Studio for experimental storytelling.

9 Easy Ways to Hack Yourself a Better Reality: An Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide

You can hack reality, not just computers. Social codes and norms operate in many situations – and like a successful software hack – hacking reality is about finding alternate routes, testing assumptions, and freeing your mind to do things differently. Reality hacking requires the courage to take a step outside of your comfort zone. The techniques in this guide are tried and trusted methods developed by Jay Cousins, reality hacker extraordinaire, and inventor of the Betabook – a supremely simple reality hacking tool.


Hack Asking for Directions

  1. Approach a friendly looking local person in the street.
  2. Ask for help locating your goal. Be polite.
  3. Have the local draw you a map in your Betabook indicating how to get where you’re going.

BONUS: if you are in a country where you don’t speak the language, draw a picture of your goal together with a question mark in your Betabook. This often does the trick.


Hack Conversations

  1. Draw a picture in your Betabook to help you explain a complex idea or concept to your conversation partner.
  2. Your conversation partner now has a wider range of responses to your communication. They can respond by adding to your drawing, erasing parts they want to change, or simply pointing to parts that need clarification.

BONUS: this method will also allow you to hack communication with your grandparent in the case that the batteries in their hearing aid are losing power.


Hack Anxiety

  1. Write down every thought that is in your head in your Betabook until you can’t think of any more things to write down.
  2. Take a picture of your “brain dump” and wipe the surface of your Betabook clean.
  3. Now you can proceed with your day free of the thoughts that were consuming your attention, comforted by the knowledge that you can return to that thought process later once you have more perspective.

BONUS: this method is especially effective before bed for getting a good night’s sleep after a stressful day.


Hack Writing Drafts

  1. Write your first draft in your Betabook. Write it outside for extra inspiration.
  2. Take photos of your first draft with your phone and save them in Evernote.
  3. Sync Evernote to your iPad and write your second draft using the iPad’s voice-to-text feature in Evernote.
  4. Sync your second draft in Evernote on your iPad to Evernote on your laptop and polish your final draft using your keyboard.

BONUS: this much context switching during the writing process reduces repetitive stress injuries. You improve your posture by sitting or standing in a different position for every step. You use different muscle groups by changing the actions you take with your hands.


Hack Business Cards

  1. Have your new acquaintance write their contact details (legibly) in your Betabook.
  2. Have your new acquaintance hold up your Betabook just below their chin.
  3. Take a picture of your new acquaintance holding your Betabook.

BONUS: by taking a picture you will save important context information (such as how they look and where you met) which will help you when following up with your new acquaintance in the future.


Hack Boring Meetings

  1. Draw a picture of a clock in your Betabook.
  2. Casually place your Betabook in the center of the table for all to see. Don’t explain your actions.
  3. People will naturally respond to the image of the clock with thoughts of time management.

BONUS: you may make new friends at work if the meeting ends ahead of schedule. You can also draw other things, such as birds flying away, hourglasses, or funny faces.


Hack Coworking

  1. Use your special Betabook plastic (available in the “Maker” reward) to transform the backside of your laptop screen into a rewritable surface.
  2. Use your new rewritable surface on your laptop to communicate about your interests, projects and passions when sitting in a coworking space.
  3. Magically meet new people now that you are broadcasting important information.

BONUS: for more adventuresome results try this technique in public places.


Hack Protests

  1. Write a protest slogan on your Betabook (or Betabook Pro for a bigger effect).
  2. As the mood of the protest changes, dynamically react to the situation by writing new slogans in your Betabook as needed.
  3. At the end of the day wipe your Betabook clean.

BONUS: This is an ecologically sound alternative to traditional picket signs which often end up in the garbage after the protest is over.


Hack Betabook Itself

  1. Use your special Betabook plastic (available in the “Hacker Kit” reward) to modify your Betabook.
  2. Add a second or third surface to the front or back of your Betabook.
  3. Alternately, use a permanent marker to draw a template on your Betabook for use completing a routine task.

BONUS: share your hacks with the Betabook community and make friends with other reality hackers.

You can find Betabook, Betabook Pro, and the special Betabook plastic on Kickstarter until January 12, 2015.

People in Beta: Tina Roth Eisenberg

We love this quote from Tina Roth Eisenberg aka @swissmiss. We first discovered her work in 2010 when she posted our video Delivered in Beta to her blog. Within days of her post, Delivered in Beta received over 10,000 plays on Vimeo. This was the first time one of our documentaries had ever reached that sort of web audience and it really gave us pause. We must have been doing something right.

Tina’s enthusiasm about our storytelling gave us the confidence to keep making videos. It’s not a direct cause and effect, but there’s a good chance if she hadn’t acknowledged what we did with Delivered in Beta we might never have winded up producing the Betabook.

But Tina is also an inspiration to us for her entrepreneurial spirit. She’s the instigator of Creative Mornings, a global monthly series of creative talks. She runs the webshop Tattly, a boutique designer temporary tattoo outfit. And – as if that weren’t enough – she runs an amazing collaborative workspace in Brooklyn called Studiomates. We love how Tina is working in all these different areas simultaneously.

So we’ll admit it: we are infected by Tina’s enthusiasm. Watch her 99U talk and we’re betting you’ll be too:

Betabook: From Design Fiction to Design Fact

Today Betabook is the featured design project on Kickstarter. I thought it would be interesting to take a moment to reflect on what that means – not just for Betabook, but for design.

Bruce Sterling calls design fiction “the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change.” When I think about design fiction, it is as if there’s a little chart of comparison and contrast in my head:


From this perspective Kickstarter is a very special place for design fiction. Sure, science fiction films have had an analogous cultural impact, albeit on a longer timescale. Nobody will deny the influence of a film like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey on design in the second half of the 20th century. Artist Greg Borenstein has done some great thinking on the topic of iPads and Star Trek. But the cause and effect relationship on Kickstarter between the story of an idea and its execution is irrefutable.

On the left: the original Betabook prototype; on the right: the final factory-ready design.

William Gibson‘s oft-cited quote “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” rings true for our experience over the last two years developing the Betabook. The prototypes have worked their way into our daily routine on a fundamental level, transforming much of our creative work into a hybrid analog/digital process. With the design finalized and our supply-chain in place, this is a story we are excited to finally share.

It’s time to get this future a little more evenly distributed. With your help we can turn this design fiction into design fact.

Your iPad is Not a Tablet

Tablets are the original rewritable tools for written communication. They have contributed to the development of philosophy, commerce, education and general literacy. Once people got in the habit of writing stuff down on a temporary portable surface the idea stuck – for centuries.

Then something funny happened. A couple years ago when portable touchscreen computers came out they called them tablets. But they’re not tablets, they’re computers.

A tablet computer doesn’t have the focused single purpose of a traditional tablet. It may be that switching your tablet computer on actually distracts you more than it helps you get stuff done. Despite the futuristic design of a lot of tablet computers, they are far from future proof. Instead they’re destined to become junk within a couple years thanks to planned obsolescence.

The Betabook is a real tablet, in the tradition of stone, wax and slate. It’s an ancient technology redesigned for a digital world. It gives you a satisfying creative experience using an “interface” which has stood the test of time. But it does so with the most seamless, lightweight, and easy to erase material ever to grace the surface of a tablet.

Curious to try it out?

If you’re in Berlin, join us next week for our Kickstarter launch party at the Betahaus. We’ll be playing drawing games with our friends from VizThink Berlin and you’ll have a chance to get a hands-on demo of the Betabook. If we reach our fundraising goal by or before the party we’ll buy everyone in attendance a drink!

Click here for the Facebook Event Page or here to order your free Eventbrite Tickets.