Cool and Cubical

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Google comes out with all kinds of stuff…most of it interesting but occasionally they come up with something which even my jaded eye finds compelling. Their latest addition is cool in exactly the same way Google Glass isn’t. What they have created is a multimedia ‘platform’ which allows the artist to embed video and music on to each side of a virtual cube, each side can be as unique and different as you wish. In the Chrome browser or on an Android device you can rotate the cube in 3D. As each face comes round to your point of view so the sound and images playing on that face at that time become the focus….but each face which you can see something of contributes a little. You can try it here http://nofun.thepresets.com/ just paste that URL into a Chrome browser. This is a techno/trance number from an Oz band and it’s predictably clubby but I think this could go way beyond just something else to project at a rave. This concept allows parallel narrative from six simultaneous perspectives.

Apparently this started as an experiment inspired by Rubik’s cube and as a challenge to see just what could be done with a browser…turns out quite a lot. It’s not a completely new concept..multiple parallel video has been used in things as diverse as the documentary about Woodstock and the TV series 24. What’s different is that the viewer can manipulate and investigate the cube which makes each individual’s perspective unique. Imagine taking a single incident then telling it from six different perhaps opposing perspectives. Now add in maybe virtual reality and it gets even more interesting. Perhaps we could walk through and around a set of multiple cubes each of which is virtually controlled by the viewer. It sounds arty and maybe a bit trippy…and maybe it is…but it might also be a rather cool new way to experiment with how we express our perspectives through art and Google deserves credit for making that available to anyone with enough imagination and code skills to make it happen

The Facebook Guinea Pig Problem

 

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The recent excitement caused by the release of data on what amounted to a societal lab project conducted on a huge random population of facebook users without consent…let alone informed consent a couple of years ago will no doubt be gone from the headlines in a news cycle or two. The fact that Facebook manipulated the news feeds of millions of their users with the intent of finding out how users responded to deliberately positive or negative content, when compared to the other dozens of negative stories surrounding their handling of private data really isn’t that big of a deal.

We have surrendered so many of what we might once have thought of as rights to privacy in recent years.  Our govornment electronically strips us naked every time we fly, the NSA listens to our phone calls and reads our mail, our police routinely abuse the powers given to them and will shoot you dead without much provocation and with no recourse and we really don’t seem to care anymore. So what if Google also reads our mail and Facebook conducts psychological experiments on us? In a climate where our government can act with impunity and has essentially already been bought and by the interest groups with the largest cheque books should we expect better of companies like Facebook. Should we hold them to a level of business behavior which goes above mere compliance with the legal minimum on non criminal activity. The answer appears to be “no.”  The sad fact is that we simply no longer expect our politicians let alone our business leaders to do the right thing.

Facebooks behavior doesn’t appear to be any more criminal than Google or the NSA reading our mail. A few years back our entire economy came perilously close to complete implosion yet essentially almost nobody responsible for that has been held to account.  If you can destroy trillions of dollars of regular peoples savings simply to enhance your quarterly bonus why would anyone expect a company like Facebook to have any kind of conscience. In the tech world this is problem is compounded by the Silicon Valley superiority complex.  There are a great many very smart people in our industry but the culture of intellectual superiority sudden wealth and in some cases fame has engendered means that ethical issues go largely unaddressed. If it’s not strictly illegal then it’s fine. Nobody will be held accountable, nothing will change, we will continue to enjoy the tech toys given to us by our digital masters in the happy knowledge that people who are much smarter than us are looking out for us.

Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead

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I’m a huge fan of science…I have a degree in it. Way back when I was working for a tech company installing and training an editorial system at a news paper deep in the heart of Lakeland Florida I heard a night editor muttering to herself about “them making us run false stories.” Out of interest I asked what she had a problem with, it turns out the article at hand was about the discovery of a new dinosaur which moved the age that this particular species to a much earlier period. Not a very interesting story…certainly not more than a couple of column inches. Her problem was that she honestly believed the world was only 6,000 years old as did the vast majority of the other twenty to thirty somethings working in the news room. She thought the story was a plant put there by the scientific community to mislead the people. It was such a cognitively dissonant experience. Here was a room full of what appeared to be nice educated folk who drove cars packed with micro processors to work where they worked all day with complex design and assembly systems who had no problems with the laws of physics and electronics the product of which surrounded them had a problem with my part of science….biology.

It boggled my mind then and continues to boggle it that a nation which such a strong love affair with all things tech can think it’s just fine to pick and choose which parts of science they choose to “believe” in. The poster child for this anti scientific ‘just coz I say so” nonsense is Jenny Mccarthy. The ex nude model turned D list celebrity has managed to parlay her looks and marriage to Jim Carrey into enough juice to campaign against vaccination for children. I understand the pain and frustration of having a child “on the spectrum” (there are several in my immediate family) but that’s doesn’t give you the excuse to make science up. The mere fact that the single study linking autism to inoculation was subsequently proved to be a hoax which led to the Dr. involved losing his licence hasn’t stopped her and her fellow ignoramuses from campaigning against this important part of keeping our kids safe. The body count of preventable deaths sparked by her tomfoolery varies according to who you believe but it’s well on the way to 1,500…all kids whose deaths can at least indirectly be linked to her efforts.

So I was delighted to read today that she has been fired from The View. I have never seen the program but giving her any kind of platform is ridiculous and I’m delighted her short lived tenure has ground to a halt. Apparently everyone on the show hated her. I doubt we will be so lucky that she will now just fade into well deserved obscurity but we can hope. I actually have a theory about her demise. Her network is part of Disney. The attributable body count is about 1,500 and rising and at some point some smart attorney was maybe going to start a class action suit against Disney for allowing her a platform to hurt children. It’s a stretch for sure but I have been sued on more spurious grounds…anything is possible. Would the case prevail…probably not but it would be a PR nightmare for Disney so just maybe the lawyers are the good guys in this case and had her removed as a preemptive strike.

A Blast From the Past

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Back in the late middle ages when I was running a good part of one of the big search engines (before it was acquired by Yahoo) we had an interesting relationship with EBay. Back in these far off days they would send over vast lists of keywords which they routinely bid 5c on. These weren’t just obvious product lists there were exhaustive lists of terms which in many cased didn’t seem even remotely commercial. We used to joke that we’d always have one ad match for left handed Aardvark Taxidermists….as EBay would have it in their big pile of words.

So it was with some delight that I read a report today that not only had EBay continued their campaign of bidding on pretty much every word known to man and they were now using that research to attempt to discredit paid search as an advertising medium. Their conclusions were that paid search really doesn’t work because ads for left handed Aardvark Taxidermists aren’t very effective. Back in the day the E-Bayers claimed that their main reason for their strategy was acquiring new users.  That makes sense as how often have you found that the only place online you can find that special thing is Ebay.  Of course as the population of people who don’t buy on Ebay continues to fall recruitment can’t be as large a factor.

I offer you this story not because I necessarily agree with their findings but as an illustration of lengths that the behemoths of our new order will go to throw mud at each other and their respective business models. Of course Ebay would rather have you shopping direct in their ecology rather than clicking on Google or Bing or buying at Amazon. Collecting data from a decade of bidding on absolutely everything is fascinating…but it doesn’t account for the kind of real shopping searches targeted by advertisers and doesn’t take into account factors like ad copy or landing pages. So it’s probably all a bit silly…but still fascinating to watch.

Score One for Big Cable

Atlanta-AereoIn the same way any strategy which relies on your soccer team figuring out how to get past Germany to continue in the World Cup so any new media strategy which relies on the Supreme Court letting you loosely interpret laws is likely to run into difficulties. So is was with a real sense of sadness that I watched the Supreme Court finish of the Aereo business model with a crushing 6-3 defeat today…if that were soccer half the crowd would be gleefully chanting “slaughter” at the top of their drunken voices.

What is it and why do you care? Here’s why….this week my Verizon contract is up. I have Fios Internet and TV a DVR and three set top boxes and that costs a shade under $200 a month. I also pay for Hulu Plus, Netflix and Amazon Prime to the tune of another $20 per month. I can get pretty much all the TV I watch minus the live broadcast of the big 5  for just the $20 I pay to Netflix and Hulu Plus and Amazon.  With the smart antenna offered by Aereo i could plug that into a laptop get the big five over the air broadcast on the rare occasions I watch them and cut the cable bill down to  only $25 a month. All in I’d get pretty much all I watch for $50 total.

The supreme court ruled that Aereo was essentially turning an over the air free signal into a public performance which meant they would have to pay royalties. That shut the entire venture down. It’s a pity but given the lobbying power of the cable industry not much of a surprise. A time is coming when the ad soaked garbage put out by the big five will reach a point where many perhaps most of us will simply cut the cable and we will make do with the great independent programming and content we can get through places other than the big cable companies.  This decision has perhaps pushed that a little further into the future…but it’s coming.

Google Taking Its Aim at Domain Registration Services

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Google apparently has its eye on larger piece of the Internet. The search giant announced Monday it is testing a custom domain registration service called Google Domains. Google said it decided to launch the service, which still in an invite-only beta mode, after learning that 55 percent of small businesses did not have a website.

While the service will give people the ability to buy customized URLs, Google won’t provide the actual site hosting. Partners such as Wix, Weebly, Shopify, and Squarespace will provide hosting and website building services to registrants. A key factor for Google I imagine is the opportunity for them to bundle in packages which allow the business with the new domain the ability to rapidly integrate it with Google + and promote it with Google AdWords. These kinds of services have been offered by domain suppliers in the past but the relative costs have proved problematic. If a domain provider is only charging $20 per month for site design and hosting tacking on a marketing cost which might be 10 or 10 times that price which nets almost mothing to the folks promoting the service hasn’t historically sat well. If Google is in charge I feel confident they will make that case more compellingly.

Google Domains will offer services such as domain forwarding, customizable sub-domains, and no-cost private registration. In addition to offering access to hundreds new domains such as .guru and .photography, the service will create up to 100 email aliases based on the domain of choice

Google’s presence in the sector could prove disruptive, especially for leading domain registrar GoDaddy, which filed papers two weeks for an initial public offering that could be worth more than $100 million. While GoDaddy has 57 million domains under its management, controlling roughly 30 percent of the domain registrar market, the company revealed earlier this month that it had net losses of nearly $200 million on $1.13 billion in revenue in 2013.

The Great AntiFoot Hoax?

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Every so often you come across a marketing story which is so clever you really have to wonder if it actually happened. Such a story of sweeping through the media and chatterati of France. It’s World Cup season worldwide (everywhere except here in the US that is) and those very clever folks at Orangia have announced and claim to be selling the Orangina Antifoot…this has nothing to do with athletes foot I’m pleased to report.  The commercials show some boffins adding electronics to an Orangina can which allows the smart lady in the bar who doesn’t love ‘the beautiful game’ to surreptitiously turn off all the TVs in the bar. Such devices do exist…indeed a few years back when I was traveling a lot more than I do now and was tired of endless commercials and CNN news loop repeats being played at my poor head I did invest in such a device and it will indeed turn off any TV from 30 feet away..it’s a kind of universal off remote and yours for just $20.

What’s so clever about this campaign is that is that apart from the one pictured in the commercial nobody (that I have read about) has been able to get hold of the real thing.  It looks like it’s simply a very clever commercial hoax masquerading as reality.It’s technically feasible and makes for a hilarious commercial but the amount of adverse publicity it would cause if actually used …let alone the spontaneous outbreaks of mob violence against anyone caught drinking Orangina leads me to think that it never went into actual production or sale…which is a pity.

Would You Live in a 3D Printed House?

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Researchers from the University of Southern California have invented a 3D printer that is able to build a 2500 square foot house within a day. It is believed that this new technology will transform the construction industry. This tool will enable to erect skyscrapers without the team of builders and equipment. Though, the industry is very much optimistic about the potential of 3D printers, until now it is mostly used to produce small-scale objects. Soon, the days when you have to wait for months for your new home to be ready will be in the past.

In such a scenario a question remains, are the 3D printers effective enough to create an entire house? There is nothing to be skeptical about the capacity of this futuristic tool. A Chinese company utilized 3D-printing technology to create 10 one story houses within a day and proved that 3D technology has ultimately succeeded. The houses are cheaper and can be constructed within few hours. The printer that is used to build the houses in Shanghai is 10 meters wide and 6.6 meters high. Mixtures of cement and construction wastes are the raw materials and walls of the houses are created in layers using these ingredients.

The method of construction not only decreases the time required to erect a building, it also means that the workers will be far less exposed to hazardous construction materials and working environment. Architects in Amsterdam are also using this latest technology to build a full-sized 3D-printed house. They are using a bio-plastic mix, which is industrial adhesive containing 75% plant oil and reinforced by microfibers.

This is may be only the beginning. Modern architects and designers are interested to put the process in test as 3D printing results in zero waste, reducing the transportation costs and that every piece used can be melted down and recycled- look for this to be the thing of the future revolutionizing of cities.

Driving US to Distraction

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Anyone who has glanced at this blog over the years will know that I’m no lover of our traffic police. That we the citizens of this great country have given a group of folks (whose salary we pay) the right to essentially lay in wait for law abiding citizens even more power over us is incredible to me.   The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking to control the apps on our phones where those apps aid navigation. That might well prevent Google Maps or Waze from working on our phones as we drive. The justification (as always) is ‘safety.’  Our government is perfectly happy that any depressed or deranged high schooler can get hold of an assault weapon to take out his peers…that’s perfectly safe…but heaven forbid we run Google Maps through our blue toothed cars. This ridiculous provision is part of the proposed transportation bill working its way through congress. Giving the government oversight on which aps are or aren’t ‘safe’ to use in our cars is insanity…how would they decide which was safe and which wasn’t. Where would they find the software engineers to do a comprehensive job.  If I have Google Maps on my phone and I run it whilst I’m driving a car ‘illegally’ what would be my status if I use it while I’m the passenger or even riding a train? As far as the app is concerned it all looks the same… the only way to reliably regulate it would be to ban it entirely. Let’s criminalize every smartphone user. 

Not surprisingly the automakers are pushing for this regulation.  If they could persuade the government to essentially outlaw GPS navigation by phone that (I’m sure they think) will force more car buyers to pay the premium to get GPS in their new cars. My Google maps app is a much better GPS device than either of the BMW or Nissan navigation systems in my household.  I was recently sent about five miles out of the way when attempting to reach a location in downtown San Diego. If there’s and doubt I trust the Google app over the car every time.

What has clearly stuck in our overlords craw is a recent California case where someone navigating on their iPhone was ticketed for ‘phone use’ by one of CHIPs finest.  He fought the ticket that conviction was overturned. God forbid that any traffic conviction be overthrown based on fairness.  We have so many real problems to address why on earth would we waste tax dollars attempting to resolve a problem which doesn’t exist. How about we tackle mental health, obesity, gun control or even patent reform first.

GOAL!!! New Smart Watch Technology Being Used at the World Cup

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With the World Cup officially underway, new technologies have been introduced in order to help minimize those crucial missed calls. One of those new technologies uses multiple cameras around the stadium to help the referee make a decision. With thousands of fans screaming what they think should be the “correct” judgment, referees at the World Cup this year will wear watches that will vibrate and display the word “GOAL” each time a ball crosses the goal line.

FIFA officials has been discussing goal-line technology since the months following the 2010 World Cup. That tournament saw England denied a score in a match against Germany even though the ball had clearly passed the goal line.

FIFA began testing goal-line technology and approved its use in 2012. The device can be used only to determine if the ball has crossed the line, and referees must be notified within one second. Only match officials can receive these scoring notifications.

The buzzing watches serve only as a recommendation, and the referee still makes the final call on a goal. The smartwatches used in Brazil are made by a German company called GoalControl, which installs 14 cameras that track the ball around the pitch. It was first used in the FIFA Confederations Cup last year, a tournament that passed without goal-line controversy.

FIFA is also open to other types of systems that track the ball through magnetic fields created by underground cables, although these would require physical alterations to the ball itself. This has obvious downsides, given soccer players’ particular desire about the balls they use.