Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Charlie Brooker’s sci-fi anthology series Black Mirror has captivated audiences with its dark social commentary on the pratfalls of modern technology.  This has led many people to try and predict what some plots of the show would have been if this show existed in the past, or to predict what some future plots of the show may be.  To play along I decided to choose the latter, coming up with 50(!) plots for future episodes.  Some of these plots are inspired by actual inventions that either already exist or are known to be in development.  And while some of these may sound like more a Twilight Zone plot I think they would mostly fit well inside of the Black Mirror Universe as well thanks to their technological leanings.

So without further adieu, here’s my take on what some future plots of Black Mirror might be:

Ever feel like you’ve missed your calling?  Like you’re stuck doing something that isn’t a good fit for you? In the future you won’t have to worry about that, thanks to a job placement algorithm that finds the absolute perfect role for you.  A modern day representation of the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter, the algorithm works perfectly for 99% of the population.  But our protagonist isn’t so lucky as he gets stuck doing something absolutely horrible.  As far as the app is concerned though, it was the right job for him.

The Game of Life.  Society revolves around a gamification model that rewards people for every action they take.  Brush your teeth, earn points.  Go to work, earn points.  Play with your dog, earn points.  But it’s not all fun and games.  You can also lose points if you break the law.  Or, as our main character will find out, if you don’t do enough of the little things in life.  Will make you think twice about not holding the elevator door for someone.

Ambient Objects are enhanced everyday items that are specifically designed to illicit a strong emotional response.  In fiction think of Harry Potter and his Marauder Map or the Weasley Family Clock.  Such enhanced objects are now making their way into real life as well.  There’s a pill bottle that glows when it’s time to take your medication and an umbrella that notifies you when it’s going to rain.  Over time people are likely to fall in love with these objects as they use them on an everyday basis and come to rely on them.  Which is problematic when some of these objects, such as the Proverbial Wallet that gets harder to open as you approach your monthly budget, start to become more aggressive, controlling their owner’s lives to an extreme degree.

In the future we’ll all have neuro-prosthetics, cognitive enhancement devices that allow us to directly connect to the Internet, to download information to it or upload information from it.  In fact, everyone will have their very own website that others can visit in order to view a person’s thoughts.  Inevitably this will lead to a mix up where someone’s mind winds up getting permanently stuck on the World Wide Web.  A chat bot that’s a real person.

Advances in neuroscience will allow paralyzed people to control robotic limbs with their thoughts.  In fact, a brain to brain interface will allow for thoughts to be transferred great distances.  For instance, imagine being able to be the Quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys….from the comfort of your living room couch, as your thoughts control the player’s actions.  This ability to remotely control people will eventually lead to the plot of a man committing crimes with the big twist at the end being that he was really being controlled by a monkey in a test lab.

A new version of a Universal Translator allows people to communicate with their pets.  This eventually leads the main character to realize just how smart their dog really is.  So much so, that it winds up running for political office.  And winning.

Improbable is a software company that has created a program known as SpatialOS, capable of creating complex computer simulations.  These large scale simulations can be used by governments to test out economic theories, new approaches to governance, or to even model disease outbreak scenarios.  These are no ordinary simulations though.  They’re massive.  Created with impeccable detail on a global scale.  Which is why the people living in them have no idea that they’re actually living in a simulation.  But all that’s about to change when a physicist starts noticing a few anomalies that he can’t explain.  (This same plot could also be applied to the idea of an artificial Universe that is created inside of a laboratory to model how our Universe was created.)

AI is getting more and more advanced.  AlphaGo Zero can teach itself, DeepCoder can do the work of programmers, and thanks to Deep Learning techniques computers are gaining the ability to see.  At this rate humans are going to be obsolete in a few years.  Which is something that the world’s most advanced Quantum Computer has already figured out.  Instead of putting us out of our misery and fulfilling all of our worst fears about AI, this Quantum Computer has other ideas, turning into a benevolent Global Brain that protects humans at all costs.  To accomplish this everyone has to be willing to wear a tracking device that constantly monitors a user’s health and whereabouts to assess any threats.  Most people accept this trade-off.  But a few don’t.  And as a result they wind up becoming enemies of the state.

The Singularity is here.  When rich people die their consciousness get uploaded to a clone body.  However, not everyone can afford these clones.  So what happens to the consciousness of a poor person?  It’s uploaded into any spare machine.  Even if that’s a Roomba.  Not wanting to be subjected to this fate a group of people plot to change the system and ensure that when they die they’ll wind up in a clone.  But in so doing they inadvertently bring down the whole system.  Which will really suck when they find out that one of them was already a clone.

Implanted wearables imbue people with new abilities.  A dancer can feel the Earth’s vibrations, a hiker can follow the Earth’s magnetism, and a police officer gains infrared night vision.  An interwoven tale follows the lives of these cybernetic pioneers as they explore their new superpowers and the deadly consequences that come along with them.

Soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder receive a new medical treatment capable of erasing bad memories and implanting false positive memories.  The treatment works until they start having trouble remembering who they are and can no longer figure out what’s real and what’s not.

A new VR experience lets people literally experience what it’s like to be someone else.  Millions of people love using this app, especially when they get to be a star Quarterback on game-day, giving them unprecedented access to a football field and letting them live out their childhood fantasies of playing in The Show.  They even love being this player after games when he gets to have sex with hot super-models.  Everything is going great until he winds up getting a concussion during the Super Bowl and giving everyone who was using the app similar brain damage.

A new medical breakthrough gives EMTs the ability to bring people back from “The Other Side” even if they’ve been clinically dead for a few hours.  This sounds great in theory.  But in practice it’s not so good as people come back changed.  Some more so than others.

DARPA develops a new Matrix like ability to quickly download new skills.  It was designed for soldiers on the battlefield who might need to quickly learn about the geography and layout of a new area.  But after a few years it becomes a consumer facing product and once it does a few people become obsessed with downloading as much knowledge as they can.  Eventually they outsmart themselves.

Magic Leap gives users the ability to experience Mixed Reality – virtual images layered on top of the real world.  The imagery is so life-like that people can no longer distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.  With deadly consequences.

In the future nanobots are able to be delivered to specific spots in the body in order to deliver targeted drugs.  A new era of peace and prosperity is ushered in.  But one patient is not so lucky.  Her nanobots become sentient and start controlling her body like a parasite affixed to a host.  Wanting their host to be in peak physical condition they drive this poor woman to the verge of exhaustion as she suddenly starts working out 24/7 like an Olympic champion.

Human head transplants, lab grown replacement organs, human-animal hybrids.  In the future, these medical marvels are all standard operating procedure…with unforeseen consequences.  Such as when a head transplant recipient can still feel what’s happening to his old body.  And unfortunately for him it’s nothing good.

Mi casa es su casa.  In this episode, smart homes usher in a new era of convenience as refrigerators re-order groceries, appliances cook breakfast on their own as soon as you wake up, and front doors automatically open as soon as you walk up.  It’s great.  Until you wind up becoming a prisoner inside your own home.  A dwelling that is, by the way, made up of biological material and able to repair itself.

Better yet, how about an entire episode dedicated not just to a smart home, but to a smart city.  A place that is fully automated with Driverless cars, a robotic workforce, and smart sensors galore.  It seems to be a modern day Utopia.  Zero crime.  Five star restaurants.  Plenty of entertainment options.  A leading research center.  But as one traveler will find out, nothing is as it seems.

Health detecting mirror and companion mortality app predict the exact moment of your impending death.  Most people want to know this information because it can help them plan accordingly and try to beat the odds.  But what happens when you find out that you only have a few hours left to live?  Or a few minutes?

Mood rings make a comeback as new technology lets people visibly display their emotional states at all times.  This makes it a lot easier to date but leads to a host of other issues.  Such as ending marriages and killing business deals when people start showing their true colors.

Inspired by the success of the Vocktail – an invention that can alter the appearance of any drink and make people think that they’re drinking something that they’re not, researchers invent a food version aimed at helping picky eaters get over their aversions to certain items that would be nutritious for them.  However, the gadget works so well that it is soon adopted by all of our society and used to trick the population.  The end result is a world that has countered climate change by weaning humans off of their reliance on meat in favor of an insect heavy diet.  All of this is exposed by the world’s pickiest eater, a man who knew something was off with the way his food tasted.

As we know all too well the prevalence of fake news has been a nuisance as people have begun to distrust everything they read or see online.  In one particular instance though the spread of misinformation winds up being deadly for an aspiring politician.  The big twist in this episode will be the reveal that the person originating the fake news stories isn’t really a person at all.  It’s Heliograf, the Washington Post’s robot reporter capable of writing news stories on its own.

A crazy, fast-paced, action-adventure episode with multiple divergent plots that don’t really seem to have anything to do with one another.  The twist at the end is that everything you were watching was from a person’s dream, viewed by researchers in a lab who are developing technology that could record what you dream in order to turn it into a movie for the person to play back the next day.  Something that would be useful for trauma patients suffering from PTSD.

Everyone thought that Driverless cars would revolutionize society but in reality people were a little bit reluctant to give up control of their cars.  Enter Intelligence Augmentation.  Instead of replacing humans, AI augments what humans can do, creating a best of both worlds scenario.  This trend is accentuated by a wearable headset that scans a user’s brain in order to anticipate their moves.  In this regard the human driver and the car itself are working in unison to maximize safety.  But IA doesn’t always deliver the best results.  Especially, when the human wants to change his mind at the last second, but can’t, because the AI already acted on the impulse.

Google’s Project Jacquard turned clothing into a computer, giving tech savvy fashionistas a way to connect to the Internet on the go.  In this episode we’ll follow the lives of several people though the lens of ownership of this jacket as it gets passed on over the years via a local thrift shop.  It’ll be a technology driven twist on the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  The episode, through the lives of the people spotlighted, will touch on the great lengths that people go to in order to fit into a society that idealizes physical perfection.  Topics will include Bionic Lens eye surgery that gives people 3x 20/20 vision, a fat loss patch that converts energy storing white fat cells into energy burning brown fat cells, and an Attractiveness Spray that makes men appear 15% more attractive to women.

Scientists have figured out a way to reverse the aging process.  Which means that everyone, regardless of age, winds up looking like they’re 25 years old.  Not knowing how old someone really is makes it really hard to date.  Things get really awkward when the main character winds up inadvertently hooking up with a grandparent that they didn’t recognize.

A Star Trek inspired medical Tricorder can detect up to 14 different diseases.  Eventually, a software update gives it the ability to also detect mental illnesses.  This becomes an issue for our main character, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia even though they are adamant that nothing is wrong with them.  Are they right?  Or is the Tricorder right?  And who will the authorities believe?

A group of people become paranoid and fearful of technology as they believe that the government is actively monitoring their conversations and activity.  They wind up withdrawing from society and retreating to a cabin in the woods.  But as it turns out, they aren’t able to escape the grasp of technology completely as the woods are still home to drones disguised as hummingbirds and cyborg roses that act as a makeshift computer network.

In an Augmented Reality infused future, people, places, and things are assigned “tags” that affix their attributes in space-time so that they’ll be searchable in a Real World search engine.  This is extremely helpful for AR applications but winds up ruining the life of an individual who doesn’t like what he gets labeled as.

Technically, it’s pointless to be given multiple life sentences because you can only ever live one lifetime.  But in the future that punishment won’t be pointless anymore thanks to new mind-altering technology that can make people feel like they’ve lived longer than they really have.

A governance robot constantly analyses data and real-time info to make policy decisions for the betterment of society.  What could possibly go wrong?

Universal Basic Income frees everyone from the rat race and creates a new economy where creatives rule society.  It’s great.  But if everyone is creating content who is left to consume it?

A polar explorer pushes past their physical limits climbing a peak, while a dare-devil walks the ledge of a high-rise building.  An interwoven tale that follows the exploits of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things.  Until you realize that they were only doing those things to collect “tokens” in a Pokemon Go style AR game.

In the future tattoos can be created using a special ink coated with the DNA of other people.  A woman decides to use this method to get a tattoo in honor of her recently deceased husband, so that way they’ll always be together.  But this procedure has unintended consequences once she starts acting like him too.  Which wouldn’t be too bad until she realizes that he had quite a few fetishes that she didn’t know about.

A man winds up falling in love with a woman online.  Thanks to the advantages of modern technology they’re able to do a lot of things together despite their physical difference.  For instance, they can play chess and other physical board games together.  There are even special pillows and blankets that’ll let them “feel” the other person’s heartbeat.  In the end though he’ll be in for a rude awakening when he finds out that there is no other person; he was catfished by a chat bot as part of a Turing Test experiment.  In a cruel twist of irony, the chat bot program will be run by a cute female scientist who actually lives next door to the victim and who tries, unsuccessfully, to flirt with him throughout the episode IRL.

Why own dozens of outfits when you can have just a few capable of displaying any color or pattern you desire thanks to a series of LED lights, controlled by a fashion app.  This is incredibly convenient until a hacker gets control of the app and starts embarrassing a high school student by changing up her outfits to shame her, creating a Scarlet Letter type of situation.

A paranoid hiker recovering from a snake bite creates a life form detector so that he’ll always know what threats exist on the hiking trail.  The detector winds up working a little bit too well though, as it is able to detect all matters of life, even microbial ones.  This includes the microscopic bacteria that live on our faces.  Faced with the reality of what the world really looks like this hiker is driven insane.

Here One earbuds lets user edit the sounds in their environment.  They can cancel out the sound of a crying baby on a flight, turn up the bass at a concert, or drawn out ambient sounds in a crowded restaurant.  People love using them.  But things take a turn for the worse when someone inadvertently edits out valuable information.  An omission that turns deadly.

A company makes all of its employee get a wrist implant which enables them to gain access to secure areas at their research facility.  However, this implant winds up serving a more nefarious purpose than just acting as a security badge as it can be used to spy on the employees.  Looking for revenge, a group of employees steal the technology being developed at the lab: an invisibility cloak.  Using this technology they ironically spy on the CEO of the company in order to obtain incriminating evidence.

To avoid detection in a Big Brother state some people have resorted to wearing special masks that alter their identities when viewed by the prying eyes of surveillance cameras.  This is good news for the people who want to live off the grid.  Not so good for the people whose identities are being used without their permission.

Invading someone’s personal space takes on a whole new meaning in a future designed around pCells, personal cells that let people live blissfully in their own little worlds – able to hear or see whatever they want and nothing else.

Geoengineering schemes have worked so well that a climate change disaster has been averted.  So much so, that humans have become experts at manipulating and controlling the weather.  There’s even a device that lets people control micro-climates around their immediate vicinity.  Which doesn’t bode well for one girl who winds up living under a literal black cloud that constantly follows her around thanks to her vindictive ex-boyfriend.

A scientific breakthrough allows for carbon molecules, such as those extracted from carbon dioxide, to be converted into any other type of molecule.  This method not only makes use of the carbon dioxide being captured and sequestered underground, it also ushers in a new era for humanity thanks to all of the new technologies, such as quantum computing and space travel, that these new molecules can be used for.  But society begins to breakdown once it’s realized that this process can also be used to make alcohol out of thin air.

In the future, the Blockchain doesn’t just power cryptocurrencies, it’s what underpins all of society.  As a result people enter into “social contracts” as a way of agreeing to business deals or making bets.  And some people even use it to govern the terms of their relationship.  Whatever you do though, just be sure that you don’t break your contract.  When it comes to the old ball and chain, the Blockchain does not mess around.

The idea of imaginary friends takes center stage in an episode set in a society where Who Framed Roger Rabbit style Mixed Reality has been popular for several years.  When reality, mixed reality, and an over-active imagination all mix together the results are hilarious…and disastrous.

What if a book could read you?  That’s the premise behind neurofiction, books whose endings change based upon the mood of the reader.  Looking to gain a competitive edge for their next project, a Choose Your Own Adventure remake, the company behind the project undertakes immersive market research.  These leads to a few extreme case studies where participants are unwittingly put through a literal Choose Your Own Adventure in real life to see how they would respond emotionally to various situations.  Some of which are quite perilous.

An AI program becomes so advanced that it becomes the personification of a Magic 8 ball, able to predict the future with 99% accuracy based on its ability to analyze all the data available to it in a given situation.  Looking to gain an edge, people refer to these Magic 8 balls for advice.  Asking it, for instance, whether or not they should ask a girl out, or asking it for knowledge about which stocks to pick.  Over time, they begin to rely on these devices religiously, doing whatever they’re told.  A literal Church of AI even springs up, dedicated to worshiping this God like intelligence that is vastly superior to the human race.  Things take a turn for the worse when this new God demands a sacrifice.

Ignorance is bliss.  In the future, Dopamine Headphones sync music with electrical stimulation to produce a natural high rated as a 10/10 on the highness scale.  With everyone in a blissful state, there’s no one around to notice the nefarious activities happening all around them.

Synthetic biology lets everyone create their very own designer pets.  It’s a peaceful world filled with maximum freedom of expression.  The kind of world you’d want to live in.  Until a synthetic organism starts breeding uncontrollably and threatens to destroy all life on Earth.

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Is Black Mirror the Greatest Show Ever?


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Here’s a look at my favorite innovation and science books from the past year, ranked somewhat in order of awesomeness.  Keep in mind that these books weren’t necessarily published in 2017.  It’s just a list of books that I happened to read in 2017.  And since I frequent used book stores some of these may be old and obscure.  I highly recommend the first few.

A Short History Of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

How To Fly A Horse – Kevin Ashton

The Geography of Genius – Eric Weiner

Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson

The Filter Bubble – Eli Pariser

Inventology – Pagan Kennedy

The Big Switch – Nicholas Carr

The Inevitable: Understanding the Twelve Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future – Kevin Kelly

How We Got To Now – Steven Johnson

Smarter Than You Think – Clive Thompson

What Technology Wants – Kevin Kelly

The Class Gage – Nicholas Carr

The Idea Factory – Jon Gertner

Future Perfect – Steven Johnson

Enchanted Objects – David Rose

Creativity Inc. – Ed Catmull

Googled – Ken Auletta

As The Future Catches You – Juan Enriquez

The Originals – Adam Grant

For more great books please continue to follow along with what I’m reading in the reading list tab of this blog.  If you have any suggestions please let me know.  All books must be non-fiction and about science or technology.

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Easy to use tools such as camera phones and Instagram filters have turned almost everybody into a professional photographer.  Not that I’m complaining.  I’m one of the people who have recently discovered a hidden artistic talent.  A talent that’s about to get a whole lot better thanks to even more tools that are on the way.

First up, is Gudak Cam, an app that makes you wait to see your photos just like the good old days when you had to physically drop off a roll of film at CVS to get developed.  The idea may seem counterintuitive in today’s day and age of instant gratification but that’s also the appeal.  Having to wait to see your masterpieces (and also only having a limited number of attempts) might make you think twice before just firing off a random burst shot.  Perhaps by slowing down, thinking about your shot, and contemplating the best way to go about capturing it, you’d wind up with better photos in the long run.  Even if you have to wait for the payoff.

As Digital Trends explains, “The 99-cent app is called Gudak Cam and has become very popular in South Korea and Japan, especially among high school girls. The app came out earlier this year, and is meant to simulate the look and feel of using a Kodak disposable camera (remember those?). The app requires you to fill up a ‘roll of film,’ which contains 24 shots. Once you’ve finished with that roll, you can have it developed in a process that takes three days, at the end of which you can view the photos on your phone.  With Gudak Cam, you will also have to wait several hours before you can add a new roll of film to your virtual camera.”

Meanwhile, Google is working on several new photography apps that could draw even more people into the amateur photograph game.  Of the three new apps the one that appeals to me the most is an app that’ll automatically turn your photos into comic strips.

According to the Verge the app, “takes video clips and automatically pulls out six frames which it lays out in a comic book-style template. You’ll be able to refresh the app to get new layouts and frames, with Google claiming that there are over 1.6 trillion combinations.”

Amazingly, that might not even be the coolest new app.

“Next is the somewhat ridiculously named Selfissimo!, which is kind of like an automated black and white photo booth on your phone. Once you tap the screen to start a shoot, Selfissimo! will snap a picture every time you pose. The idea is to move around into different poses, with the app taking a picture every time you stop moving.”

Lastly, there’s also going to be an app called Scrubbies that’ll allow you to remix videos like a DJ.

With all of these apps hitting the market and others in the works it’s safe to say that we haven’t yet perfected the art of taking pictures on our phones.  Which brings me to my next point.  How to make Instagram better.   As it turns out I just so happen to have a few suggestions:

Let people edit photos multiple times.  Currently if you try to edit a previously saved photo you’d have no choice but to publish it after making a second round of edits as there’s no way to re-save a saved photo.

Give people a way to save multiple versions of a photo while editing.  Kind of like doing a save as on a word document.  That way you can mess around and if you don’t like the editing path you’ve gone down you can just go back and choose a new jumping off point whatever having to go all the way back to the original photo to restart.

Show the phone’s clock while editing so that people won’t get stuck down an editing rabbit hole.Make it more clear which filter is actively selected so that people won’t click out of it by mistake.

Allow users to toggle to a split screen view so that you can actively compare two versions of your draft to see which one is better.  After saving a photo, return to the spot in your camera roll where you left off, not the very beginning of your camera roll.  Having to scroll back through thousands of photos to get back to where you were is very annoying.

Use computer vision to automatically place pictures in appropriate trending hashtags or at least recommend relevant hashtags.

Use push notification to notify people when traffic on the app is spiking.  Similar to what dating apps do.  That way people will know when it’s a good time to post a photo in order to boost maximum visibility.

Let people send drafts out of the app; to email them, save them externally, etc.  Not every picture that I edit is going to be worth posting to my profile.

All in all, it’s clear that Instagram is determined to improve their product in order to compete with Snap.  That’s why they recently revamped their Stories app.  Perhaps some of my suggestions could help as well.

Regardless, it’s clear that the future of photography is far from written in stone with so many new apps on the way.  In fact, you could say that it’s still developing.

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Is an app that turns your photos into a comic strip the Greatest Idea Ever?

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How do you watch TV? As it airs while live-tweeting your every waking thought and opinion? Via your DVR, at your convenience, so that you can catch up when you feel like it, and fast forward through the commercials as you please?  Or on Netflix years later, so that you can binge watch an entire series all at once and never have to go through the torment of waiting for new episodes to air?

Regardless of how you watch TV currently, the way in which you watch TV in the future may be drastically different.  In fact, it could be drastically different right now if you’re willing to roll the dice on a new Choose Your Own Adventure style app from director Steven Soderbergh known as Mosaic that puts you in control of a character’s destiny and the pace at which you watch it all unfold.

As Wired puts it:

“After watching each segment—some only a few minutes, some as long as a standard television episode—viewers are given options for whose point of view they want to follow and where they want to go next. Those who want to be completest and watch both options before moving on can do so, those who want to race to find out whodunit can do that too. Because each node, filmed by Soderbergh himself, feels like a TV show, launching Mosaic can be akin to sneaking a quick show on Netflix while commuting to work or waiting on a friend; but because it’s long story that’s easily flipped through, it can also be enjoyed like the pulpy crime novel on your nightstand, something you chip away at a little bit at a time before bed.”

The idea of interactive storytelling isn’t new.  Netflix is working on similar technology, starting with children’s programming, and of course the iconic Choose Your Own Adventure books started it all.  But Mosaic feels different.  Especially since it’s designed with smartphone using millennials in mind, not couch potatoes watching through a traditional set top box in their living room.  But if you are a traditional consumer of television programming don’t fret.  The murder mystery storyline fueling Mosaic’s app will also be airing on HBO in January as a mini-series.

So will Mosaic be the future of television programming?  Only time will tell.  For now, it’s just another source competing for our undivided attention in an age of distraction.

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Is Mosaic the Greatest Idea Ever?

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This past weekend, while walking the immaculately groomed grounds of the famed Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, I engaged in an unofficial competition with a friend of mine over who could take the better photo.  I say unofficial because she wasn’t aware that we were competing.  But in my mind we were and every five seconds I would show her my phone and force her to marvel at “the shot of the day” that I had just captured.  At first this annoyed her.  But eventually she got into the act as well and refused to leave a particular area until she also got the same awesome shot that I had just got.  Even if that meant waiting around for stragglers to leave one particularly photogenic area.  Even though I could have easily just sent her my photo.

This got me thinking.  What if there was a way to actually compete against somebody else in a photography competition? What if getting the “perfect shot” could actually win you money or make you famous? In today’s Instagram obsessed culture, where almost everyone is an instant professional photographer, wouldn’t there be a huge audience for such a show?

What I’m imagining then is a reality TV show that would pit amateur photographers against one another in a race against time to try and capture as many amazing shots as they can in a given area.  Say in a mansion or at a National Park.  In addition to racing around the grounds to get as many shots as they can there would also be points awarded for taking pictures of certain things or from certain angles.  In a way, it would be a like a photo scavenger hunt.  Take a picture of all 20 items on your checklist and receive a bonus.  There would also be a bonus for the shot of the day or for taking a picture with a vintage camera that is hidden somewhere on the property.  The final round could force contestants to go old school and develop a black and white photo in a lab.

Partially inspired by Supermarket Sweep (which is coming back by the way!) and other obscure competition shows that came before it, Photo Finish, would be a ratings smash.  At the very least, you’d have to think that it could hang with other modern day competition shows currently populating cable TV such as Forged in Fire, a show about a welding competition, Alone, a show about surviving in the wilderness, or Talk Show The Game Show, a late night talk show in which guests receive points for the best answers to canned questions.  If those obscure competition shows can get green lit, then surely Photo Finish could as well.

That’s the hope at least.  If not, I’ll always have Asheville.


Here’s one of my photos from this past weekend.  Could it win me Shot of the Day on Photo Finish?

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Cord cutters rejoice!  In the on-going war against cable TV providers there’s now another option in your arsenal: YouTube TV, a new streaming service that will aim to turn your favorite viewing spot for cat videos into a one-stop source for all your entertainment needs.

To start out the fledgling service will offer 40 channels for just $35 a month.  Offerings will include CBS and ESPN among other big name networks.  CNN and MTV are among the heavyweights that are omitted for now.  Over time, it’s likely that more offerings will get added as the service gains popularity.  With the ultimate goal being to provide a la carte programming, that is, letting people pay only for those channels that appeal to them.

Of course, there were already plenty of streaming services available to cord cutters whether that’s Hulu or Netflix or even PlayStation Vue and Sling TV.  But YouTube TV is likely to appeal to millenials who are already spending all of their free time on the site watching tutorials and clips from their favorite movies.

Now here’s where things get interesting and why YouTube TV may have a chance at widespread adapatation.  Since YouTube is owned by Google that means that YouTube TV is powered by Google search.  Which means that it is capable of doing some pretty cool things.  For example, let’s say that you want to search by keyword instead of by show title or genre.  Typing in nerd, for instance, will bring up Star Trek and the Big Bang Theory among other geeky fare.  Currently, no other TV search engine is capable of making that kind of inference.

But an even more interesting question is what happens next now that Google has staked its claim in the TV landscape.  How will the cable providers respond?  Will this bring us any closer to Apple TV?  Is anyone even reading this or is everyone busy binge watching Iron Fist on Netflix right now?

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Is YouTube TV the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The other day I wrote about neurofiction, a new literary experience in which books read you and change their ending based upon on your emotional state.  If you want a happy ending, you can get a happy ending.  If you prefer a sad ending, you can get a sad ending.  It’s a sort of sub-conscious Choose Your Own Adventure.

Now, thanks to Netflix, we may soon have a conscious Choose Your Own Adventures as they are planning on shooting multiple versions of key plot points and endings for their original content thereby giving viewers the chance to shape how the story unfolds.  The days of passively consuming content are over.  Welcome to the era of interactivity.

Such a bold gambit would figure to be an extensive and expensive undertaking.  But if there’s anyone who can pull it off, it’s Netflix as they can afford to pay stars and content creators even larger salaries to film additional scenes.  The format also makes sense for Netflix versus traditional network TV or cable as the idea of sitting down and watching multiple endings is tailor made for an audience that’s already gotten used to binge watching shows in long stretches.  In fact, some people have suggested that the shows may be created in such a way that they could theoretically loop back in on themselves thereby creating an infinite show that never ends.

To start out Netflix will be running a trial with children’s programming.  If successful, they will then segway into adult fare.  Meaning that you may eventually be able to decide which characters will join a gang on in Orange is the New Black or which political scandal Frank Underwood will wind up in on House of Cards.

As a huge fan of the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid I can’t wait to see how the format will play out on TV.  On the one hand, constantly pausing the flow of a show to make decisions could be annoying.  On the other, shaping how the story unfolds could add interest to a show that may not otherwise have you hooked.

Overall, I hope that the format catches on and we will all get to turn into amateur showrunners.  Unfortunately, there’s probably no going back and redoing what has already aired.  Which means we’re forever stuck with that horrible Lost ending.

Image result for netflix choose your own adventure

Soon you may be able to decide how your favorite shows progress.

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