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Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

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.

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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.

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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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