PXLZ

Photo: Android Smartphone. Credit: Rami Al-zayat/unsplash
Photo: Android Smartphone. Credit: Rami Al-zayat/unsplash

The app, PXLZ, sounded like a typical vowel-less Silicon Valley hipster concoction, but it was a cool idea.

It was the perfect location. Few people knew about this spot. He had read about it on a web forum for plane spotters. Apparently, not many of his friends had read the post, because he was almost always alone there. They weren’t exactly his friends either, but they shared their passion for fighter jets and aviation. Close enough. This time he had only brought one of his Nikon bodies with a 50-500 mm lens. He was here to try out a new AR game so he hadn’t brought his normal array of equipment needed to capture the magnificent machines as they ascended to the skies.

He had neglected his other big hobby, gaming. No longer did he keep up with the latest consoles and PC setups. But recently he read about this cool new Augmented Reality game. The idea was to build virtual objects, like in Minecraft or (In Real Life) with LEGO blocks. In this app you could place them at real locations by using your smart phone. They were overlaid onto the real environment using the latest AR technologies such as Lidar.

Other users could demolish your creations which earned them points, so the trick was to place them on unknown or hard to reach spots in the real world. The objects that stayed intact the longest got the players most points and, more importantly, gamer street creds.

His secret corner next to the airbase was hidden between a wall and the heavily guarded perimeter. Most passers-by assumed the wall was part of the base so they never tried to go in between. But behind the wall was an ideal spot to take spectacular pictures of the F-35’s taking off. You also had a good view of the control tower and several hangars and other buildings.

He held up his arms with his iPhone in landscape mode to scan the environment for virtual objects. The app, PXLZ, sounded like a typical vowel-less Silicon Valley hipster concoction, but it was a cool idea. The makers were some unknown company from Romania or something. In the top right corner of the screen he noticed he had a WiFi signal instead of the 5G that was more common in remote areas like this. Must be some kind of free network for visitors.

He scanned the base by looking at his phone’s screen as he held up the device with both hands. There were no virtual objects in sight. That was fine, he could earn points by building something himself at this location. Next to the air traffic control tower would be cool.

Overlaid on the top of the screen appeared a message. He almost swiped it away, but then he noticed it was from his aviation photography Twitter feed.

Breaking: I just photographed a Russian TU-95 in Dutch airspace!

#coldwar2

The tweet also had a picture of what could indeed be a Russian bomber viewed from below with a telelens. This was incredible, it would mean that any moment two F-35’s would take off from this base for a Quick Reaction Alert.

He noticed his battery was drained to 54%. Weird, he had charged his iPhone all night.

There they were, the F-35’s taxied to the runway in the distance. Instead of taking off they stayed in their place for minutes. Was something wrong? Another tweet arrived on his screen.

Dutch pilots refuse to fly as a protest to their government #DutchmenDontFly.

What? That didn’t sound right. The jets were standing there on the runway. Fake news.

He noticed his battery was already down to 36%. A vague feeling of dread came over him.

Immediately he closed the PXLZ app and removed it from his phone. He looked in the App Store to see the details. The company was registered in St. Petersburg.

Slowly he opened his Twitter client.

#DutchmenDontFly was already a trending hashtag.