When an artist got his hands on these 2 billboards, they became windows to the natural world.

A lot of us start our days like this:

Photo by Eric Demarcq/Flickr.


After spending so much time pulling our hair out in standstill traffic, we're usually looking for anything that might brighten our morning. A fresh cup of coffee. A surprise call from a friend. Something little that breaks up the monotony and holds the stress at bay, even for just a minute.

But what if the morning commute didn't have to be so bad?

That's why artist Brian Kane decided to delight commuters in Boston by replacing billboards with powerful pictures of nature.


Photos by Simone Schiess, used with permission.

Brian has an interesting background as both a fine artist and as a user-experience designer for websites. Where those worlds collide is where he's done some of his best work.

"I'm trying to apply the rules of good user experience to public art," he told Upworthy. "We've learned a lot about how to give users beautiful moments in UX. I want to take those best practices and apply them to the real world."

Having nothing to look at during your morning commute other than a giant, faded photo of a Big Mac? That's bad user experience.

That led him to this project, called "Healing Tool" (a reference to a tool in Photoshop that allows designers to easily retouch photos), in which he and his team placed two digital billboards just north of metro Boston, in one of the most congested areas of the city. He rented the ad space earlier this year from Clear Channel for a month, fair and square.

But instead of featuring big brand logos or exciting "limited time offers," Kane's billboards were, essentially, windows into nature. They displayed photos of the natural landscape, which rotated throughout the day and night.

They were gorgeous.

There's no conservation fund behind this. No mission to save the trees or combat global warming. Just an attempt to make the world a little more pleasant.

This year, advertisers are expected to spend about $540 billion globally, according to Ad Age. Meanwhile, Scenic America estimates there are as many as 780,000 billboards lining U.S. roads.

But Kane insists he's not out to make a big statement about advertising or to fight for the beautification of our highways. He just wanted to create something people would enjoy looking at.

He calls it a campaign without a message.

"People just like the idea of something pleasant in their daily life that's not selling them anything."

Which is why, he says, he resisted the urge to put his logo, website, or even his name on the billboards.

The response was tremendous.

"I got a lot of phone calls from happy commuters, and that makes me happy," he said. "If you can give them 20 seconds of joy, I think that's really what an artist should aim to do."

Kane says he hopes to bring the project to new areas in the spring, especially outside the U.S. But he has no plans to brand it or expand on its underlying message.

"I want this to be open to interpretation," he added. "I think, in my opinion, that's what makes it stronger"

You can see his billboards in action below:

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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