Detail from the cover of Snow Crash.'

Bright, Bold Future: Magic Leap Has Hired The Godfather of The Metaverse

on Tuesday, Dec. 16th

There’s a rapturous term thrown around by VR enthusiasts: “The Metaverse.” It is a term that comes from the seminal Neal Stephenson science fiction novel Snow Crash, where it described a kind of embodied virtual reality. Instead of clicking around on order forms, for instance, virtual shoppers would visit a virtual mall in avatar form. Those avatars were creative reflections of the user’s soul, not the crude matter we poor meatspace dwellers are cursed with.

Those who follow the VR boom have heard the term fall from the lips of Oculus founder/wunderkind Palmer Luckey a thousand thousand times. The dream at Oculus isn’t just of kick ass games and immersive cinema, the dream is to bring the Metaverse to live.

Now Oculus’ biggest rival for the shape of the digital future—the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida based Magic Leap—has wooed the Stephenson, he who coined “Metaverse,” into their camp to become “Chief Futurist.”


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Courtesy: Movidius

A Peek At The Future of Machine Vision With Movidius’ CEO Remi El-Ouazzane

on Monday, Dec. 15th

The lives we lead are already infused with technology, sometimes to the point where it seems inescapable. So it can seem strange to think that we might only be at the beginning of a technological age and not already within sight of the zenith.

Despite the fact that we call the devices in our pockets “smartphones” they are relatively blunt instruments. Designed to respond to our commands, usually inputed as text (although a shaky understanding of the spoken word is slowly dawning on them). They have “eyes” to see in the form of cameras, but what these devices can discern about the world around them is limited.

Which is about to change.


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

It’s Past Time Twitter Grew Up

on Tuesday, Dec. 9th

When we look back at 2014 in five years and think about social media our memories are going to look something like this.

First, we’ll see that Facebook continued to strengthen its grip on the world’s attention and publisher’s wallets. The sheer number of people who are connected to the social network gives it a gravity that makes it difficult to escape. You may want to step away, but almost everyone you know doesn’t care enough to leave and so you find yourself stuck in the high school reunion you can never leave because you can’t convince your best friend to stop talking to his old flame.

Then we’ll think about Twitter and what might have been. Twitter will be dead by 2019, because in 2014 it blew it.


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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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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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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.



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