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Archive for October, 2016

Yesterday I wrote about Bionic Boots that could enable you to run up to 25 mph as you explore mile upon mile of back country hiking trails.  As great as that is though, it’s not the only new invention that could completely revolutionize the way you get around.  For we now have the world’s first folding electric bicycle capable of storing up the energy that you generate while peddling in order to help propel you up hills and other terrain that you’d normally have to exert yourself on.  Say hello to the VELLO Bike +.

My Modern Met sums it up best:

“As technology continues to become lighter and faster, innovations have found their way into timeless designs. The bicycle seems like something that’s nearly reached its peak of modernization, but as VELLO demonstrates, it can be pushed further. Founded by Valentin Vodev and Valerie Wolff, they’ve produced the world’s first lightweight bike that folds into thirds and harnesses self-charging electric energy.  Called VELLO BIKE+, the most intriguing feature is its capacity for storing generated power. To do this, you simply ride the bicycle—as it travels, the kinetic energy produced is then converted into electricity and recharges the lithium-ion battery. The BIKE+ can also be plugged into charge like any conventional device.  The boost of electric power is marketed towards urban cyclists. This extra energy will make travel faster and it easier to trek up hill. With a fully charged battery, VELLO says that you’ll have about 20 miles of pedaling assistance.”

For me there are two aspects of this invention that really stand out.  Number one is obviously the stored energy assistance.  If you’re tired coming back from a long bike ride having that ace in the hole in your back pocket could be invaluable.  But I also love the fact that the bike folds up. Not only can you cover more ground from the same starting point but now you can also start anywhere you want.  Just throw the bike in the trunk of you car and you’re off to the races.  Or the scenic bike path in your neighborhood.

Running shoes.  Bicycles.  Nowadays everything is ripe for re-imagining and invention.  Which begs the question: what new innovation will tomorrow bring?!

Is the VELLO Bike + the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#971 – Bionic Boots

I love to go hiking.  I mean, really, really love it.  There’s nothing better than being surrounded by nature and one’s own thoughts.  Wandering aimlessly throughout the countryside in search of that one epiphany that could change your life forever.  There is, however, one thing I would like to change about my nature walks.  And that’s the fact that they’re just walks.  Usually just three, four, five miles at a time.  There’s still so much more that I want to see that when I’m done I’m never satisfied.  Will I ever get to explore those distant trails off the beaten path?  Probably not.  That would require a multiple day commitment and a willingness to camp out under the stars in sketchy conditions and that doesn’t really appeal to me. My idea of camping involves a hot shower and working toilet at a five star hotel.  Roughing it is not in my vocabulary.

Thankfully, there may be something else that I can do to get to those hard to reach places.  All I’d have to do is strap on some Bionic Boots and I’ll be off to the races, able to run the equivalent distance of a marathon in about an hour.  At that speed I would be able to conquer pretty much any trail that I desired.  For example, imagine being able to do a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in a month instead of five.  The possibilities would be endless.

As Popular Science puts it, “Ever wanted to run like an ostrich? When Keahi Seymour was a teenager, he decided to create shoes that would let him emulate the birds’ springy gait and match their top speed—45 miles per hour. Many years and a dozen prototypes later, Seymour came to Maker Faire to show off the latest version of his ‘Bionic Boot.’ This prototype boosts his pace to a brisk 25 miles per hour, but Seymour won’t rest until he can take the human body to the next level, and outrun some of Earth’s fastest land animals.”

Obviously there are pros and cons with these boots.  First some pros: covering more ground, ability to out run a predator, being above ground means you won’t have to worry about stepping on a snake.  Now the cons: could suffer serious injury if you trip or bound off the trail, if they break while you are far out you could get screwed, they will probably be costly (if they even ever come to market).

Sometimes though, you have to be willing to take on a little bit of risk in order to accomplish something truly amazing.  When it comes to the Bionic Boots it may be time to throw caution to the wind so that you can have the opportunity to feel the wind at your face at 25 mph. Or one day, maybe even 45 mph!

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Are the Bionic Boots the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Growing up my mom would always take me with her when she went on one of her weekly jaunts to the library.  In addition to taking out a few Choose Your Own Adventure books she’d always let me rent a movie of my choosing.  This was in the late 80’s/early 90’s when it would cost $4 to rent a movie from Blockbuster and $1 to rent one from the library.  The library collection wasn’t that extensive and lacked new releases so I always rented the same movie: Major League.  I must have seen it at least a hundred times.  It got to the point where one day, while taking a bath, I re-enacted the entire movie.  Line by line. By the time I got to Bob Uecker’s seventh one liner half the bath water was on the floor.

For the uninitiated, Major League isn’t just a baseball movie.  It’s a drama and a comedy and more importantly just a damn good movie.  The tale of a Cleveland Indians team that goes from worst to first despite having an owner that is trying to lose on purpose is the quintessential underdog story.  With an interesting cast of characters, family drama, and a high stakes plot it has everything that a good movie should have.  But when it comes down to it, it’s that cast of characters that really sets it apart.  From Willie Mays Hayes to Pedro Cerrano and Jobu the entire starting lineup is chalk full of personality.  But the one character who really stands out is the erstwhile pitcher Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn.  Played by Charlie Sheen, this Mohawk wearing, motorcycle riding, badass heartthrob from the California Penal League would “make your heart sing”.   And now that the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series Sheen wants to throw out the first pitch of one of the World Series games.  As Vaughn.

How perfect would that be?  The Indians haven’t won the World Series since 1948.  The Cubs since 1908.  This is a marquee matchup.  Bill Murray is in one corner.  LeBron James in the other.  It’s going to be a spectacle.  So why not go all in?  Why not up the ante?  Now, I’m not saying Kevin from American Pie also has to throw out a first pitch.  No one cares about the Rookie of the Year.  A Harry Carey impersonator?  That’s just ridiculous.  But Wild Thing Ricky Vaughn? This has to happen!

Don’t believe me?  Just ask Bryce Harper.  Baseball’s youngest and brightest star and the man who wants to make baseball great again.  With the popularity of the game waning as people lament the pace of play now is not the time to hunker down with a get off my lawn mentality.  Now is the time to embrace quirkiness.  To give the fans what they want.  What Bryce Harper and the players want.  Still don’t believe me?  Just ask Charlie Sheen himself who said via Twitter: “Major League continues to be the gift that keeps on giving! If called upon, I’d be honored.”

I can’t even begin to express how great this would be.  This isn’t a Branch Rickey style publicity stunt.  It’s something that actually makes sense.  Baseball and Hollywood go hand in hand.  When something incredible happens on the field the first thing the announcer always says is that if you wrote the script for this happening Hollywood would reject it.  Well, now you have something that has the potential to be incredible and instead of Hollywood rejecting it it’s MLB doing the honors.  But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  An organization that’s okay with promoting racism against Native Americans shouldn’t be counted on to do the right thing.

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Is having the Wild Thing throw out the first pitch before a World Series game the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#969 – Westworld

I knew I was going to like HBO’s Westworld.  A sci-fi Western?  Um, yes please!  Throw in showrunners J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan, and Lisa Joy, a huge budget, a phenomenal group of actors led by Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Even Wood, and James Marsden and you’ve got yourself the makings of a Game of Thrones sized hit.  But at the same time I wasn’t sure if I was going to love it.  The plot seemed too obvious.  The theme park’s androids would eventually gain consciousness, rise up, and feud with the humans running the park.  It would be just like Jurassic Park all over again, which makes sense since Michael Chrichton conceived of both ideas.  Would it still be enjoyable even if it was predictable?  Probably.  There would still be random acts of violence, gratuitous nudity, slick dialogue, and food for thought regarding artificial intelligence, how consciousness works, the nature of dreams, and what it means to be human.  A no doubt hit if done properly.

But boy, was I ever wrong.  The show is anything but predictable and has quickly become my new obsession.  Sure, it’s inevitable that the androids will rise up but before we get to that point there are a million other things that could happen.  That is, if we can make sense of what is happening.  For starters, when you first meet a character you don’t know if they’re a guest (real person) or host (android).  And so you don’t know what rules apply to them.  Like any good show you also don’t know who has good intentions or bad.  Everyone seems to have a hidden agenda and mysterious past.  But more importantly than all that, since this is a Christopher Nolan and J.J. Abrams production, we don’t know if what we’re watching is even real.  When we see something on screen is it happening in real time or as a flashback or as part of an android’s memory that’s just slightly ahead of reality since almost everything that’s happening to them has already happened to them at least once before.  And is everything we’re seeing in real time actually even happening in real time?  Could it be that two different characters are actually the same person thirty years apart?!?!

I told you it was anything but predictable.  But, wait.  There’s more! As the plot thickens we come to realize that when we see a host do something we don’t know why they did it.  Are their actions scripted or are they starting to improvise as they make their way up the bicameral mind pyramid?  If they are still acting on script, which script are they even following?  Their current story arc or an older version from a different character that they used to play?  And if they are starting to improvise are they just malfunctioning randomly like a crazed lunatic hearing the voice of God in their head for the first time or are they consciously making their own choices, realizing that the voice inside their head isn’t a God’s but their own?

In Westworld left is right.  Up is down.  It’s hard to make heads or tails of what’s going on.  And I haven’t even gotten to the mysterious person or persons from the park’s past who may have found a way to control the androids.  And who may or may not now be androids themselves.  Or the “incident” that took place in the park thirty years ago.  Or who the saboteur is that’s been planting clues around the park.  Or what the new main attraction is going to be.  Or what the point of the maze is, how you find it, and where it’s located.  Come to think of it where is the park even located?  And is it even the only park that there is?  If it’s not, how many other parks are there?  What’s going on outside the park in the real world anyway?  Why do so many people want to come to Westworld in the first place?  What’s the point of it all?  Better yet, is anyone else aware of the deeper game that the Man in Black refers to?  Who is that guy anyway?  Oh wait, I may have already told you that!

Suffice it to say Westworld is one of a kind.  Ironically, a show based on a movie, starring robots that mimic human behavior, is as unique as it gets.  It’s the rare show in today’s day and age that really makes you think.  You have to hang on every word of dialogue hoping for the tiniest morsel of a clue.  Easter eggs hide in plain sight in the background of each frame.  Every detail from the color of ink used in a wanted poster to the type face of a logo on a worker’s jacket has meaning.  Watching this show requires absolute silence, an uncanny attention to detail, access to a CSI lab, and infinite time to peruse bat shit crazy internet fan theories.  It’s a Redditor’s wet dream.

So, if you haven’t already done so, please, please, please stop everything you doing and binge watch the first three episodes in short order.  Then get ready for a wild ride for the next seven seasons.  That’s right.  Westworld isn’t messing around.  The greatest show of all time is going to be here for a while.

**Spoiler Alert**  –  Do not read on past this part if you haven’t watch the first three episodes yet.  Theories and spoilers abound.

Since I’m officially obsessed with Westworld here’s a look at some of my own bat shit crazy theories:

  • The Man in Black is one in the same as first time park guest William.  I can’t take credit for this theory but there is plenty of compelling evidence starting with the fact that his signature white hat and shy demeanor makes for the perfect contrast to the Man in Black’s present day persona.  There’s also the fact that the Man in Black has been coming to the park for thirty years, has a history with Delores, considers Lawrence a friend, and seems to know more than your average guest.  But more compelling than all of that are all of the little clues that suggest we’re seeing a different timeline.  From different corporate logos in the background to hosts acting in different roles peddling different side quests to different people appearing on the wanted posters.  Something is definitely up with this. Don’t believe me?  Then riddle me this.  Why is it that when William gets shot the bullet stings him but when everyone else gets shot including the Man in Black there’s no effect at all?  Has the bullet technology improved over the course of thirty years?
  • One Man in Black theory that I do have on my own is that he’s the one who left that old picture of that girl in Times Square that Delores’ father found which set off Delores’ pursuit of freedom.  Except that he did so inadvertently thirty years earlier.  That girl is the girl that William has waiting for him back home.   And since he’s now befriending Delores it makes sense that the picture would wind up buried on Delores’ family farm.
  • Teddy’s new story line takes him and his merry band of bounty hunters out into the wilderness to look for the villainous Wyatt.  But we don’t see Teddy die when surrounded by the savage hoard which is odd because Teddy dies all the time.  I think he’s kept alive this time for a reason.  Perhaps because he is actually Wyatt as it will turn out.
  • What’s the point of turning Teddy into Wyatt though?  I think it’s because Ford is trying to create a new narrative, one based in truth i.e. the actual backstory of the park and its founders.  This new narrative would take place near Red River which is allegedly where the entrance to the secretive maze is located and just so happens to also be the same location where that mysterious Church steeple was buried.  By holding the narrative here Ford could have a cover story to hide his movements thereby allowing him to excavate the site where the park was originally located in order to unearth the truth about what happened to his former partner Arnold.  This explains why he nixed the other new story line that was set to take place on Red River.
  • As for Arnold, the mysterious former co-founder of Westworld who allegedly died in the park before it opened, I think we’re going to see a major twist here.  Namely that he’s still alive and has been living inside the park this whole time…as an android.
  • Speaking of androids in a Battlestar Galactica style twist I think it’s likely that someone that we think is human is going to turn out to be an android.  My money is on the latest Hemsworth brother as I think that the throwaway lines used to make fun of him aren’t throw away lines at all.  You’re supposed to think he’s a dumb jock who can’t be trusted with a weapon but the trust issues actually refer to him literally being an android.  Besides, if he’s not an android how do you explain how the stray was able to hurt him?  After all, hosts aren’t supposed to be able to hurt real people.
  • Finally, I’d like to share a pretty juicy rumor that I just heard about the future of the show.  Fans of the original movie will know that Westworld isn’t the only world that there is.  There’s supposed to be a Medieval times world for starters.  But what if instead of a Medieval world they opt for a HBO tie-in and create a Game of Thrones world?!?! One in which Ned Stark is still alive as an android!  Apparently this is an actual consideration.

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Is Westworld the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The other day I received a comment on Instagram that piqued my interest in a big way.  It read: “Based on your profile I’d say that we are kindred spirits.”

Why did that comment get my attention?  Because it came from, I kid you not, an actual real life super model. Granted, she wasn’t reaching out because she was attracted to me.  My Instagram account is dedicated to sunsets and barely features any pictures of me at all.  It’s likely that at the time she wrote that she had no idea what I looked like.  She was purely expressing her opinion that we were one in the same based on the types of pictures that I took and liked.  But I’m not going to let a tiny detail like reality discourage me.  If she really believes that we’re kindred spirits and took the time to reach out perhaps I have a chance.

To make a long story short, kindred spirit does not mean soulmate.  This alleged love of my life happened to already be married.  But her fandom got me thinking.  What if dating sites were more about aligning interests than analyzing assets?  What if people were drawn to each other instead of immediately drawing conclusions about one another?

What I’m envisioning is a new kind of online dating.  A modern age take on the concept of blind dating.  Instead of swiping through meaningless profiles filled with shirtless bathroom selfies users would instead peruse hand crafted collections of images that best define their potential love interests.  See someone who posted a bunch of nifty nature pictures and you’re likely to surmise that this is a person who likes the outdoors as much as you do.  Come across a photo of a wine bottle, Love Actually DVD, and box of pizza and you know that you just found a fellow hopeless romantic.  And so on and so forth.  It’ll be as if Tinder and Pinterest had a baby and it would be the best thing ever.

At first glance this idea may seem ridiculous but dive a little deeper and it begins to make sense.  Hinge, for example, has decided to do away with swiping citing data that suggests daters feel more lonely after swipe sessions.  What are they offering instead?  A new approach that emphasizes, yep, you guessed it, a person’s interests.  What I want to do then isn’t so far fetched after all.  It’s really just taking the trend that Hinge identified and amplifying it.  Making a feature the product.

Is it likely to work for everyone?  Nope.  Not at all.  People who hate taking the time to fill out surveys on Eharmony are going to hate this no picture approach.  But for everyone else?  For the people who allegedly value personality more than just looks?  Well, we might just have something.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go post some more pictures on Instagram.  You never know what kindred spirits or even soulmates it may attract.

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Is a kindred spirits dating app the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

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With the changing colors of leaves in the autumn comes a whole different type of change to my life: the addition of a new suite of fall TV shows to watch.  This year there was the likes of McGyver, Frequency, and Timeless.  All of which I’ve already stopped watching since there just isn’t enough time in the day to keep up with them.  Especially when I’d rather be outside hiking and attending Arizona Fall League games during this time of year.

Despite my reluctance to sit at home and watch TV I may soon find myself doing exactly that thanks to a new offering from John Hendricks, creator of the Discovery Channel, known as Curiosity Stream.  This $2.99 a month on demand subscription service is available to you on Apple TV, Roku and the like and will allow you to watch documentaries and other exclusive content about a variety of topics designed to pique your curiosity.

For example, you’ll be able to do deep dives and learn more about the Universe, our National Parks, or extreme weather.  Anything and everything you can think of from the worlds of science and technology will be covered with thousands of offerings to chose from. With scientific heavyweights such as Stephen Hawking, Vint Cerf and Michio Kaku headlining some of the offerings to boot.  No wonder Mashable has referred to it as the Netflix for non-fiction.

The Los Angeles Times adds that, “Curiosity Stream is expected to feature a mix of content acquired from BBC, NHK and other producers as well as original programming. Aimed at the ‘curious’ population, the programming should be understandable, Hendricks says, to everyone from 13-year-olds who enjoy building soda-bottle rockets to retirees looking for deep commentary on the latest scientific breakthroughs.”

Now I know what you’re thinking and while it is true that Netflix already has quite a few documentaries available and that services like the Wall Street Journal and CNET already offer streaming video clips aimed at technology nerds, Curiosity Stream still seems like it would be worth the investment.  Especially when you consider who is making the content and how well done it is.  The only real downside to the Curiosity Stream is that you’ll now have less time to play outside.

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Is Curiosity Stream the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Here’s a quick look at everything that caught my eye this past week:

Facebook VR: When Oculus Rift was acquired Mark Zuckerberg quickly made it clear that he thought the future of communication was inherently tied to virtual reality.  Now we get out first glimpse into that future.

Popular Science reports that:

“The reasons behind the acquisition of Oculus in 2014 become much clearer when seeing Facebook VR in action. During the demo, we see a Justin Timberlake-looking Mark Zuckerberg joined by friends Lucy and Michael sharing videos and playing games. The social networking service will allow users to view 360 videos by surrounding the VR user with a video–and also make panning available simply by looking. Your friends will appear in the video as well as via their digital avatars.

The Oculus Rift Facebook VR demo also showed a scene where the three friends played a game of cards then switched to the beginnings of a sword fight. Users are able to (literally) draw their sword and use it to go up against other Facebook VR users. Towards the end of the demo, Zuck took part in a video call using Facebook Messenger to talk to Priscilla Chan on his wrist, inside virtual reality. Those within VR are able to choose their setting, whether it be one’s home, office or ‘virtually’ anywhere.”

Facebook VR

Cirque Theme Park: I’m always a sucker for new theme parks and the Cirque du Soleil park in Mexico isn’t any different.  Especially since it looks mind-blowingly awesome with its fusion of Mayan ruins, jungle decor, and Cirque’s signature extravagance.

According to Thrillist:

 “For now, Vidanta is tight-lipped about what the park will include. But what we do know:

  • The Park will fuse Cirque’s immersive entertainment with Vidanta’s luxury vacationing, creating a fantasyland where families can explore and get away from it all.
  • It will have three hotels feature a range of components — a mix of interactive theater with water features, VIP hydrotherapy circuit for adults, experiential and interactive entertainment experiences, and embedded CDS actors.
  • The park is meant to look like it sprouted up from the ground and will be overwhelmingly lush and green. What you won’t find: plastic tubing, slides, stanchions, etc.

We’ll have to wait and see what this theme park winds up looking like but the early returns look and sound very promising.

Cirque du Soliel Theme Park

Yard Work Robot: The days of paying a neighborhood kid twenty bucks to shovel your driveway during a snowstorm will soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new robot capable of doing all the heavy lifting around the yard for you.

According to Forbes:

“Do you enjoy doing yard work? If so, this article is not for you. However, if mowing the grass, raking the leaves and especially shoveling snow aren’t leisure-time activities you look forward to, relief is on the horizon. A robot named Kobi will do all of these things for you because yard work is so last year.

Kobi is an autonomous electric-powered robot that comes with attachments for grass cutting, leaf blowing and snow shoveling. The grass module cuts to a depth of less than an inch, mulches the clippings and returns them to the lawn. The leaf module mulches the leaves and piles them wherever you’d like. The snow module will dump the snow where you want it and can blow snow up to 40 feet depending on weather conditions.”

Sorry kids, the future just arrived.

Mini Wind Turbines: When it comes to clean energy nothing beats wind power.  Yet we don’t have wind mills and wind turbines on every street corner.  That might soon change though thanks to a new invention.

As Business Insider puts it:

“Wind turbines’ potential to create energy has been widely demonstrated. If fact, theAmerican Wind Energy Association suggests that 583,000 onshore turbines could power the entire United States.  But turbines are rarely colorful or aesthetically pleasing — and they’re certainly not something many people would want in their front yard. A new kind of fake tree comprised of leaf-shaped mini turbines could change that.”

Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

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