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Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

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.

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

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#1,035 – Neurofiction

What if a book could read you?

That’s the premise behind a new literary experience designed to up end the traditional way that we consume printed material.  Instead of just reading a story that’s been mass produced for everyone, you would instead get to enjoy a unique tale that changes in conjunction with your emotional state.  Think of it like a literal Choose Your Own Adventure.  Albeit one without conscious choice.

The concept, known as Neurofiction, is the brain child of science fiction author Hannu Rajaniemi and was recently unveiled at the Edinburgh International Science Festival with a twist on a classic Disney story.

As Wired explains, “Volunteers would don the [EMOTIV] Epoc headset, then read the story of Snow White, and the story would branch and change in different ways, depending on whether the volunteer showed more affinity for ‘life’ or ‘death’ imagery.”

In other words, if you wanted a happy ending that’s exactly what you’d get.  This approach to story-telling could be a total game changer for Hollywood.  Instead of force feeding everyone cookie cutter stories that have been engineered to appeal to the largest percentage of people, you could instead tailor stories to individual  viewers and their individual tastes.  No matter how twisted or outside of the norm they may be.

Neurofiction is obviously still in the early stages of development.  There is, after all, only prototype so far.  But personally, I feel like this could be the start of a new form of entertainment.  Truly interactive content that puts you, or at least your subconscious, in the driver’s seat while reading.  Who knows, it may even be enough to get people to stop binge watching shows or playing video games, and, you know, actually pick up a book every once in a while.

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Is Neurofiction the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

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Don’t know what to get the gamer in your life for the holidays this year?  How about Nintendo’s latest console? Known as the Switch, the device is an ambitious gambit on the part of a company desperate to recall their former glory days after years of falling behind the likes of Sony and Microsoft.

When it comes out in March the Switch will lets gamers play their favorite games both at home and on the go as it seamlessly “switches” from home console mode to portable tablet mode.

As Wired explains:

“You can play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on your big-screen TV at home, but why stop there? Pull the Switch out of the docking station next to your TV, and you can take that game on the go. This means more than just convenience: It means that Nintendo’s home and portable game libraries will now be combined into one single platform. No more having to support both the home Wii U and the portable 3DS with separate Mario Kart games—Nintendo can just create one game that’s played by everyone. And you don’t have to buy two pieces of Nintendo hardware to enjoy all the company’s games, anymore.”

Better yet, there’s talk that the Switch will even be VR compatible when it comes out which will surely help make up for the fact that Nintendo’s graphics pale in comparison to those of PlayStation and Xbox.

As Venture Beat reports:

“Nintendo continues to play with our emotions. The company has yet to outright state if its upcoming console, Switch, will support VR, but patents uncovered today suggest that it’s certainly possible in the future.

NeoGAF user Rösti (it’s an online forum of some of the most passionate gamers on the Internet) posted the patent online complete with various images and descriptions that match the new device, which allows games to be played either at home on a TV or on the go with a screen mounted to two handheld controllers.

Among the images, surprisingly, is what looks an awful lot like a VR headset, referred to as a head-mounted display (HMD) in the documentation. From the sounds of it, the Switch’s screen could be inserted into a slot in front of a pair of lenses, much like current smartphone-based headsets like the Gear VR and Daydream View.”

If the Switch is successful it will cap off quite a remarkable turnaround for the much maligned Nintendo that started with the runaway success of the AR infused Pokemon Go.  With Super Mario Run now taking over the top spot in the iPhone app store it’s clear that Nintendo is back on the right track.  Only time will tell if they can keep it going.

For their sake and the sake of gamers everywhere I sure hope they do.

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Is the Nintendo Switch the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Say hello to the Infinity Puzzle, an infuriating and invigorating experience that never ends.  Ever.

As Nerdist puts it, “For those of you spending the holiday season in colder climates, that invariably means staying indoors with your grandmother and spending 17 hours piecing together a giant ass puzzle. Eventually, though, you find that thousandth piece that you dropped on the floor four hours ago and slap it into place, revealing a picture of some idyllic landscape or a super close-up shot of a daffodil. And then it’s done forever. The experience was equal parts wholesome and infuriating, and now you can move on with your life, fulfilled. But what if the puzzle never ended?”

That’s the premise behind the new puzzle from Nervous System.  And it could very well be the future of stay at home entertainment.  But what exactly is it?

As they describe on their website:

“Have you ever done a puzzle that has no beginning or end? Where you don’t know up from down? … The Infinity Puzzle is a new type of jigsaw puzzle that tiles continuously. It has no fixed shape, no starting point, and no edges. It can be assembled in thousands of different ways.

Topologically, the Infinite Galaxy Puzzle maps to a Klein bottle, an impossible 3D shape where the inside and outside are mathematically indistinguishable. What this means is that it tiles with a flip. Pieces from the right side attach to the left side but only after flipping over. Just like the Klein bottle’s surface has no inside or outside, the puzzle has no up or down side. You can start the puzzle anywhere on any side, making it extra challenging. This puzzle is adorned with a photograph of the galactic center of the Milky Way. The image is continuous from one side of the surface to the other, so one cannot see the entire photo at once. Explore the galaxy while assembling the puzzle in multiple ways. The puzzle also features special space themed whimsy pieces.”

That’s right.  We’re talking about a puzzle that has no end game.  Just multiple ways it can be assembled.  Making it the ultimate creative exercise.  Or a complete waste of time.  Either way, just take my money.  Just take all of it.

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Is the Infinity Puzzle the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Everything that we’ve been told over the last few years has pointed towards Virtual Reality headsets like the Oculus Rift being the future of home entertainment.  The Avegant Glyph has other ideas.  Using thousands of microscopic mirrors the Avegant Glyph is a wearable headset that is capable of projecting images directly onto your eyes.  It’s a similar approach to how the mysterious Magic Leap is going to work and it promises to revolutionize the way you consume media at home.  After all, why settle for watching Netflix on your couch when you can go to a movie theatre.  The catch, of course, is that you’ll still be on your couch.  Or on a plane.  Or wherever else you may be when the mood strikes to whip out the Glyph.

As Wired puts it, “The Glyph, which costs $599, is designed for media consumption. Looking at it is like watching a 65-inch 720p TV in your living room, or sitting dead-center in a movie theater. Anywhere you can plug in an HDMI cable, you can plug in the Glyph. You can connect it to your phone and watch Netflix. It can be a monitor for your computer, if you like. I spent a night with the Glyph plugged into my Xbox One, playing Rocket League for hours without turning on my television. I’ve seen people use it as a first-person viewer for flying a drone. Avegant imagines people will mostly use it while they travel, as a better option than their phone’s tiny screen or a hotel room’s crappy pay-per-view. It has no special software, and requires no new skills or adaptation. It’s just a screen. On your face.”

Technically, a virtual reality headset is also a screen on your face and it can do more than just function as a media player.  So why get the Glyph?  Because of the image quality.  Supposedly, the technology is so good that the images are indistinguishable from real life.  As they say on their website, “it’s not watching; it’s seeing.”  One review site even exclaimed that it’s like the equivalent of putting Bose headphones on your eyes.  Another said it’s like an IMAX theater for your face.

Clearly, this is the kind of product that will appeal to a lot of people, especially movie buffs.  If you’re shopping for one this holiday season you may want to get them this personal portable movie theater.

Just be forewarned that it isn’t a truly immersive experience as the screen doesn’t take up your entire field of vision.  Instead it’s the equivalent of holding up a 13 inch laptop screen at arm’s length.  Still plenty big enough though and probably still worth it if the image quality and experience is as good as advertised.

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Is the Glyph the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Don’t know what to get your kids for the holidays this year?  If they are over the age of eight you might want to consider Cozmo.

No, I’m not talking about Jerry Seinfeld’s crazy neighbor.  I’m talking about an artificially intelligent toy robot that’s being hailed as one of the greatest toys ever.  Created by the makers of Anki Drive, those groundbreaking AI infused toy cars that race each other and you, Cozmo is the next step in the evolution of robotics and quite frankly, in the evolution of play itself.  A toy that’s more companion than mere play thing.  You see, Cozmo isn’t just your run of the mill toy robot.  It doesn’t dance along to Cisco’s thong song.  It doesn’t have a set of recorded responses that it spews out when you pull a string ala tickle me Elmo.  No, what we’re talking about is something truly intelligent.  Something that actually learns from experience.  Something that actually emotes.

As Wired explains, “In some ways, Cozmo is not quite at the forefront of robotics research. It doesn’t use deep neural networks, an AI technique that promises to reinvent robotics by allowing machines to learn tasks through the analysis of enormous amounts of data. It doesn’t have necessary on-board processing power for this, and since it doesn’t connect to the Internet, it can’t grab this power from distant servers. But using other techniques that aren’t as dependent on data analysis, Cozmo can recognize your face. It can pick up and move a set of blocks, even if they’re not carefully arranged. And by tracking certain events—Did it almost fall off the table? Did it just beat you at a game? Is it having trouble finding something?—it can mimic emotions. If Cozmo comes to the edge of a table, it might look scared. If it has just lost a game to you, it may pout and look to play with someone else.”

For busy parents who don’t have time to constantly play with their kids and for the single child who has no one to play with the idea of a toy that you can actually interact with is a real game-changer.  And in Cozmo’s case, a literal game changer at that.  In fact, the way in which you use your Cozmo (how often, for how long, what games you play, etc.) will fundamentally alter the way he acts.  Making each Cozmo uniquely yours.  Just like if you had a pet.

There promises to be a lot of different functionality that Cozmo will have but one of the earliest features that stands out the most to me is Explorer mode.  Using your phone you’ll be able to see what he sees and take control of his actions so that you can say hello to people or use his lifts to move objects.  A skill set that could prove useful if you want to spy on your siblings.

The key thing to remember with Cozmo is that he is actually artificially intelligent.  We’re not talking about a remote control car here.  We’re talking about something that is “alive”.  Something that will bug you until you play with it.  Something that will learn new skills and abilities the more you use it.  Something that you fundamentally alter when you interact with it.  This isn’t just a toy.  This is the future of human interaction.

So get one for your family if you dare.  But be forewarned.  Childhood will never be the same again!

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Is Cozmo the Greatest Idea Ever?

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