In the looming battle of AR and VR the prize is your mind.

on Thursday, Nov. 20th

Let’s talk about augmented reality versus virtual reality shall we?

For the past two years the hottest piece of hardware on the planet has been the Oculus Rift. From the Kickstarter success story to a controversial acquisition by Facebook and right up to a featured role in a recent episode of South Park, the virtual reality headset has captured the imagination of the world’s neophiles and tech geeks.

For a while there were those who wanted to craft a marketplace narrative that set up a contest between Oculus VR’s vision of immersive worlds and the augmented reality dreams of Google’s Glass. The thinking being, seemingly, that only one head mounted device is going to wind up finding broad market acceptance.

There seem to be those that instinctively prefer augmented reality to virtual reality and vice versa.

But the Glass project has, according to the conventional wisdom, imploded. In its wake Oculus appeared to be unchallenged, inevitable. You know you’re onto something when Samsung wants to jump on board. Which is exactly what they are doing this holiday season.

That makes the timing of Magic Leap’s emergence into the Technorati’s consciousness very, very interesting.


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Copyright Marisa Allegra Williams (@marisa) for Twitter, Inc.

Dear Twitter, Let Me Fix This For You

on Thursday, Nov. 13th

Twitter is going through another existential crisis, apparently. This week it is having trouble defining its overall strategy, creating this word soup:

Reach the largest daily audience in the world by connecting everyone to their world via our information sharing and distribution platform products and be one of the top revenue generating Internet companies in the world.

Which Jon Gruber handily points out is 220 characters, longer than a tweet.

Really, guys?

So I decided to take a stab at it:


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Amazon Hears An Echo, But Who Else Is Listening?

on Tuesday, Nov. 11th

The announcement last week of a “smart speaker” by retail giant Amazon was surprising for two reasons.

The first was that no one was expecting, even in the slightest, that Amazon had an intelligent home assistant/music player up its sleeve. The elegant lines of the cylinder bring the look of the Mac Pro to mind, even if the cheesy video that introduced Echo to the world had more of a Microsoft than an Apple vibe.

The second surprise was that Amazon had set itself the task of persuading consumers to put a listening device into their homes.

That’s the spin, at least, in headlines like “Amazon Wants To Put A Listening Speaker In Your Home“ from NPR and “Amazon Echo is either the coolest wireless speaker ever—or the creepiest“ from Fox. Finally, something the two news orgs can agree on: cloud connected microphones make everyone jumpy.

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IndieCade: Gaming’s Magic 8-Ball

on Wednesday, Oct. 15th

IndieCade, the International Festival of Independent Games, which takes place in Culver City every October holds an important role in the game industry ecosystem. I’m tempted to say “niche,” but given the prominence of indie games in the launch of the current console generation cycle “niche” undersells the influence these games have.

While the first thought is to compare the festival to the Electronic Entertainment Expo what IndieCade resembles most is the early years of ComicCon. There a growing tribe freaks and geeks discovered they were not only into the four-color antics of spandex clad heroes but the very personal stories of people who had discovered a medium perfectly suited to express the way they see the world. This revelation provided a cultural depth to what would otherwise be an exercise in entertainment marketing.


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Corey McCall with the video game controller that measures the level of excitement in the player. Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

These Game Controllers Will (One Day) Read Your Mind

on Thursday, Oct. 9th

A version of this story airs on NPR/WBUR’s Here & Now.

If you’re a gamer, or have one in your household, odds are that there is a wedge of black plastic studded with joysticks and buttons nestled in the cushions of your couch. Buttons get pressed, and things on the TV go boom. That would be the humble video game controller. Humble, perhaps, for not much longer.

“So what we’re doing here is we’ve modified an Xbox 360 controller to help try and sense a player’s emotions as they’re playing video games,” said Corey McCall, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering at Stanford University.

He’s created a way for game controllers to read your mind. Kind of. (more…)

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Give It Away Now: Gear VR Early Adopters To Get Free Game

on Tuesday, Oct. 7th

Consumer-ready virtual reality is stumbling forward, and this month is likely to see the release of Samsung’s Gear VR peripheral for their Galaxy Note 4 phone. Some Best Buy stores already has demo units under their counters.

One big question is what games are going to be available at launch and how much will they cost? The answer to the latter question is “free.” The reason: the Gear VR is being launched before Oculus VR sets up the payment system for the content marketplace. (Which seems crazy, but apparently there really are not rules in VR.)


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Creative Commons image via Flickr user catlovers.

Say Ello to the latest David to Facebook’s Goliath

on Thursday, Sep. 25th

Before we go any further, I’d like to say that this isn’t–likely–Ello‘s fault.

People have been hungry for a Facebook-killer for a long while now. There was a momentary flash where it looked like Google+ might be it. The whole “circles” idea was different enough to pique interest, and FB had been around just long enough to be boring.

Google blew it, however, by insisting that everyone use their real name. They had forgotten that this is The Internet, and real names are for boring people.


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Virtual Reality’s Future Hinges on Presence and Patience

on Tuesday, Sep. 23rd

There are two reoccurring themes in the reports out of this past weekend’s Oculus Connect developers conference in Hollywood.

The first is disappointment that virtual reality pioneer Oculus VR didn’t announce a release date for the first commercial version of their Rift hardware. The second is that the latest prototype has achieved a level of that elusive experience known as “presence” that pretty much blows everything up until now out of the water.


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Apple & The Magic of NFC

on Monday, Sep. 8th

The speculation engines have been set to maximum across the tech Internet as all eyes turn towards the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, where Apple will make what everyone assumes will be an historic product announcement.

Historic because this is the same theatre where the original Mac itself was unveiled back in 1984, and the company has built a large temporary structure next door to the venue for the event.

The assumption on everyone’s lips is that Apple will unveil both a new iPhone and the long rumored “iWatch,” both of which are said to use Near Field Communication technology, or NFC. The killer app for NFC? Mobile payments, specifically frictionless point of sale transactions.

While payments have gotten all of the ink, that’s just one of the magical uses of NFC. We could be in store for a lot more surprises, starting with toys.


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Seven Things To Know About The Future of Immersive Entertainment

on Friday, Sep. 5th



1. (of a computer display or system) generating a three-dimensional image that appears to surround the user. Source: Google.

Immersive. The word pops up in conversations about entertainment with as much frequency as “engagement.” While the definition is tied to its roots as techno-jargon in the cyberdelic 90s, its popularity comes from the fact that the meaning has grown beyond those roots.

Facebook’s acquisition of virtual reality start-up Oculus VR earlier this year put the word back in the mouths of the mainstream press, and this week Samsung announced the Gear VR head mounted display adapter for their next generation phone. Another use of the term is tied to immersive theater productions like the long-running Sleep No More in New York City.

Whether in virtual or flesh and blood reality, the singular goal of an immersive experience is to suspend disbelief so totally that the audience gets wrapped up in the world around them to the exclusion of any other.

What follows is a primer, of sorts, on what the future of immersive media will look like.


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Corey McCall with the video game controller that measures the level of excitement in the player. Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

These Game Controllers Will (One Day) Read Your Mind

A version of this story airs on NPR/WBUR’s Here & Now.



Virtual Reality’s Future Hinges on Presence and Patience

There are two reoccurring themes in the reports out of this past weekend’s Oculus Connect developers conference in Hollywood.


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