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We’ve all been there. Sitting on our couch at 2 am making impulse purchases while watching QVC. And now we can get in on the fun ourselves, setting up our own shops or searching for rare collectibles thanks to Whatnot, a new streaming marketplace service.

Techcrunch explains:

Whatnot exists with one primary goal in mind: to give people a place to buy and sell collectibles (like Pokémon cards, sports cards, pins, etc.) in a safe, authenticated way.

The company started out with intentions of being a GOAT/StockX-style resale marketplace, where the products up for sale lived on neat little pages with row after row of static images. As they started experimenting with other formats, they found one that really seemed to catch on: livestream sales. Think QVC or the Home Shopping Network… but instead of hosts in huge studios selling jewelry and patio furniture, it’s users with smartphones selling Charizard cards and Yoda figurines.”

And this could be just the beginning. With some saying that Whatnot is poised to breakout in a big way, ushering in a new era of liveshopping that could revolutionize retail. For now though the focus is all about Pokemon and baseball cards. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.

Whatnot - A Live Streaming Person-to-Person Collectibles Marketplace -  Small Business Labs
Is Whatnot the Greatest Idea Ever?

Have you ever wondered what you’d look like as a Disney character? Well, now’s your chance to find out thanks to Viola AI Artist.

Wired explains:

“Voilà is a photo manipulation app for iOS and Android that takes a photo of your face and, using some AI magic, turns your photo into something that kinda looks like a cartoon character. The app has four primary modes: 3D cartoon (i.e. the Pixar/Disney style), Renaissance painting, 2D cartoons (still pretty Disney-ified), and caricatures.

That’s pretty much it! Unlike similar apps like FaceApp, there aren’t many advanced editing features or tools. Once the filter is applied, you can choose from three different variations—for example, under Renaissance, you can choose between 15th-, 18th-, or 20th-century options—but you can’t tweak features like the mouth or hair, or play around with basic image editing tools like color or contrast.

You can choose photos that you’ve already taken to upload, or you can use your phone’s camera to take a new one.”

But if you ask me the best part is the celebrity feature that lets you see what various celebrities would look like as well. Serving us up hours of entertainment in the process.

See how to turn your photos into 3D drawings - Olhar Digital
Is Viola AI Artist the Greatest Idea Ever?

There’s an exclusive club gaining momentum on social media and quickly positioning itself as THE place to be. To join all you have to do is buy a NFT (non-fungible token) of a bored ape. Wait. What?

The Verge explains:

Bored Ape Yacht Club, which launched in April, includes 10,000 apes with a punk vibe, dressed in trucker hats, stud earrings, and mischievous grins. At launch, apes were sold for the equivalent of $186 a pop. Now, the cheapest ape costs more than $80,000, and several have sold for more than $300,000 each at today’s exchange rate.

‘We were thinking, we have this club, this dive bar, what kind of people do we imagine would go into this bar? Who do we want? What kind of club would we ourselves want to be a part of?’ one of the Bored Ape co-founders, who goes by the pseudonym Gargamel, tells The Verge. ‘After a long night of brainstorming, it came to [Gordon, another co-founder] in a dream: Bored Ape Yacht Club.’

It’s easy to get the impression that these projects, all modeled after and inspired by the immense success of CryptoPunks, are cash grabs for project owners and NFT holders alike, snatching up cookie-cutter JPGs with the hope of reselling them a couple of months or years later for a surprise windfall. Pop into the Discord servers for any of these projects, and you’re likely to see a conversation about “floor prices” — the cheapest an NFT from the series is selling for — before too long.

But nearly everyone who spoke with The Verge about their involvement in launching or buying these NFT series said the monetary component was just one part of the story, and often not even their primary interest. ‘When I had an ape as my profile picture, I could DM any other ape and connect with them,’ Spencer Gordon-Sand, a current Cool Cats owner (and former ape owner) who works in venture capital, tells The Verge. “This is a really easy in to a community of people.”

The projects’ real selling point is supposed to be some combination of great art and access to a great community. Bored Ape Yacht Club, or BAYC for short, was really the first to figure this out. The BAYC founders tried to make the process of getting an ape as easy as possible for initial buyers, and they styled their series as offering membership to a literal ‘club.’ Their website is built around illustrations of a divey bar, and it grants access to a members-only board where you can leave digital graffiti, so long as you own an ape.

Several project founders said that focusing on money first and leaving community behind was a recipe for disaster. ‘That’s a loser’s game,’ Gargamel says. ‘That’s how you create an unsustainable pump” — a temporary price surge that eventually crashes — ‘ and we’re trying to build this long-term.”

So far, building a community has mostly meant launching a Discord, doing free giveaways, and announcing plans for new features. BAYC plans to launch ‘mutant apes,’ while Cool Cats is working on models to bring its cats into the metaverse. The giveaways mean that NFT owners get more NFTs, giving them more to sell, and driving up the floor price as outsiders see the added value that comes with owning a cat, ape, or whatever else.

BAYC, in particular, is interested in expanding what it means to be a member of their club. Your ape is your Amex black card,’ Gargamel said. It gets you NFT cred online, but maybe it can also get you into exclusive presales and events, like a recent meetup in LA.”

And that’s the key takeaway here. NFTs are no longer just about owning a unique digital version of an item. Now they’re about street cred, club membership, and access to exclusive events and giveaways. Owning one is no longer an investment or hobby. Now it’s a lifestyle. From passing fancy to integral part of real-life society in no time at all.

If you don’t want to get left behind now is the time to get in on the action.

Why Bored Ape Avatars Are Taking Over Twitter | The New Yorker
Is the Bored Ape Yacht Club the Greatest Idea Ever?

Can’t decide what to eat for dinner tonight? Or what to wear on your date? Or what to do this weekend?  Then you might want to sign up for NewNew.  An app where you can set up polls and have people control your life. 

While this sounds like it could be the premise of a Black Mirror episode it also sounds pretty interesting and like something I would actually want to use.

The BBC explains:

“When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him.

Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought.

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its ‘beta’ or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”.

For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls ‘creators’ – writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc.

It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection.

When a so-called creator sets up a NewNew account and attracts followers, he or she is encouraged to ask them via video clips to vote on aspects of both their work and personal life.

Mr. Wong, who writes fiction on the Wattpad website and app, has also used NewNew votes to decide on what genre to write about next, plus character names and plot developments.

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission.

The creator sets the question and a choice of two answers. Their followers get to vote, and can pay to do so as many times as they like. They don’t get their money back, regardless of which way the result goes.

In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra – from $20 – to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these ‘bids’, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money.

While other apps such as Wishbone ask members of the public to vote on things, NewNew says that what it offers – the chance to pay to vote on aspects of a person’s work and personal life – is unique.”

Ultimately, I can see this app being useful for celebrities.  Similar to how Cameo lets them interact with fans.  And as long as the person has control over what bids they accept then what’s the harm in trying to take control of a person’s life?  It’s not like they are bound to do something inappropriate.  You’re simply just helping an indecisive person make a decision.  And possibly forming a connection and friendship with them in the process. 

Now, on a serious note, does anyone know what I should watch on Netflix tonight?

What is NewNew and how does this new app work | Digital Trends Spanish -  Geekytrainer
Is NewNew the Greatest Idea Ever?

Doing chores sucks.  Kids have to be bribed into doing them with an allowance.  Married couples fight about them.  And if you have enough disposable income you might just hire a maid to do them for you.  After all, who wants to spend valuable time doing something tedious, backbreaking, and disgusting.  But what if there was a better way to do chores?  What if there was a way to actually make them fun?! Well, now there is.  Thanks to game developer Jane McGonigal and her Chore Wars.

CNET explains:

Housework is a lot more fun with a battle axe and a couple of dwarves.

Chore Wars, a game shown off by noted game developer Jane McGonigal at the Web 2.0 Summit recently, gives users ‘experience’ points for various household chores. Collecting those points then lets you advance your profile in the online game.

Swiffer the floor twice a week and get 20 points for charm, that sort of thing. You can also play for virtual gold doubloons. These can be exchanged for rewards, inside your own circle of friends. Earn 200 doubloons and you can receive a get-out of-cleaning-the garage card. Or if you are the low scorer for a month, you can be dubbed a scapegoat and put up for adoption.

Naturally, most players concentrate on people you know. Who cares if some guy in Texas slew 200 yards of PVC pipe in putting together his new sprinkler system and got 1,000 doubloons. The bean bags in your guest room still need to be stacked. Still, you can get a sense of the value that other people put on certain tasks to get a sense of the value of your own.

There are different roles you can play–apprentice, dungeon master (DMs have full administrative power and get to wield the unstoppable cleansing power of Comet) and adventurer.

The idea behind all of this is to make real life more appealing. Virtual worlds are actually more appealing than reality to a growing segment of the population. The rules are easier to understand and the rewards are clean-cut. ‘Some people care more about their avatars than their real lives,” McGonigal said. “We’re seeing it a bit in the U.S. In Asia it is a really strong phenomenon.’

There does seem to be an inherent danger of turning people into household pets. You’re getting people to clean up for the equivalent of a milk bone. But, in the right context, you could see this making housework more fun.”

Indeed I can.  So, does anyone want to play?! Or at least come over and clean my apartment for me?!

Which household chore burns the most calories?
Are Chore Wars the Greatest Idea Ever?

I would say that this next idea is for the birds except that I mean that as a compliment.  For the next big thing in gaming is a board game about birds.  Say hello to your new best friend: Wingspan.

Slate explains:

“My family discovered Wingspan, with its beautiful, hand-painted cards and gentle, strategic gameplay, last year, and soon we were playing it every weekend. Wingspan has transformed the way I think about games, about competition, and even about art. And I’m not alone. Wingspan has sent people flocking not only to gaming but to game design. However the board game industry transforms in the next few years, it’ll be Wingspan that causes it.

Wingspan…is the board game of the moment. When it was released in 2019, it was an instant hit, and that was before everyone found themselves stuck inside during the pandemic. In 2020, as the pandemic drove Americans both into their homes to stare at their families and out into the woods to stare at birds, Wingspan blew up, outselling every other game its publisher makes combined. That company, Stonemaier Games, has now sold 1.3 million copies of the game and its expansions, plus another 125,000 digital editions on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and iOS.

The stars of Wingspan, though, are the birds. Inside a bright plastic container nestle 170 cards, each bearing a beautiful hand-painted image of a bird in action. A white-throated swift slicing through air, wings extended. A yellow-billed cuckoo perched on a twig, brows furrowed quizzically over its down-curved, golden beak. A California condor, disheveled and grumpy in its black robes like a judge at the bench. Icons display what food the bird eats, where it lives, what kind of nest it builds. Each card even features a little factoid about the bird’s behavior, habitat, or conservation status.

In Wingspan, you, the player, control a small wildlife refuge, a little patch of ground with some forest, some grassland, a marsh. Your job is to populate the preserve with a flourishing array of birds. To play a bird, you need food; the Carolina chickadee, for example, requires one invertebrate token or one seed token. Each bird is worth a certain number of points, but it also has special powers that, over time, accumulate value for your sanctuary. Often, those powers are related to the bird itself and the way it behaves in the wild. The cuckoo, for example, is an occasional nest parasite, laying its eggs in other birds’ nests when food is abundant. Once you play the yellow-billed cuckoo card in your forest, each time another player’s birds lay eggs, your cuckoo lays an egg too.

Wingspan is what’s known among serious gamers as an ‘engine-building game,’ which means that as the game goes on, the combination of birds you play becomes more and more efficient at generating points each turn, like an engine running faster and faster. Your cuckoo lays eggs, and the eggs not only give you points but make it possible to play more birds, which also give you more points but have their own powers that generate points in other ways. I prefer thinking about the mechanism of Wingspan not as an engine I am building, but as an ecosystem I am fostering. If I’ve strategized well, the birds in my ecosystem will be knitted together into a web of complex, mutually beneficial relationships. Activating the cascading effects of these healthy interconnections is the greatest pleasure of playing Wingspan.

It’s those interconnections that Hargrave began mapping out in a ginormous spreadsheet once she decided she really did want to design a board game. For four years, she researched birds, brainstormed play ideas, and—most crucially—tested the game, over and over, every week for years, with a group of friends who helped her refine her vague idea for a game about birds into an experience that’s engrossing, contemplative, collaborative, and even beautiful.”

Sounds good to me.  Anyone want to play?!

Save 40% on Wingspan on Steam
Is Wingspan the Greatest Idea Ever?

Video games and chill? That could become the new catchphrase thanks to a plan from Netflix to add video games to their streaming library.

According to Bloomberg:

“The idea is to offer video games on Netflix’s streaming platform within the next year, according to a person familiar with the situation. The games will appear alongside current fare as a new programming genre — similar to what Netflix did with documentaries or stand-up specials. The company doesn’t currently plan to charge extra for the content, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.

Netflix has been seeking ways to keep growing, especially in more saturated markets such as the U.S. That’s included building out its kids’ programming, opening an online shop to sell merchandise, and tapping Steven Spielberg to bring more prestigious movies to its lineup. The company remains well ahead of streaming rivals such as Disney+ or HBO Max, but it added fewer subscribers than expected in its most recently reported quarter.

Pushing into games would be one of Netflix’s boldest moves yet.”

But how exactly would this work? Would you need a special remote or controller to play? Or have to login to Netflix through a gaming console where you’d have the ability to either play games or stream movies through your device?  I’m not sure.  But one thing is clear.  Netflix isn’t messing around anymore.

Netflix Will Likely Start Streaming Video Games in 2022
Is playing video games on Netflix the Greatest Idea Ever?

In the future it may be possible that we take a pill to give us the same benefits as working out.  No dumb bells, treadmills, or clunky exercise equipment needed.  But until then we may be able to summon up a hidden store of willpower.  By watching virtual versions of ourselves working out first.  It’s called vicarious exercise and it could be what we need to get off the couch.

“Want to exercise more, but can’t quite seem to summon up the willpower? There may be a gameful way to trick your brain into moving your body.  It’s called vicarious exercise.  All you have to do is watch a video game doppelganger, or an avatar designed to look just like you, exercising in the virtual world.

It’s true.  You can build exercise-related self-efficacy without doing a single push-up or taking a single step.  You just need to spend a few minutes watching your avatar do all the hard work. 

In a study conducted by the VHIL, researchers found that participants who watched their virtual doppelgangers running on a treadmill reported feeling significantly higher confidence that they could exercise effectively.  More important, after they left the lab, they exercised a full hour more than participants who watched their virtual doppelganger stand around doing nothing.  Over the next twenty-four hours, the participants with running avatars walked more city  blocks, climbed more stairs, and spent more time in the gym.

However, this technique worked only when were avatars were specially created to look like participants.  Watching a generic male or female avatar exercise had zero effect on participant’s real-life movement.”

That last part surprises me.  Sometimes I do get motivated to work out after watching a sporting event or TV show where jacked people are running around defying physics.  It’s hard not to be inspired and want to go out and do those things too.  Just ask anyone who watched the Olympics and then did a floor routine.

The fact that these professional athletes don’t look like me doesn’t matter.  But at the same time I can see how actually seeing a virtual version of yourself doing something would also motivate you.  And probably even more than if you saw a generic avatar doing it or didn’t see anything at all.

So until we get workout pills it looks like vicarious exercise may be the next best thing.

vicarious living |
Is Vicarious Exercise the Greatest Idea Ever?

The other day I wrote about the Spotlight Theory of Attention, about how you could distract your brain so that you wouldn’t feel as much pain.  Well, as it turns out, this method of tricking the brain works even better in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event.  Preventing you from ever forming negative memories that could lead to PTSD in the first place.  All you have to do is play some Tetris. Wait. What?!

Jane McGonigal explains in the book SuperBetter:

“In 2009 and 2010 a team of psychiatrists at Oxford University completed two studies showing that playing Tetris within six hours of viewing traumatic imagery helped reduce flashbacks of the traumatic events. It worked so well, in fact, that the Oxford researchers proposed that a single ten-minute session of Tetris could effectively serve as a ‘cognitive vaccine’ against PTSD. Play the game as soon as possible after a traumatic event, and you may significantly reduce your likelihood of experiencing severe post-traumatic stress.

How did the Oxford researchers figure this out? It’s not easy to study trauma in a laboratory, as you can imagine. It’s simply not ethical for researchers to do horrible things to study participants just to measure their traumatic response. So the Oxford team used an experimental method that has been tested and validated in hundreds of other trauma studies: they gathered together test subjects in a laboratory and showed them a series of extremely graphic, gory images of death and injury. (Trust me, these are the kind of images you truly hope you will never see.) Then they measured the subjects’ emotional response to the images to ensure that they were truly disturbed.

In the hours that followed, half of the test subjects played Tetris for ten minutes while the other group did nothing special. Here’s what the researchers found: most of the group that did nothing special reported a high number of disturbing visual flashbacks from the images over the next week. The group that played Tetris, however, had just half as many flashbacks. And when both groups completed a psychological survey one week later, the Tetris players had significantly fewer symptoms of PTSD than the group that did not play.

So how did ten minutes of game play prevent flashbacks and PTSD symptoms? The Oxford researchers explain that Tetris occupies the visual processing circuitry of the brain with something other than what it’s usually preoccupied with after a trauma—involuntarily remembering and replaying the trauma over and over again. It’s similar to how Snow World works to prevent pain, but it’s a more targeted approach. To interfere with involuntary visual memories of the trauma, you have to swing the attention spotlight to something that specifically demands a huge amount of visual attention.

Crucially, the Oxford researchers found that not every video game can successfully hijack the visual processing centers. It must be a game that requires a massive amount of constant, visual processing—ideally, a pattern-matching game like Tetris or Candy Crush Saga, in which your goal is to move and connect game pieces according to a visual pattern. These kinds of games are so visually engaging, players notoriously report seeing game play flashbacks—typically, colored blocks falling, or matching candies swapping places—whenever they close their eyes, even hours after they’ve stopped playing. But if you play a less visual game, like Scrabble or a trivia quiz, this technique doesn’t work. Your brain will have too many visual processing resources still available to replay traumatic images.

One more important detail from the Oxford study: playing Tetris did not prevent individuals from voluntarily remembering details of what they saw. A week later, when they were asked questions like ‘What color was the hair of the man who drowned?’ or ‘About how old was the woman on the stretcher?’ the Tetris players accurately recalled as many details as the group that did not play. Their memories were intact—they just weren’t as haunted by them.”

Obviously, we don’t all walk around all the time with Tetris readily accessible but maybe we should.  We could very easily download an app on our phones so that in the event of a traumatic event from a car accident, natural disaster, battlefield injury, etc. we can just take out our phones and start playing while receiving medical attention.  On the surface it sounds silly.  Playing a game during such a critical time.  Who would even have the presence of mind during an emergency situation to do that?  But at the same time the impact of doing so (if we’re so inclined) is scientifically proven.  So much so, that we have to ask ourselves if we can afford not to?  Especially when the alternative is winding up with debilitating PTSD for the rest of our lives…

Playing Tetris May Alleviate PTSD Flashbacks - Neuroscience News
Can playing Tetris prevent PTSD?

While most people play video games just to have fun is it possible to become a professional gamer and make a living at it.  But soon making money may be the whole point of playing games for everybody.  Thanks to a new class of games with built in financial ecosystems and ties to NFTS and cryptocurrencies. 

According to Fast Company:

“The leader in this new space is Axie Infinity, a Pokémon-style game created by the Vietnamese developer Sky Mavis. It has some 350,000 daily active users, about 40% of whom are in the Philippines, with Venezuela and the US the next two biggest markets.

The game revolves around cute furry creatures called Axies, which players breed, acquire, train, use to complete challenges, and do battle with online. The object of the game is to obtain small love potions (SLPs), which can be used to breed new Axies that can then be deployed within the game.

SLPs double as cryptocurrencies that can be bought and sold on a crypto exchange. Top players are reportedly earning SLP1,500 ($435) per day from their Axies, though the price of SLPs against the US dollar is constantly changing. It has broadly been rising since 2020, so there is an argument for hanging on to them – or alternatively, selling while the going is good.

Axies themselves can be traded in real life in the likes of the Axie Marketplace as NFTs (non-fungible tokens). NFTs are digital collectables that exist on online ledgers known as blockchains, and are better known for recently taking the art world by storm.

As well as Axies, other in-game items like real estate, flowers, barrels and lamps are all tradeable as NFTs too. These are all bought and sold using ethereum, which is the second biggest cryptocurrency after bitcoin.

This is a welcome improvement on predecessors such as World of Warcraft where trading of gold and in-game assets took place in unaffiliated auction sites, and was grounds for being banned from the game for a long time. By introducing a dedicated marketplace, NFTs and a blockchain, the trading around Axie Infinity and similar games is more secure and means that players actually own the items in question.”

Axie Infinity might be the earlier leader but they aren’t the only player in this new digital Sandbox.

Fast Company explains:

“Apart from generating real income for players, play-to-earn games also create communities where gamers and creators can meet, share wisdom, and do deals with one another. A good example of this is The Sandbox, a game in the same genre as Minecraft where players build things and exchange with them with one another as NFTs.

This discreet economy is driven by its own cryptocurrency, SAND. One way to make SAND is to sell parcels of digital real estate known as LAND, which players can purchase for their shopfront as a way of sharing experiences with visitors to the world. In February alone, the game announced that a record 2,352 plots of LAND had been sold for a combined $2.8 million.

With such levels of interest, major brands are seeing the potential to take a piece of this expanding metaverse. For example, The Walking Dead will soon be opening its doors on the platform, allowing players to enter a zombie world within the game, in what Sandbox says is a step towards a ‘virtual attraction park’.”

Sounds good to me.  Where do I sign up?!

Axie Infinity Hits a Record $1 Billion in Sales | HYPEBEAST
Is Axie Infinity the Greatest Idea Ever?