix’s overall growth and caused its stock to tumble, too.

Notably, Disney’s ESPN and Hulu bundle for Disney+ won’t have the same simultaneous streaming benefits. With the bundle, which will cost $12.99, subscribers will only get two simultaneous ESPN+ streams and one basic, ad-supported Hulu stream.

Of course, Netflix has much more robust library than Disney+ right now, but Disney is filling out its upcoming platform with a number of original shows. The streaming limitation and 4K news, which was disclosed during interviews at Disney’s D23 Expo, joins a flurry of new announcements regarding shows and films coming to Disney+ later this year. CNET also reports that Disney will be releasing new episodes of original series on Disney+ weekly, as opposed to all at once like Netflix, a strategy that will likely help it extend the lifespan of its earlier slate of programming while it plays catch up to competitors.

The company is bringing a Ms. Marvel series to its platform, as well as one centered on She Hulk and one on Moon Knight. Disney also today announced a live-action Lady in the Tramp adaptation that will be exclusive to Disney+ and confirmed the much-anticipated Obi-Wan Kenobi original series starring Ewan McGregor.

Prior to D23, Disney has promised a number of other enticing Disney+ benefits, including numerous other Star Wars series like The Mandalorian and a seventh season of The Clone Wars; shows focused on popular Marvel characters Hawkeye, Falcon / the Winter Solider, and Loki; and streaming exclusivity for a number of upcoming high-profile films like Frozen 2 and the live-action The Little Mermaid.

Google Photos now lets you search for text in pictures you’ve taken

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Google Photos now lets you search for text in pictures you’ve taken originally published on The Verge

Photo by Michele Doying / The Verge
Google made a subtle announcement today on Twitter: it’s in the process of rolling out new AI features for its Lens platform that will let you search your Google Photos library for text that appears within photos and screenshots. Then, you’ll then be able to easily copy and paste that text into a note, document, or form.

Both of the new features make use of a technique known as optical character recognition (OCR), with the copy/paste option building on Lens’ existing ability to understand and pull out the text found within photos, be it a screenshot or a photo of a physical sign or document. According to 9to5Google, that feature is available now on some Android devices, although it does not appear to be active quite yet on iOS. You may already be able to search your photos for text using Google Photos on the web.

Google is positioning the Lens feature as a way to easily snag a confounding Wi-Fi password, but it can also be used to grab any portion of text from any photo or screenshot in your Google Photos library on a case-by-case basis. The more impressive feat, though, is the ability to search for any snippet of text without having to pick a photo first. That suggests Google is performing OCR on your entire photo collection automatically.

“Starting this month, we’re rolling out the ability to search your photos by the text in them,” Google wrote in response to prominent venture capitalist Hunter Walk, who noticed earlier this week that the Lens feature had been turned on for his account. “Once you find the photo you’re looking for, click the Lens button to easily copy and paste text. Take that, impossible wifi password.”

The features seem related to one announced back during Google’s 2017 I/O developer conference. At the time, CEO Sundar Pichai celebrated a new, in-the-works feature that would let the AI-powered Lens camera understand the context of a photo. That way, you could point your smartphone camera at a router’s password sticker and get automatically connected to Wi-Fi by way of the software reading the password and understanding that you’d like to connect to the network using it.

Since then, Google Lens has added the ability to search the web for photos of menu items, add contact information from a business card to your address book, and all manner of other OCR-related tricks. But these new Photos features seem like a more large-scale deployment of the AI technique, done so on a user’s entire library to make it searchable and to give you the ability to pull that text out of photos.

Adobe’s next big bets are on AR and mixed reality software

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Adobe’s next big bets are on AR and mixed reality software originally published on The Verge

By the end of this year, designers will be getting three new Adobe apps, which are all part of the company’s vision for the next era of creativity. This next generation of apps will focus on mixing real-life, physical elements with digital ones, and it will emphasize experiences “outside of the glass,” says Adobe chief technology officer Abhay Parasnis. They’ll also be interconnected through mobile and desktop experiences so that users can switch between apps on any device.

“Every app we’re building — Aero, Fresco, Photoshop on the iPad — you will see us push to be cloud native, making collaboration a lot simpler,” Parasnis told The Verge. Perhaps the best example of the future Adobe envisions is another project that’s still in development called Project Glasswing. It’s a mixed-reality display prototype that would bring all of Adobe’s apps into the real world in the form of Photoshop or After Effects layers on a transparent screen in front of real 3D objects.

Parasnis stopped by The Verge to demonstrate all of the apps in development on an iPad Pro, starting with Fresco, the upcoming raster and vector illustration app for the iPad. He drew some brush strokes on the canvas, saved it, then opened the same file in Photoshop for the iPad, where the brush strokes remained. Parasnis says the goal is to make the apps “feel the same, not just in the UI, but in the paradigm of cloud documents.” Files should seem local, while the actual work is happening in the cloud, instantly syncing and saving every change.

Fresco, which is meant to mimic how watercolors and oil paints behave on paper, is the culmination of eight years of research using Adobe Sensei’s AI platform. The first version required high-end GPUs to run the engines, and a big part of the research time was spent making sure that the realistic strokes wouldn’t drain battery life and performance. “To an artist, nothing is worse than feeling like there’s already a level of interaction with a glass and a digital screen,” Parasnis says. For Adobe’s research team, cutting down the latency and getting the brushes and paints to mix naturally in real time represents several breakthroughs.

What Fresco is meant to achieve by bringing the analog painting experience into digital screens, Project Aero aims for the opposite. The augmented reality authoring tool allows for designers to create immersive experiences through the Adobe tools they already know how to use without having to know how to code. According to Parasnis, Aero started with the question of “Can we take digital output of creations from Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Dimension, and seamlessly bring them to life in physical 3D spaces around us?”

Aero was previewed at Apple’s developer conference last year, where Adobe announced that it would work with an AR file format created by Apple and Pixar. The unified format — USDZ, which is limited to iOS for now — means that files can be exported to show up in iPhones on regular apps like iMessage and Safari, without having to download separate AR viewers.

The app lets artists use drag-and-drop modules to create animations and responsive AR experiences that automatically take into account factors like physics and lighting, which would normally require knowledge of programs like Unity and Apple’s ARKit. Aero also gives artists the ability to fine-tune their AR creations using 3D textures and materials from Substance, the texturing software by Allegorithmic, which Adobe recently acquired. A handful of artists have access to the closed beta of Aero, but the app is taking requests for early access here.

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Good day for a picnic #projectaero #adobepartner

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Still, Parasnis recognizes the limits of AR, which binds users to screens and requires devices to look at the world. “For AR and immersive to go mainstream, both the hardware and the software has to happen,” Parasnis says. Adobe’s solution to that is Project Glasswing, a transparent LCD display that could potentially be used in retail environments or public spaces like hotels and museums. The prototype display can blend digital and physical environments without the need for glasses and headsets. “We like it as an alternative form of AR,” he says.

Parasnis stresses that Project Glasswing isn’t a hardware product; instead, it’s a means for Adobe to showcase how its software can be used in real-life applications, especially in retail. Adobe intends to partner with other companies to “take the hardware forward” because, Parasnis says, “We don’t actually want to be in the business of making the display.”

Image: Adobe

For retailers worried about how to compete with Amazon, Parasnis thinks AR has the potential to give them an advantage. “If I can make my physical retail environment and spaces more interactive,” he says, “it gives users a reason to actually leave their screens and go into physical spaces.”

IFTTT warns its Nest users not to migrate to Google accounts

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IFTTT warns its Nest users not to migrate to Google accounts originally published on The Verge

Nest Security Camera. | Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
IFTTT, the free service that uses conditional applets to extend the functionality of smart home devices, has issued both good and bad news to Nest owners. The good news is that IFTTT Applets designed for the Nest Thermostat, Nest Protect, and Nest Cam will continue to work after August 31st, the date Google will shut down the Works with Nest program. The bad news is that the applets will stop working if users migrate their Nest accounts to Google accounts.

Google originally announced that the Works with Nest program would be shutting down on August 31st causing all third-party integrations to stop working on that date. After public outcry, Google announced exemptions for existing Works with Nest connections until they can be replicated in the new Works with Google Assistant program. While Alexa was called out by name, it was unclear whether IFTTT’s custom integrations would continue to work.

Nest owners who use IFTTT and choose not to migrate to Google accounts will face some quandaries down the road. Chiefly, there’s the prospect of missing out on new features that will only be available with a Google Account. Google says it is working on enabling similar automations through the Google Assistant that should, eventually, allow some IFTTT users to migrate. But it’s doubtful they’ll address the broad functionality enabled by the passionate community of IFTTT home automators.

Building Virtual Worlds Is a New Form of Self-Expression

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Building Virtual Worlds Is a New Form of Self-Expression originally published on Wired

Recently, a 23-year-old college student named Nick tried out a new pastime: building 3D virtual worlds.

He got his hands on Dreams, a game by Media Molecule that gives people tools to create digital scenes—anything from a room filled with items to an entire landscape you can wander around in. There’s a tool for sculpting objects and another for animating them, and a unique visual programming language to tweak things. Daunting! But soon he’d made some remarkable stuff, which he shared via the game’s online interface.

In only a few weeks, Nick became rather good at Dreams. I checked out one of his 3D worlds, in which you pilot a humanoid robot across a barren rocky planet, the whole place aglow in extraterrestrial moonlight. It gave me shivers—a tone poem of desolation. “With certain tweaks,” Nick told me, “I could get some rich lighting conditions to really wow the players.” Did he have any training in the field? Nope, “just a creative sponge,” he says.

For years, making immersive digital environments—for games or movies—was the province of pros. The tools were hard to use and expensive. But the story of media in the past 20 years has been one of creation tools becoming cheaper and easier to use, and then eventually going mass-market. Editing photos and video was once hard too, but now we do it as proficiently as we wield paper and pencil. As media scholar Katie Salen notes, “We’re culturally more literate with complex tools.”

With 3D design, too, there’s been a boomlet in software like Tinkercad and Sketchup, which lets hobbyists mess around with architectural and industrial design, and there’s Minecraft, where ordinary people can make and share lush, albeit blocky, environments. In many ways, people have tapped into the enjoyment of “world-building,” says media scholar Mimi Ito.

It’s easy to see this moving mainstream, much as image-meme culture did.

The makers of Dreams were, quite explicitly, trying to accelerate this world-building phenomenon. As Mark Healey, creative director of Media Molecule, explained, the team had included level-building tools in its first game, LittleBigPlanet, in 2008, then watched, amazed, as players created audaciously complex environments. “So with Dreams, we went the whole hog,” he says. Media Molecule’s tools are so powerful there’s a steep learning curve; the game comes with hours of instructional videos. It almost terrified me with its sophistication.

Players, though, aren’t intimidated. Within days of the Dreams launch, they’d begun crafting hallucinogenically ambitious stuff: forests of trees that look like they’re breathing, dimly lit nightmares, and even a functioning version of Super Mario Bros.

Which, really, is the most interesting part of the trend. People love world-building and see it as a new way to express themselves.

Maybe we could have predicted this. Today’s young adults grew up with 3D environments as a core element of pop culture. Minecraft‘s breakout success nearly a decade ago trained a generation of kids to be comfortable thinking and creating in x-y-z dimensions. It was social too, as Ito says: In Minecraft, kids often built collaboratively because, of course, ambitious things are hard, many hands make light work, and you could hang with your friends remotely to boot. “World-building became part of everyday creativity and communication,” Ito adds. Let me express my friendship by making you a brutal parkour field in Minecraft!

This same deeply social vibe persists in Dreams, where any part of a creation can be reused and remixed. Codi Hickish, a 26-year-old illustrator, used Dreams to make adorable 3D versions of her fuzzy 2D hand-drawn characters; they’ve now been reused in hundreds of other game scenes. One 19-year-old I interviewed, who is saving for college by working at McDonald’s, built a terrific Western-gunslinger Dreams game by repurposing objects and logic others had designed. It’s an open source scene, filled with courtly cooperation.

As more people become literate in 3D world-building, what will it mean for society? It’s easy to see this moving mainstream, much as image-meme culture did. What began as a bunch of teenagers using Microsoft Paint to mess around with cat photos in the early aughts had by 2016 become a powerful form of political rhetoric—Bernie Sanders with the Beatles (“DID SOMEONE SAY THEY WANT A REVOLUTION?”), Hillary Clinton as the Joker, Pepe the Frog as a fungible symbol for white supremacists.

Right now, world-building is limited by its walled-garden nature; you can only interact with someone’s creation inside the games themselves. But I could imagine these new forms becoming more easily shared outside those confines, at which point they’d metamorphose into a true public discourse—making virtual worlds a way to impact the real one.

Clive Thompson (@pomeranian99) is a WIRED contributing editor. Write to him at [email protected].

This article appears in the September issue. Subscribe now.

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