Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Google isn’t the only tech company to launch a new feed based service.  Amazon just did too, creating Amazon Spark and it’s designed to turn product reviewers into “enthusiasts” and in turn its site into Instagram.  Essentially, Spark is a hybrid social media site and product store, a shoppable feed of images that could really put a damper into Pinterest’s plans as users shop items recommended by people who share their interests.

As TechCrunch puts it, “Amazon today is launching Amazon Spark, a new feature aimed at improving product discovery, which is seemingly inspired by Instagram and its use of shoppable photos. Similarly, Amazon Spark users are encouraged to post stories, ideas and images of products they love, which others can react to with comments and ‘smiles’ – Amazon’s own version of the Like or Favorite button.”

Ars Technica adds that, “Spark appears to be Amazon’s way of not only encouraging more young people to discover new products on the platform in a way that feels natural to them, but also boosting the social  aspect of Amazon as a whole. But products will always be the main focus of any Amazon feature, and Spark certainly integrates ‘shoppable’ tags more efficiently than Instagram. Amazon has the upper hand as it can link directly to products it sells and directly bring customers to that product page when they tap on the link.”

But Spark isn’t the only new innovation that Amazon recently unveiled.  They’ve also been working on a portable robot that would live inside of airports or other public spaces, and bring cellphone charging capabilities to those who hail it.  Consider it an Uber for cell phones.

As Geek Wire reports, “The idea may seem wacky, but the inventors contend that such robots would fill a need that’s currently unmet. They note that mobile devices have become ubiquitous in public and semi-public spaces:

“It can be quite inconvenient to a user when one of these devices runs out of battery power. This is especially true if the user does not have an available charging adapter for the device. Users may find themselves asking friends, or even strangers, to borrow a charging adapter. In some cases, there may not be any charging ports, or power outlets in the immediate vicinity, making charging the device even more cumbersome. Even in cases where charging stations, ports, or outlets are available, a user may have to remain close to the device. For example, charging a phone in a public place may require the user to remain in the general area of the phone to avoid theft.”

Would a charging robot solve all of those issues?  That depends on whether or one is available in your area or how long it would take to get to you.  Plus it’s highly likely that other technologies such as wireless charging devices or longer lasting batteries or phones that work without batteries will make it so that we don’t even need to recharge our batteries.  But in any event that doesn’t really matter.  The only thing that really matters is that if there’s an issue in need of solving, whether that’s cell phone charging of finding a way to make shopping more social, you can rest assured that Amazon is working on a way to solve that problem.

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Is Amazon Spark the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Storing information inside of DNA has been a neat parlor trick for years.  All of Shakespeare’s sonnets have been encoded in DNA.  Recently famed geneticist George Church encoded his own book Regenesis and made 90 billion copies of it.  A new publication record.  But that’s just the beginning.

Thanks to its ability to store information reliably DNA is the unquestioned future of data storage.  For starters, its “technology” is never going to become obsolete the way modern storage devices might.  Fine-tuned over millions of year of evolution DNA is a tried and true method of information storage and replication.  Plus its ability to store a million times more information in the same space as a standard floppy disk ever could makes it an infinitely more desirable resource for us humans.  And considering how much data we are generating on a daily basis we’re definitely going to need a reliable place to store it all in the coming years.  DNA data storage is the best and really only option for doing that.

But when that time come it’s not just books that we’ll be encoding.  In the future we’ll also have the ability to store videos inside of DNA as well.

That’s right.  Scientists have figured out a way to encode film inside of DNA as they were able to successfully encode one of the very first motion picture ever made, the famous galloping horse captured by British photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who wanted to observe if a horse ever had all four hoofs off the ground at the same time while running.

As amazing as it would be to store information and videos inside of DNA though that’s only one side of the equation.  What if the opposite held true?  What if you could also use the same technology to record what was happening inside the cell?  As far-fetched as that sounds that may actually happen one day.

According to the New York Times, “With the new research, [Church] and other scientists have begun to wonder if it may be possible one day to do something even stranger: to program bacteria to snuggle up to cells in the human body and to record what they are doing, in essence making a ‘movie’ of each cell’s life.  When something goes wrong, when a person gets ill, doctors might extract the bacteria and play back the record. It would be, said Dr. Church, analogous to the black boxes carried by airplanes whose data is used in the event of a crash.”

Obviously it’s going to be a while before we have bacterial black boxes or before we can even fully trust the data storage and replication capabilities of DNA.  But thanks to the tremendous work being done by Dr. Church and other geneticists we continue to make great progress towards that goal.  And, more importantly, we continue to make great strides at rates that would have astonished scientists just ten years ago.  What else will be possible in just a few years time?

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Is storing video inside DNA the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,105 – Seat 14 C

The futurists behind the X-Prize Foundation have funded some pretty impressive prize based research whether we’re talking about a Star Trek style Tricorder for diagnosing illnesses or new methods of space travel.  Now they’ve set their sights on another prize based competition that could change the way we think about the future, and best of all, they’ve invited the entire world to participate.

Known as the Seat 14 C Campaign, the competition is a science fiction writing contest to imagine what life will look like in twenty years.  Well known and established sci-fi authors will also be participating in the project, which assigns a different passenger on a plane to each author.  The plane winds up traveling through a wormhole and ends up San Francisco in 2037 and it’s up to each author to imagine what life will be like in the future for their assigned traveler.

All of the seats are spoken for.  Except for one.

As I Fucking Love Science puts it, “All of them, that is, except the passenger in Seat 14C. In an interactive online map of the plane, where you can explore the stories from each writer, you can click on this seat to submit your own short story of what you think the future might be like.”

Seeing as how this is X-Prize competition there is a shiny prize to chase after of course.  In this case it’s $10,000 for a trip for two to Tokyo including a four night stay in a four star hotel.  But this competition won’t be a walk in the park.  Not even for the best sci-fi writer out there.

As any futurist will tell you, it’s awfully hard to predict the future.  Especially a future twenty years from now, and especially a future that’s arriving at breakneck speeds thanks to the continuation of Moore’s Law and other scientific breakthroughs ranging from Quantum Computing to Synthetic Biology that are just going to speed up the rate of progress even more.  Just like how people fifty years ago never could have foresaw the rise of the Internet there are new technologies on the horizon that no one today can predict.

But that’s what makes a competition like this so much fun.  When it comes to imagining the future there’s no right answer.  Only intrigue as myriads of possibilities fill the air. As the official campaign website puts it: please use caution when opening the overhead bins, the future may have shifted mid-flight.

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Is the Seat 14 C campaign the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,098 – Twitch

The other day I witnessed something truly remarkable: a grown man, okay, well more of a man-child, playing with Legos while struggling to stay awake for over 24 hours.  This incredible feat of will power was live streamed to my living room thanks to the creative genius of my friend Aaron Lassner and the live streaming service Twitch.

Twitch started out innocently enough, as a way to watch people play video games, which somehow turned into a multi-million dollar industry.  Now it’s owned by Amazon and is completely blowing up as a home broadcasting company, a genuine YouTube and Facebook Live competitor.  And as my friend’s weekend shenanigans proved, it’s got staying power.

It may not seem like it, but there’s something oddly fascinating about watching somebody else create something.  Maybe it’s just the voyeuristic appeal of watching someone do something or maybe there’s actual talent involved in making what you’re doing seem interesting.  But either way, there’s no denying that I was hooked as my friend sketched, created art, and thumbed through the instruction manual for assembling a Star Wars snow speeder all while listening to music, chatting with friends, and aimlessly talking to himself in a sleep deprived stupor.

Watching his multi-camera setup, complete with boom mic and disembodied finger pencil, I got the idea that I should create my own Twitch studio as well.  A way for me to connect with my fans, to interact with other futurists, while I thumb through old back issues of Popular Science or write a list of futuristic technologies that could exist in 2050.

Regardless of what I choose to present it’s clear that I should be presenting something.  Twitch in its present format feels like this generation’s version of Ham radios.  A still nascent technology that could be an entry point into something greater the way that people who grew up tinkering with Ham radios went on to become the first computer programmers.  Perhaps the first Twitch users will have a similar leg up on understanding the nuances of the communications network that’s going to replace the Internet.

If not, and it winds up just being a time-suck then that’s okay too.  There are a lot of people out there with something to say.  Twitch gives them a platform to say it on.  And that’s worth celebrating.  Even if all we ever use it for is watching man-childs play with Legos.

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Is Twitch the Greatest Idea Ever?

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In the book the Filter Bubble, author Eli Pariser described how we’ve undergone a subtle cultural shift as today’s tech giants like Facebook and Google shape the way we think.  It used to be that you got your news from the newspaper.  Reputable sources that went to great lengths to cover facts and reports the news as fairly as possible.  Now you get your news from Facebook, and thanks to a filter bubble that insulates you from opposing viewpoints, the news that you’re getting is likely to come from your friends or sources that you already find agreeable.  The same holds true for Google search results.  Depending on who you are and what Google already knows about you, the places you shop, the items you buy, the websites you visit, your search results, could be vastly different from your neighbors.

Pariser made the point, that whether the Filter Bubble was a by product of the system or a malicious undertaking by the tech companies, didn’t matter.  Since it’s now the reality that we live in, affecting society in a very real and tangible way, as the debate over the healthcare bill proves, it’s imperative that the tech companies behind the filter bubble step up and take some responsibility over their actions.  Self-editing themselves the way that newspaper used to by hiring ombudsmen.

Well, the other day Facebook took a step in that direction when Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was changing its mission statement.  No longer would Facebook just be about connecting people throughout the world.  What would really matter going forward was meaningful connections.  Building communities not echo chambers.

In remarks at the Facebook Communities Summit Zuckerberg summed up the effort:

“For the last decade or so we’ve been focusing on making the world more open and connected. But I used to think that if we just give people a voice and help some people connect that that would make the world a whole lot better by itself…Look around and our society is still so divided. We have a responsibility to do more, not just to connect the world but to bring the world closer together.”

It’s a change that’s been a long time coming.  As the Verge puts it, “it was last year’s contentious US election — and the scary but real possibility that Facebook had a hand in influencing its outcome — that forced the company’s hand and pushed Zuckerberg to rethink what happens next, after the world is more open and connected than ever before. Facebook could no longer ignore the proliferation of fake news stories; the presence of bad actors, both independent and state-sponsored; and the ramifications of a live video platform that could be used to broadcast suicide and murder.”

So, how will Facebook execute its new mission statement?

According to the Verge:

“Facebook is now turning to its Groups feature as the next step in fostering positive community-building…Facebook will give group admins more direct access to metrics like growth and engagement, and allow them to more easily and efficiently filter through membership requests, schedule posts, and remove trollish or abusive users and all posts and comments from those users with a single action. Facebook also highlighted its idea of a quintessential and productive group with some examples like Lady Bikers of California, for female motorcycle riders to meet up in person, and an addiction support group started to offer support to those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.”

Sounds to me like Facebook is turning into Meetup.com, encroaching on their territory by trying to facilitate the fostering of real-world communities.  But it also sounds to me like Facebook finally gets it. Finally realizes the negative impact that the filter bubble that they created has had on the world.  If they’re willing to finally take responsibility for their actions and become a force for social change and community building that’s a good thing.  Now we just have to hope that Google and all of the other companies that contribute to the filter bubble follow their lead.

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Is Facebook’s new mission the Greatest Idea Ever?

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This is next level awesome.

Last week in New York City, Comedy Central, and specifically the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, sponsored a comedic pop-up installation, the Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library.  The installation, modeled after the libraries that every President since FDR has been honored with, mocks Trump in every possible way.

It’s a fitting tribute to a President who deftly used the micro blogging platform to rise to power.  Although, deftly may not be the right word to use since it’s clear that Trump is often flying by the seat of his pants, tweeting out insults at 3 am and using misspelled words like Covfefe that he later claims weren’t misspelled at all. It shouldn’t be surprising though that I can’t find the right word to use.  After all, I’m not Trump.  I don’t use the best words.

The museum, which only lasted for a few days, was located a block away from Trump Tower, and featured the Gone But Not Forgotten memorial that paid homage to infamous deleted tweets.  There was also a fake bank vault housing Trump’s mysterious tax returns and a replica of the Oval Office complete with a golden toilet.

But don’t worry.  If you missed out on all the fun you can still check it out.

According to CNN:

“If you didn’t get a chance this weekend to pop over to the pop-up ‘Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library’ in New York City, Comedy Central has you covered.  The network created a 3D, interactive virtual tour you can take now that the exhibit has closed.”

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Is the Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I have a PS4 and barely play it.  It’s a shame really.  I constantly feel its addictive pull, tugging at my heart strings, fiercely fighting for my un-divided attention in a world filled with infinite choice.  I want to play.  It’s just that I fear the game becoming a massive time suck whether I were to play No Man’s Sky, Destiny 2, Witcher 3 or Uncharted 4.  So I tend to avoid it at all costs.  Instead choosing to spend my free time with creative pursuits such as reading, writing, and creating works of art on Instagram.  Thankfully, there may soon be a solution that will allow me to play video games and be creative at the same time.  That’s because there’s now a video game, called Elegy for a Dead World, that you “play” by writing songs, poems, short stories, etc. as the exploratory adventure advances.

As Big Think describes, the unlikely game, “leaves the players with ‘no game to play,’ but to explore three long-dead civilizations, observe, and make notes… or stories — or poems — or songs.  The three lost worlds feature beautiful scenery, moving music, and are inspired by Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias, Lord Byron’s Darkness, and John Keats’ When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be. They create a strong, moody atmosphere that becomes the breeding ground for feelings and ideas.”

So how does it work?!

“The game eases you into the writing process with challenges, prompts, and fill-in-the-blank sentences. It has 27 writing challenges that might ask you to write a short story about an individual’s final days, a song about resignation, or a poem about war. In one challenge, you’re an archaeologist uncovering clues; in another, you’re a thief. In the more advanced levels, you’ll sometimes get new information halfway through the story, which casts a new light on things and forces you to explain or justify past actions. Once the game stirs your creativity, you can delete the prompts and use all the creative freedom in your writing you want.”

A video game that you “play” by writing poetry and short stories!? That’s one time suck that I wouldn’t mind at all.

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Is Elegy for a Dead World the Greatest Idea Ever?

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