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Archive for July, 2015

#769 – LiveText

What do you get when you take the convenience of texting, the intimacy of live video, and the ephemeral experience of Snapchat and mix it all together?  Only the Next Big Thing.  Created by Yahoo and known as LiveText, the future of social media could very well involve overlaying text messages onto a live silent video feed.  You’ll be able to see what your friend is doing or where they are but you won’t be able to hear anything that’s going on and the people there won’t be able to hear you either.  That means that you can still message each other stealthily without other people knowing what you’re talking about but can do so with context.  You can also toggle between conversations but once you leave a conversation the video and text message are lost forever just like with SnapChat.

Yahoo is obviously hoping that this mix of popular things will result in a new popular thing but that’s hard to predict.  Especially when your target audience consists of tweens.  As Fast Company puts it, “During a demo, [Adam] Cahan started a LiveText conversation with a woman in a Starbucks. There’s not even an option in the app to turn on audio, so she couldn’t hear anything he was saying as the video feed from her phone broadcast on a screen in front of the room. ‘She has no idea whether we’re talking about her positively or negatively,’ Cahan mentioned. That’s either thrilling or terrible, and only the cool kids can tell us which.”

So what is it that the cool kids will be thinking about LiveText?  Well, if they’re anything like me (and why wouldn’t they be since I’m the epitome of cool) then they’re likely to find this concept a little bit weird considering that there are times that you don’t want the person you are texting with to see what’s going on at your location.  Like when you’re texting from the bathroom or when you’re texting a love interest while you’re other love interest is in the background.  Essentially, this technology will make conversations more transparent and take away a person’s ability to lie or sneak around.  And based on experience I don’t think the cool kids are going to like that.

In a controlled environment though or when everything is on the up and up there is considerable potential for this app.  And even when it’s not there’s still potential.  Just think about what this would mean for sexting. Because cool kids.

Yahoo LiveText app

Is LiveText the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#768 – Start.me

Reddit bills itself as the front page of the Internet but what if there really was a front page to the Internet?  A starting off point that gently nudged you down the myriad of rabbit holes battling for your attention.  What would it look like?  What kind of information would it contain?  Well, it’d probably look something like start.me.  A personalized dashboard that replaces the idea of a standalone website becoming your homepage.

Whether you’re looking to get work done or surf the web start.me has resources to help you out.  You can check your email, view links to social media platforms or frequently visited websites, or even receive up to date news, sports scores, weather reports, or stock information.  Everything and anything that is something of interest to you is now all in one place.  And with thousands of widgets to choose from there’s likely something for everyone.

Chances are you’ve probably already used start.me in use without even realizing it.  Perhaps it was when you used a public computer at your local library.  That customized portal that you navigated from was likely powered by start.me.  But there are plenty of other uses as well.  Parents can use it to create a homepage featuring safe websites for their kids.  Senior citizens can use it to quickly and easily find what they use most often.  Teachers can use it to highlight helpful learning resources.  And of course individuals can use it to create more powerful browsing experiences that make them more efficient.  The list goes on and on.

All of which begs the question:  why was this never a thing until now?

Is start.me the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I wish that it was easier to get in touch with people.  Not people that you went to high school with.  There’s Facebook for that.  Not people that you want to hook up with.  There’s dating apps for that.  Rather, people in the know.  Decision makers.  Power brokers.  Movers and shakers.  The kind of people who could tell me whether or not my world changing idea actually has merit.  The kind of people capable of turning my dreams into reality. 

To date no such way existed.  Now it does.  And we have the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins to thank.  That’s because they’ve created a new messaging app that enables anyone to reach out to them during virtual “office hours”. 

Business Insider explains how it will work:

“Called the “KPCB Edge Office Hours,” the app is basically a communication app where users can ask and get instant feedback from one of the three partners of the Edge Fund, the firm’s early stage fund focused on emerging technologies like drones, digital currency, and virtual reality. The three partners — [Anjney] Midha, Roneil Rumburg, and Ruby Lee — spend at least two hours a week answering questions in real-time, while they respond to non-office hour messages throughout the week.”

If you think about it this is really unprecedented and potentially as game changing as any of the ideas that Kleiner Perkins invests in.  For the first time anyone from a barista in San Francisco to a farmer in Des Moines will have the ability to quickly and easily connect with a partner at a major venture capital firm.  The insights that could be gleamed from these conversations could help thousands of young or aspiring entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground, shaping a myriad of industries along the way.   Better yet, it might even transform the way that venture capital funding works making it much more efficient and accessible to the smartphone generation. 

I would say more and extoll the virtues of this initiative even more but I have more important things to do.  Like actually using this app!

Screen Shot 2015 07 27 at 5.15.20 PM

Is the Kleiner Perkins office hours app the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Here’s a quick look at everything that tickled my fancy this past week:

1.  Showgoers – Want your long distance girlfriend to have access to your Netflix account?  Share your password.  Want to be able to watch the same thing with her at the exact same time?  Line up your schedules and hope for the best?

That shot in the dark was the old way of doing things.  The new way?  Showgoers, a Google Chrome extension that enables two users to sync their computers so that they can watch the exact same thing with no lag.  When one person pauses the stream it’ll instantly pause on the other screen as well.  As great as this is, it actually sounds like another service already in existence known as Rabbit that enables people to share anything on the web together.

Want another cool Netflix add on then that’s a little bit more unique?  How about the aptly named God Mode?  This bookmarklet enables you to view Netflix’ entirely catalog at once.  No more clunky horizontal scrolling by category.

2.  Google Maps Timeline – The other day Google announced a new feature for maps known as Your Timeline that lets users keep track of all the places they’ve been.

Wired explains:

“If you don’t like to broadcast where you’ve been by ‘checking in’ on social media but still want to remember the places you’ve visited, Google Maps can now help.  The company announced this week that it will be rolling out a new feature, ‘Your Timeline,’ that lets users see the IRL places they’ve visited arranged by day, month, and year. The timeline will allow you to revisit the exact path you may have taken on a lazy Sunday stroll, the stops you made on a trip to Rome, or the take-out restaurant you frequent after hitting the gym.  And if you use Google Photos, the company can pair your pictures to specific days ‘to help resurface your memories.'”

All in all, this sounds like a cool concept but it also leaves cause for concern as Google will now have yet another avenue for data mining your every move.

With “Your Timeline,” Google Maps will let you look back on specific days to see where you were.

3.  Kingii – Safety first.  That’s what we always say when we find ourselves in unflattering or compromising positions.  Like when we have to wear ugly bright orange life jackets.  Thankfully, there may soon be a more socially acceptable alternative in the form of a fashionable wrist worn wearable that turns into a flotation device when the need arises.

As Popular Mechanics writes, “A hefty, bright-orange life preserver isn’t the most flattering thing to sport while spending a day on the water, but, for safety’s sake, we wear one anyway. However, now that there’s an alternative—the Kingii, a new type of life-preserver alternative—we may be opting out of the torso padding.”

4.  40 Tree Fruit – One of the darlings of social media this past week was news of a tree that can grow forty different kinds of fruit at the same time!!

According to Science Alert here’s how it works:

“Working with a pool of over 250 varieties of stone fruit, Van Aken developed a timeline of when each of them blossom in relationship to each other and started grafting a few onto a working tree’s root structure. Once the working tree was about two years old, Van Aken used a technique called chip grafting to add more varieties on as separate branches. This technique involves taking a sliver off a fruit tree that includes the bud, and inserting that into an incision in the working tree. It’s then taped into place, and left to sit and heal over winter. If all goes well, the branch will be pruned back to encourage it to grow as a normal branch on the working tree.  After about five years and several grafted branches, Van Aken’s first Tree of 40 Fruit was complete.”

The key word there being first.  That’s right there are now dozens of such trees that have planted around the country and one could be coming to a city near you.  So be sure to be on the look out for one!

Is a 40 Fruit Tree the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Some people have wondered why Google, an internet search company, would foray into driverless cars, augmented reality glasses, or any of the other dozen or so moonshot projects that they’re known to be working on.  To the average person these side projects would seem unnecessary, even foolhardy.  Complete wastes of time and money that will wind up hurting Google’s image and market share in the long run instead of creating new lines of business.  They are, after all, a search engine company, built on software not hardware and have no expertise in the fields they’re jumping into.

It’s possible though that Google knew exactly what it was doing all along.  That it had a grand plan to eventually tie search into all these new products.  To close the feedback loop.  And with an announcement the other day that they’ve patented a way to create searchable video they may have done exactly that.  While the patent doesn’t explicitly say that it’s for Google Glass the belief is that this technology will be built into the next generation of that device when and if it ever comes to market.  Even if it’s not for Glass, Google may have themselves a new product that all phone manufacturers are going to want.

What is it though that we’re talking about exactly?  What is it that we mean when we say searchable video?  Well, as Wired writes, “If the gadget senses, through pre-programmed cues, that a significant moment is taking place, it will document the event and file the clip to the cloud for your future reference.” 

In other words, you won’t have to take out your phone and consciously choose to take video.  Nor will you have to say something corny like, “Okay, Glass”.  No thought will be required.  Instead you’ll  be free to live in the moment.  Later you could go back, quickly and easily find the event that you wanted to capture, and view the video from that moment.  Enabling you to edit it and then share it on social media with your family and friends.  It’s a life loggers dream come true.  The only question is whether or not it’ll also be a dream come true for everyone else.

Is searchable video the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#764 – Storyline

If Mark Cuban is upset about losing out on Clippers Center DeAndre Jordan he’s certainly not showing it.  Instead of crying over sour milk he’s been hard at work trying to revolutionize Twitter through the creation of a new app known as Storyline that makes it easier to search for tweets and manage your Twitter feed.  As Inc. explains, “Storyline clusters tweets by user, making it easier to view and search for tweets from specific accounts much in the same way Snapchat Stories compiles all ‘snaps’ from the same people in one centralized location.”

According to Cuban this functionality will enable Twitter users to get more value out of the fledgling service as they could spend more time reading tweets and less time searching for the opinions of people that they respect.  However, Storyline’s real killer feature is that it has the ability to remove a tweet from your feed after you’ve viewed it.  In essence, this will help you get down to “social media zero”, the new age equivalent of email inbox zero.  A concept that I championed just last week in a post about how to save the Facebook news feed.

In that post I said:

“My #1 gripe with Facebook is the repetition.  I’ll be sitting there, endlessly scrolling through my feed when I’ll get notify that there are new updates that I haven’t seen yet.  I’ll click the button, jump up to the top, and eventually, after a few seconds of scrolling, start seeing the same posts again that I just scrolled through five minutes earlier.  It’s the digital equivalent of being lost in a forest and walking by the same tree over and over.

It would be great then if posts were removed from our feed after we scroll past them.  If we liked a post or commented on it then it would stick around.  But if had no interest in it the first time, if we never even stop scrolling to look at it closely then it would be removed as soon as it left our screens.  Ultimately, we’d get to the point where the only items in our feed were items that we wanted to be there, plus any new items we had not yet seen.  Everything else that we’re not interested in would be gone.  Our feeds would be totally de-cluttered.  Instead of endless scrolling it would be scrolling that ended.”

Thankfully Storyline can turn my dream into a reality but it remains to be seen if it will catch on.  After all, Twitter could always just build this type of functionality into their platform and leave Storyline out in the cold.

If that were to happen though I have a feeling that Cuban wouldn’t be upset about that either.  Having saved Twitter he’d just move on to the next thing that needs fixing.  Which at this rate might just be his basketball team.

Is Mark Cuban’s Storyline app for Twitter the Greatest Idea Ever?

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According to rumors Apple is hard at work designing the phone of the future, a phone that may look drastically different than the current iPhone.  Unfortunately though, someone else may have beat them to it.  And it’s not Samsung.  Enter the Turing phone, a sleekly designed phone from the aptly named Turing Robotic Industries that could very well be unbreakable and unhackable.

As Digital Trends puts it, “When you imagine a phone from the future, what does it look like? It’s probably thin, folds up into a tiny square, projects from your eye, or something crazy like that; Crazy holographics are fun, but that’s not what Turing Robotic Industries believes in. Its phone of the future is an mysterious cipher phone made of liquid metal that’s stronger than titanium and looks like something out of a comic book…”

To be more precise the Turing Phone is made of Liquidmorphium liquid metal and is actually stronger than titanium AND steel.  But that’s not all. 

The Verge adds some more detailing explaining that the Turing Phone is, “an Android smartphone that aims to put security, durability, and fashion above all else. In a myriad of ways, the Turing is anything but your typical phone. There’s no headphone jack, and the thing doesn’t even have a USB connector.”

Considering how much value is placed nowadays on privacy and cyber security a phone that comes complete with its own secure network is sure to generate a lot of interest.  Throw in how well designed the phones are (each one even comes with its own unique backstory) and its easy to imagine these phones becoming the Next Big Thing.  And I haven’t even mentioned yet that they also come with their own social network.  That’s right.  If two people have Turing phones they can securely send important data like social security numbers or credit card information to one another without fear of that information falling into the hands of nefarious hackers. 

At least that’s the hope.  Time will tell if it works out that way. 

Is the Turing Phone the Greatest Idea Ever?

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